How To Boston: Navigating Logan Airport

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“How to Boston” is an arbitrary series, in which we talk you through those important Boston habits and help you fit in. Today, how to navigate Logan Airport when you have to pick up friends and family visiting during the summer.

In the past, we’ve discussed how Logan Airport and its airline shuffling could affect the passenger experience. That’s all good and interesting, but honestly just not that practical. There are more than just the incoming and outgoing travelers who need to pay attention at Logan, as the airport is a pretty savage maze when it comes to driving through arrivals or departures to drop off and pick up visitors. Keeping traffic down in Logan is a concerted effort by MassPort for a reason.

There really needs to be a separate instruction booklet somewhere that helps veteran and rookie Logan drivers alike when it comes navigate the quirks of each terminal in the most efficient way possible.

Perhaps this can be that guide.

Picking up the Girls @ Logan Airport (May 15, 2009)

There are ultimately three considerations when it comes to Logan. First and foremost, like any airport, you don’t want to have to do laps of the airport. As we know, you can’t really park too long on the curb outside a terminal before the police chase you from your waiting spot. Yet Logan, since each terminal has a unique layout, offers so many different experiences. In Terminal B, you may never get urged along. In Terminal C, you’ll get moved fairly quickly.

Logan has a few things that work to its advantage and a few that are absolutely brutal. Let’s start with the latter and then go to the pro tips on the best ways to avoid making laps. There are few airports where cell phone lots are actually useful (DCA comes to mind); BOS is definitely not one of them. Buried “off the loop” of the arrivals roadway and out past Terminal E, you may as well stay in town and get a cup of coffee so you have a straight shot back without lights when your party actually arrives.

The good news – there are ways to use the snaking terminals to your advantage if you arrive slightly early. Coming out of the bridge into the terminal area, get over to the far right immediately on the arrival roads and get into the queue at Terminal A. Not only is the long passenger pick-up area a pretty safe spot from being forced to quickly move, you can get all the way to the far end and pin yourself “behind” a bus for a quick entry into Terminal B, another phenomenal stall tactic as you make the big U turn. Don’t wait at Terminal C. Don’t even think about it. Seriously.

boston logan airport parking machines

Second, you absolutely do not want to enter that Central Parking structure if you’re just doing a pick-up (this only applies to Terminal A & C collections, by the way; Terminal B parking is right there in the middle of the narrow terminal and you can get in and out reasonably if your guest has luggage). Plan ahead, bring extra bodies if you need to help someone get their checked bags and do what you can to avoid parking. You may as well park at Wonderland instead of trekking from central to Terminal C.

If you are sensing the theme here, it’s that driving (and heck, flying out of) Terminal C is the bane of my Logan existence.

Finally, you want to spend the minimum amount of time in the airport as possible, so there is a timing trick or two that can help you be the most efficient. While the roads around Logan are long and winding, the terminals themselves really aren’t that large that a landing passenger is terribly far from the curb. My favorite trick? Go camp out in the South End or Seaport (near the I-90 East on-ramps) until you get the word from your passenger that they have landed. By the time you make the last few miles over and to the gate, assuming you’re snagging some carry-on only folks, it should sync up with when they get to the curb.

Except for Terminal C, probably.

Now, I know some people try to be sneaky and go the “pick up at Departures” route, but that doesn’t always work. (Shocker, especially at Terminal C, where you are pushed downstairs through baggage claim when exiting). What are your tricks, though? Leave them in the comments!

Next up on How to Boston – driving the Mass Pike like a pro.