Why I Give People Free Airport Rides

Last updated: September 21, 2023

I’m not an Uber driver. But I often pick people up at the airport in my car.

I do it for free and for fun. I also do it to build my network.

Perhaps you want to try it yourself. This article details:

  • Why I give airport rides
  • Internet-famous people I’ve driven
  • The science behind being helpful
  • How you can do it
  • Tips and Tricks

Introduction

It is hard to make connections with interesting people.

Many of the most successful people I know are busy as heck.

They receive dozens of messages requesting to meet up for coffee or “have a quick call.”

But time is their most limited asset!

So instead of following the traditional connection-making route of asking people to make time for me, I flip the script: I make hanging out a win-win.

One of my favorite ways to do this is to offer to pick them up at the airport.

Why Airport Rides Are Unique

Lugging a bag across a terminal, searching for the exit, and then waiting 20 minutes for a rideshare stinks.

Just ask anyone who has flown into LAX recently.

Austin, Texas also has a bad setup. Airline passengers have to walk almost 1 mile to find the Uber and Lyft area.

Instead, imagine getting off the plane, going down to baggage claim, and seeing a friendly face waiting for you outside.

You get a free ride to your destination while having a little “get to know you” meeting with a new connection.

Getting in a stranger’s car requires a bit of trust. It takes a leap of faith for someone to agree to this! So my method works best when you have an online presence, like some active social media. That would allow someone to do a bit of due diligence on your character.

The airport ride gives you a chance to get to know someone on a more personal level. The environment is more relaxed than a traditional coffee meeting.

But most importantly, it is a much more memorable experience.

It feels unique and truly helpful. It’s very old-fashioned. I am doing something truly kind. It doesn’t scale very well. But that’s how I think about gatherings and relationships.

How I Got Started

My role as an airport chauffeur started when my good friend Nina Simon came to visit.

Instead of having her take an Uber, I picked her up from the airport.

This was the first time in my life I had ever picked someone up at the airport. Having lived previously in New York City, it just wasn’t an option. I didn’t have a car there and it would have taken too long.

But now I realized it only took an hour of my time! And it made a big difference to Nina. She said how nice it was to be welcomed personally by me.

The experience was unique and refreshing. No one wants to hop in an Uber after a flight. Plus, we were able to spend more time together because I decided to do this.

Famous People

Some notable people I’ve given rides to include:

Plus many more. If I gave you an airport ride and you want to be added to this list, email me or DM me!

Photo Gallery

Tips and Tricks

The absolute biggest tip that I have is this: I always tell the person that I’ll pick them up from the airport and drop them off directly at their destination.

I am not inviting them anywhere else. I want them to know that I won’t take up more of their time, and I won’t ask them for any favors.

It is just an airport ride!

Here are some other tips and tricks:

  • Welcome sign: I sometimes make a welcome sign on an index card for whoever I’m picking up. It says “WELCOME ZACH!” and I tape it to the dashboard of the front passenger seat. This is a nice little touchpoint.
  • Bring snacks: This is a bonus. A bag of chips, pretzels, nuts, or a granola bar. Anything that’s light and easy to munch on in the car or throw in their bag.
  • Beverages: Have some bottled water available. I’ll usually bring a can or two of seltzer, too. Often I’ll throw a can of iced coffee, tea, or Diet Coke in a cooler.

One time I picked up two famous influencers from Brazil during SXSW. I had a whole cooler filled with various seltzers. Most Americans are used to having a variety of flavors to choose from, so we just grab one. They sort of all taste the same. But not these Brazillians! They were looking at the seltzer cans like they were fine art. Reading each label, taking pictures, thinking carefully about the flavors, and chatting among themselves in awe.

Why This Works

A general theme of my life is that I try to add as much possible value before I ever ask for anything.

And while I wouldn’t ever consider airport rides a tit-for-tat relationship-building tactic, I do want to talk about why it might help you build connections.

Here’s how the Principle of Reciprocity relates to friendships.

The researcher Robert Cialdini found that “people are obliged to give back to others in the form of a behavior, gift, or service that they have received first.” (source)

The key is to be the first to give. And to make sure it’s personalized and unexpected.

Again, and I can’t stress this enough: I don’t give people rides from the airport with the expectation of getting something from them. Except a good conversation and a selfie, of course.

But science shows that you have to give to get.

How You Can Do It

This isn’t rocket science. You need:

  • A car
  • A flexible schedule
  • Social media

Start by telling your friends that you can meet them at the airport to give them a ride. Get some selfies when you do it, and post them to your social media.

Watch out for influencers or interesting people visiting your town. Then share your pictures from when you picked up your friends, and offer to pick them up.

Remember to tell them you don’t expect to hang out after. You’re doing it to be helpful, to welcome them to your town, and to meet new people.

What if you have no network?

Asking someone to get in the car with you requires a level of trust and familiarity.

So start by offering rides only to acquaintances and people you’ve previously conversed with online.

Eventually you’ll level up your network and can offer rides to higher level entrepreneurs.

Maybe one day you and I can actually become official Uber drivers! The sky is the limit.

Building a social media presence also helps as it gives you more credibility.

Conclusion

Instead of asking someone for coffee when they’re in town, offer to give them a ride to or from the airport.

It turns a hassle into a great experience. And it builds your relationship from a standpoint of gratitude.

I’ve now given VIPs and new friends dozens of airport rides.

As I always say:

“If you want to meet interesting people, you have to do interesting things.”

If you want to meet busy or successful people, airport rides might be a memorable way to do it.

A screenshot of a tweet from Twitter saying, "Airport pickups are such a show of love. Doesn't matter if it is romantic or platonic. Anyone who picks you up from the airport that you aren't paying to do so, actually loves you." about airport rides pickups.

Did I leave anything out? Or do you have suggestions on how to improve this? Email me to [email protected]

To learn how to do more interesting things, check out my book: The 2-Hour Cocktail Party. Or sign up for my Friends Newsletter. I send it out every month or so with interesting things and life hacks.

Shoutout to Kunal Tandon who once posted on Twitter about needing a ride to the airport. I replied on Twitter, drove him to the airport early one morning, and that started my journey of giving rides to internet mutuals.

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