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Practical Pointers: How to skip the line for airport food or coffee

Nov. 05, 2022
4 min read
Practical Pointers Food Lines
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I can’t tell you how many times it’s happened to me. I get to the airport for an early morning flight, have 15 or 20 minutes until boarding time after getting through security and just want to grab a quick cup of coffee.

I walk to the closest Starbucks or Dunkin' (yes, it’s usually one of those two for me) along the airport concourse only to find that the line is, in a word, absurd.

Airport restaurants, coffee shops and retail locations have made big strides since the early days of travel’s bounce back from pandemic shutdowns. However, when you combine continued staffing challenges with the simple fact that a lot of people want a cup of coffee, especially before a morning flight, you get long waits.

The same goes for any popular food or drink location, though I’ve routinely found coffee spots get hit the hardest by those long lines.

Sure, I’ve (regrettably) waited in a 25-minute coffee line before — but these days, I’ve found a workaround that helps me keep my sanity in the early morning hours.

Customers wait in line at a Starbucks at Fort Lauderdale/Hollywood International Airport (FLL). JEFF GREENBERG/UNIVERSAL IMAGES GROUP/GETTY IMAGES

Tip: Order through the mobile app

My go-to tactic when getting a cup of coffee before my flight is to put in an order on the Starbucks app.

This would seem to be a no-brainer, considering many of the coffee chain’s regulars are well-versed in the app and its loyalty rewards. However, it’s only in recent years that we’ve seen Starbucks roll out mobile ordering capability to airports.

If I walk up to an airport location and see that the line is long, I’ll pull out my phone, find the location I’m standing in front of and see if it has online ordering available. If it does, I’ll quickly put in a mobile order.

In the best-case scenario — and this happens more often than not — I’ll get my order a lot faster than I would have if I’d waited in line. If nothing else, though, I can spend my wait time sitting and relaxing instead of standing in line with other passengers waiting for their coffee.

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You can do this for far more places than Starbucks, too. From on-the-go ordering through airline mobile apps to mobile ordering capabilities that airports like those previously unveiled in New York and Washington, D.C., there are other options if you have an aversion to waiting in a long line to get food or drink while traveling.

Planning in advance helps

Online ordering has helped me skirt a line right in front of me. You can also use it to order your food or coffee while on the move too, though.

If you’ve landed, are deplaning and need to grab a quick bite to eat during a brief layover, use your airline or airport app to see what vendors you might pass on your way to your next gate.

If you have a good sense of when you’ll be passing by that business, go ahead and schedule a mobile order. You could even do this while waiting in a TSA line, or while on an Air Train from one airport terminal to another.

We all do this sort of thing while on the go in our daily lives, and it’s increasingly becoming an option in airports, too.

Bottom line

Long line at the airport coffee shop or takeout food vendor? Pop in an online order.

At worst, you’ll be able to sit and relax while waiting. At best, you’ll effectively jump the line and have all the refreshments you need in hand before boarding.

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Editorial disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airline or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.