Peculiar Pittsburgh

Hack Pittsburgh International Airport: How to make your trip a lot less stressful

Where to eat, where to charge, and how to (maybe) get through security a little faster

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Courtesy of Pittsburgh International Airport
Rossilynne Culgan

Whether you’re headed out of town to visit family or to relax on a beach, getting there can be a stressful endeavor complete with long lines, bad food, very little personal space and not enough sleep.

We’ve got some hacks for that. Here’s all the intel you need to know, organized chronologically, to make your trip to Pittsburgh International Airport a little less hectic and a lot more enjoyable.

Getting there

very handy upon my return

very handy upon my return

Flickr / rklopfer

Parking

If you’re driving yourself there, check parking availability on the airport’s website, broken down lot by lot (short-term, long-term, or extended term). You can even pay in advance to reserve a spot before you leave, saving you some time, said Alyson Walls, airport spokesperson.

Pro-tip: Snap a photo of the directional sign nearest to your parking spot, so you’ll know where to find your car when you get back — and so you’re not “that guy” riding the airport shuttle in circles and beeping your car’s alarm to try and find it.

Ride share

If you’re getting Uber or Lyft or having a friend drop you off (friends who drop you off at the airport are the best friends), you can be dropped off directly at your airline’s spot along the landside terminal.

The bus

This is the cheapest option (other than the gem of a friend who will drop you off for free), and it’s actually pretty convenient. Port Authority’s 28X drops off and and picks up by baggage claim and connects with Downtown, all for the price of a bus ride, $2.75.

At the airport

The security line

Everybody says this, because it’s really good advice: Leave enough time to get through security. Seriously. It takes a long time to sort practically every single item into a separate bin, so give yourself some wiggle room.

To make things a little easier, you can see an estimated security wait time online. It’s not real-time monitoring, Walls said, but it does offer an average.

Also worth mentioning that there’s an alternate security checkpoint in the landside terminal, which helps divide the line. It’s located near the United ticket counter — but it actually might not be worth the trek.

“I think the secret has sort of gotten out,” Walls said, “and I’m not sure that it’s really that much faster.”

No matter which line you pick, she suggests arriving two hours before your flight time.

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Courtesy of Pittsburgh International Airport

Waiting for take-off

Let’s say those security lines run a little quicker than you expect, and you’ve got some time on your hands — not a problem. There’s plenty to do (shop, eat, sightsee even) in the airport while you wait.

As you walk around, you’re going to notice that the 25-year-old airport looks better than it has in years. It’s got a fresh coat of paint (hello, dark modern tones; goodbye, ’90s red), along with new carpeting, updated seating and plenty of additional charging stations.

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Rossilynne Culgan / The Incline

Treat yourself

If you need a respite away from the crammed gate, you’re in luck: The airport now has a lounge called The Club at Pittsburgh International Airport. It’s $40 per day, so we suggest a cost-benefit analysis to determine if it’s worth it for you.

It features an office area with desks to get some work done, a dining area with eight cafe tables, a seating area with upholstered chairs (good for naps), and a kitchen stocked with soda and a fancy coffee machine.

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Rossilynne Culgan / The Incline

The lounge fee also includes light bites and snacks. I checked it out for breakfast, which featured hot items like eggs, bacon and sausage, along with cereals, fruit, yogurt and pastries — and a pancake-making robot (!!!). Local chef Kate Romane serves as a consultant on The Club’s menus. It is said to include complimentary alcoholic beverages, though I didn’t see any (but it was early morning when I visited, to be fair).

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Rossilynne Culgan / The Incline

Pittsburgh art hangs on the wall, large TVs play sports and news on mute, and there’s plenty of space to charge your phone.

There’s only one single-stall bathroom, but it was exceedingly clean. Honestly, using a single stall bathroom in the airport might just be worth the $40 alone. I was hoping for an airport shower, though.

“It’s nice to have a space that anyone can go to at anytime no matter what airline you’re flying,” Walls said. “I think what people really like is to have a nice quiet space to either just relax and gather themselves before they get kind of cooped on an airline for who knows how long.”

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Courtesy of Pittsburgh International Airport

Grab some food and caffeine and maybe a drink … or two

If you’ve got time for a sit-down meal, TGI Fridays is a good bet, as many people on Yelp will attest. But if you’re one of the many people who love the airport’s TGI Fridays, well, we have some bad news: It’s closing at the end of the year.

Steel Cactus and Local are opening airport locations in the next few weeks. In the meantime, you’ve also got a solid sit-down option in Bar Symon, from celebrity chef Michael Symon.

If you need a caffeine burst: There’s *finally* a Starbucks in the airport (two Starbucks actually, with one in baggage claim and one in the airside terminal). There’s also coffee at Green Beans (but meh) and The Strip Market.

In search of booze, head to Martini, a cocktail bar with plenty of martinis, of course. It’s located in the center of the terminal, so this is a great spot for people-watching while you imbibe. It’s not there yet, but Penn Brewery is opening up an airport outpost soon to fill the gap in local beers.

If you have time to just grab something quick and bolt to your plane, don’t make the whole plane hate you for making it smell like fries. Opt for Farm Fresh Deli, Bruegger’s Bagels or Villa Italian Kitchen, which are quick but won’t fill the cabin (and your stomach) with salty, greasy smells.

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Courtesy of Pittsburgh International Airport

Admire some art

Check out some Warhol prints, spot local landmarks on the terrazzo floor and visit the Robot Repair Shop. New art installations are coming from Carnegie Museum of Art and Innovation Works, and an artist in residence will be joining the scene within the next few months.

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Courtesy of Pittsburgh International Airport

Make friends with a dog

Therapy dogs from the PIT PAWS (Pups Alleviating Worry and Stress) hang out at the airport on a rotating basis and more often during peak holiday travel times.

“They roam around and they spend several hours with the passengers,” Walls said. “You cannot believe the crowd of people that a dog will attract.”

Run some errands

In case you forgot to get cash from the bank or drop a letter in the mail, there’s an ATM and a post office to help you out.

Catch up on some work (or catch up on Instagram stories)

Don’t worry: The airport has free Wifi (look for FlyPittsburgh).

Charge your phone

If you spent your time working (or working on your social media #brand), you’re going to want to charge your phone before you arrive at your destination. There are plenty of outlets at each gate, but they do tend to be crowded. If you want to assure yourself space at a plug, The Club is your best bet.

Heading back home

When you’re back to Pittsburgh and ready to head home, you can be picked up at baggage claim. Uber and Lyft *are* allowed to operate at the airport now (hallelujah). Baggage claim is also where you’ll get the bus (or get picked up by a friend/family member). And if you’re driving, just refer back to that photo so you know where you parked.

 

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