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

Nov. 05, 2022
4 min read
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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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Featured image by MIGUEL CANDELA/SOPA IMAGES/LIGHTROCKET/GETTY IMAGES
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.

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  • Earn 75,000 bonus miles when you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening, equal to $750 in travel
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Best card for premium perks while traveling
TPG Editor‘s Rating
Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG‘s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
4 / 5
Go to review

Rewards Rate

10XEarn unlimited 10X miles on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel
5X5X miles on flights booked through Capital One Travel.
2X2 Miles per dollar on every purchase, every day
  • Intro Offer
    Earn 75,000 bonus miles when you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening, equal to $750 in travel

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  • Annual Fee

    $395
  • Recommended Credit
    Credit ranges are a variation of FICO© Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.

    740-850
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Why We Chose It

The Capital One Venture X card is one of the best all-round travel credit cards ever launched. Not only is it offering a tremendous welcome bonus, but cardholders can earn tons of miles on everyday spending and receive a 10,000-mile anniversary bonus to boot. Its annual fee is $395, but cardholders can count on up to $300 in statement credits toward travel booked through Capital One Travel each year and other valuable benefits like access to Priority Pass lounges and Capital One’s own growing family of airport lounges.

Pros

  • Excellent welcome offer worth 75,000 miles after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first three months.
  • Up to $300 in annual travel statement credits toward bookings make through Capital One Travel.
  • 10,000 bonus miles (worth $100 toward travel) each account anniversary.

Cons

  • The $395 annual fee might be expensive for some, but this card’s benefits provide much more value than that.
  • If you don’t travel frequently, this might not be the best card for you.
  • Earn 75,000 bonus miles when you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening, equal to $750 in travel
  • Receive up to $300 back annually as statement credits for bookings through Capital One Travel, where you'll get Capital One's best prices on thousands of options
  • Get 10,000 bonus miles (equal to $100 towards travel) every year, starting on your first anniversary
  • Earn unlimited 10X miles on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel and 5X miles on flights booked through Capital One Travel
  • Earn unlimited 2X miles on all other purchases
  • Unlimited complimentary access for you and two guests to 1,400+ lounges, including Capital One Lounges and our Partner Lounge Network
  • Receive up to a $100 credit for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck®
  • Use your Venture X miles to easily cover travel expenses, including flights, hotels, rental cars and more—you can even transfer your miles to your choice of 15+ travel loyalty programs
  • Named editors' choice for "Best New Credit Card of 2021" by The Points Guy
  • Earn 10 miles per dollar when you book on Turo, the world's largest car sharing marketplace, through May 16, 2023