Philadelphia International Airport Essential Information

Check-In, Security, and Parking Tips for Travelers

Philly airport
Getty Images/Bruce Clarke

Philadelphia International Airport is the 20th busiest airport in the U.S. In order to streamline your travels through this Northeast hub, travelers should become familiar with these pre-flight, check-in, security and parking procedures to save themselves both time and aggravation.

Before Arriving at the Airport

  • Check the status of your flight by contacting your airline or logging onto the airport's website and clicking on Flights.
  • Make sure you have all necessary documents, including a government-issued photo ID such as a valid driver's license, passport, military ID, or a county, state or federal government agency employee ID. Photo ID is required for passengers 18 and older.
  • Passengers should arrive at the airport at least 2 hours prior to a domestic departure and 3 hours prior to an international departure.

    During peak travel times such as the summer, you should allow extra time for checking in and passing through security screening. TSA and check-in lines are often very long especially during morning rush hours and holidays. 

    At the Airport

    Checked baggage is subject to hand inspection. The Transportation Security Administration recommends using locks that TSA screeners can open and re-lock to inspect baggage instead of breaking the lock. The TSA lists some "accepted and recognized locks" on its website. Due to carry-on limitations, you may wish to consider locks to secure your valuables that now must be checked.

    If you are not checking baggage, it may not be necessary to wait in line at the ticket counter to obtain a boarding pass. Many airlines allow passengers to check in and print boarding passes online. Some airlines have check-in kiosks at the airport -- check with your airline prior to leaving home.

    TSA Security Screening

    Passengers must obtain boarding passes prior to entering the security checkpoint. Before entering the security checkpoint, have boarding passes and photo ID ready for inspection by TSA personnel and keep these documents available until you exit the checkpoint. To expedite your passage through the checkpoint, empty all pockets and put these items in your carry-on bag. This tip will save you lots of time and aggravation.

    Once you're at the checkpoint, the TSA provides bins in which to place personal items and outerwear such as jackets, suit jackets, sport coats, blazers and belts with metal buckles that must be removed and passed through the X-ray machine. In most cases, you will also be asked to remove your shoes. For passengers' convenience, the airport provides clear plastic storage bags at each checkpoint to be used for small items that require screening. Remove laptops and video cameras with cassettes from their cases and place them in the bin to be X-rayed.

    Keep a close eye on these items.

    If you will be traveling with photography equipment, be aware that equipment used to screen checked baggage damages undeveloped film. Pack undeveloped film in a carry-on bag. High speed and specialty film should be hand inspected at the security checkpoint. To facilitate hand-inspection, remove undeveloped film from the canister and pack in a clear plastic bag. Screening equipment will not affect digital cameras and electronic image storage cards.

    Medication, including diabetes-related supplies and equipment, must be properly marked with a professionally printed label with your name and identifying the medication or manufacturer's name or pharmaceutical label.

    For additional information on permitted and prohibited items, in both carry-on and checked baggage, and security screening, consult the TSA website for further information.

    Liquids rule: You are allowed to bring a quart-sized bag of liquids, aerosols, gels, creams, and pastes in your carry-on bag and through the checkpoint. These are limited to travel-sized containers that are 3.4 ounces (100 milliliters) or less per item. Any liquid items that are in containers larger than 3.4 ounces must be packed in checked baggage.

    Customers may carry-on approved electronic devices such as personal computers, electronic games, and cell phones. For more information on what you may or may not bring through the TSA checkpoint and on board, check the TSA website and type the item in question into the search box.

    Parking at the Airport

    Parking along the shoulder of airport access roads is unsafe and illegal. If your party is not waiting for you when you arrive at the airport, you cannot park at curbside to await their arrival. Prior to leaving for the airport, check the status of your party's flight by contacting their airline directly or by checking flight information on the airport's website.

    If you are picking up at Arrivals, a PennDT Park & Ride Lot is available for motorists to wait, with their vehicles, until their party is ready to be picked up. At the airport, long-term parking is available in the garages and in the Economy Lot. Parking in the short-term lot is recommended for visits of less than one hour.

    For more information on airport parking, check out the Philadelphia Parking Authority website.