Airports

The Complete Guide to Portland International Airport (PDX) 2022

By
Jessica Spiegel
|
Freelance Writer
exterior of PDX airport.
March 30, 2022
|
11 min read

Portlanders love their airport, and we’re not alone. Portland International Airport (PDX) regularly wins awards from magazines like Travel + Leisure and Conde Nast Traveler, ranking highly among both leisure and business travelers. For decades, the airport has acted as something of an ambassador for all the things that make Portland Portland—including some of the quirky stuff.

The carpet got so famous that it was once named the grand marshal of the city’s annual Rose Festival Starlight Parade, for pete’s sake.

While it’s Oregon’s largest airport, PDX is still relatively small, making it easier for travelers to navigate between flights. It’s only six miles north of downtown as the crow flies, with the Columbia River on the airport’s border in the opposite direction. And, shoe selfie trends aside, Portland’s airport does a fabulous job of both giving travelers exactly what they need while simultaneously adding a local twist to just about everything.

There’s a big asterisk/disclaimer on all things PDX right now, though, and that’s a major construction project that is scheduled to be completed in 2023 (the new space is set to open in 2024). Some of the unique and wonderful features of the airport are closed (including the Powell’s Books airport store), and the extremely popular “concourse connector” is also closed. This last part means travelers can no longer go through whatever security checkpoint has the shorter lines and still get to the right gate—now, you need to go through the checkpoint for your specific gate.

All the details about the construction project, including some lovely renditions of what the terminal will look like when it reopens, are on the PDX website. And here’s what you need to know about traveling through the airport during the construction.

Airlines Flying From PDX

Unlike some airports, PDX isn’t a place where certain airlines only fly out of certain gates. According to a Port of Portland representative, while “many airlines lease gate space which means that most of their flights depart from these gates, we do have common use gates that airlines can use on all of the concourses.” In other words, the location of one airline’s flights can change regularly, so “we always advise travelers to check the monitors at the airport to confirm their departure gate.”

  • Air Canada
  • Alaska Airlines
  • Allegiant Air
  • American Airlines
  • Boutique Air
  • Condor
  • Delta Air Lines
  • Frontier Airlines
  • Hawaiian Airlines
  • Icelandair
  • JetBlue
  • Southwest Airlines
  • Spirit Airlines
  • Sun Country Airlines
  • United Airlines
  • Volaris
  • WestJet Encore

About Portland Airport

  • Airport code: PDX
  • Distance from PDX to Portland: Six miles (as the crow flies)
  • Transport options: Light Rail / Taxi / Shuttle Buses / Rideshare
  • Airlines served: Air Canada, Alaska Airlines, Allegiant Air, American Airlines, Boutique Air, Condor, Delta Air Lines, Frontier Airlines, Hawaiian Airlines, Icelandair, JetBlue, Southwest Airlines, Spirit Airlines, Sun Country Airlines, United Airlines, Volaris, WestJet Encore
  • Hubs for: Alaska Airlines
  • Domestic nonstop flights to: 59 destinations
  • International nonstop flights to: 4 countries
  • Terminals: One main terminal with two sections, North and South
  • Concourses: Four concourses (B, C, D, E)
  • Gates: 60 total (10 gates in Concourse B, 23 gates in Concourse C, 15 gates in Concourse D, 12 gates in Concourse E)
  • On time departures: 88.3% in 2020, according to the Bureau of Transportation
  • On time arrivals: 86.43% in 2020, according to the Bureau of Transportation
  • Security wait times: Security wait times vary by time of day and year, though they’re usually under 20 minutes. Note: The PDX Next construction project may increase wait times at security.
  • Official site: https://www.flypdx.com/

Terminals at PDX

Portland International Airport has one terminal split into two sides—North and South. Concourses B and C are in the South side and D and E are in the North side.

(No, there isn’t a Concourse A. It was closed in 2019.)

Passenger ticketing, baggage claim, international arrivals, shops, restaurants, and two TSA security checkpoints are contained in the single terminal. Parking garages and car rental desks are across from the front of the terminal, accessed via a covered outdoor walkway or a tunnel, and ground transportation is available just outside the terminal.

Getting between terminals

There’s only one terminal at PDX, and the airport is small enough that there aren’t any buses or trains or other motorized forms of transit to get around within the airport itself. There are, however, several moving sidewalks on the long concourses to speed the walking process if your gate is at the far end of a concourse. Once you’re through security, you can generally walk to your gate in about 10-15 minutes or less.

There are electric carts available for those who aren’t able to walk to or from their gate.

If you’re arriving from outside the U.S. and Portland is your final stop, you may be directed to a shuttle bus to the international arrivals area after clearing Passport Control. The bus ride to the baggage claim area takes only a few minutes.

The famous PDX carpet

Portland Airport’s famous carpet—with geometric navy, red, and purple lines criss-crossing on a teal background—was installed in the late 1980s. Somewhere along the line, it managed to acquire something of a cult following, with locals snapping “foot selfies” when they landed at PDX. The airport announced in 2013 that the carpet, threadbare in many places, would be replaced.

Naturally, the #PDXcarpet hashtag really took off as an increasing number of travelers posted photos lamenting the carpet’s imminent disappearance. The new design, installed in 2015, is a riff on the old one though it’s not as well-loved.

These days, you can find the old carpet design on everything from socks to chocolate bars to beer bottles. Smaller salvageable pieces of the old carpeting were snapped up by nostalgic Portlanders for use as welcome mats, stair runners, or simply for framing.

And, in the category of “why reinvent the wheel,” the current construction project (due to be complete in late 2023) will bring back the original carpet design to some pre-security areas in the main terminal.

Flying in, out, or through the Portland Airport 

Portland sign at PDX airport.

Security and Customs at PDX

There are two security checkpoints at PDX (one for the North gates and one for the South gates), both of which are open 24/7.

Note: Prior to the current construction project, travelers could get to any gate no matter which security checkpoint they used, but that access between North and South gates is not available until the construction is finished—so be sure to go through the checkpoint for the gate you need.

Wait times vary depending on the day and time, though several websites that track airport security wait times note that the longest wait times at PDX are still only about half an hour. The airport’s website recommends arriving two hours ahead of domestic flights and three hours ahead of international ones.

TSA PreCheck is available at both checkpoints, but PDX does not have CLEAR. There are Global Entry kiosks at PDX for international arrivals.

TSA PreCheck at PDX

PreCheck is available at both of PDX’s security checkpoints, though the hours vary by the day of the week. The PDX website currently says PreCheck is available from roughly 4am-4pm, but it’s often open a bit earlier and several hours later. You can check the updated schedule for any day of the week and time of day on the TSA’s site here.

Global Entry at PDX

Although Portland is an international airport, international itineraries frequently have stops elsewhere in the U.S. before landing in Portland. For international travelers who haven’t already cleared customs elsewhere, however, PDX does have Global Entry kiosks to expedite the process.

Portland’s airport also has a Global Entry Enrollment Center, though the current location is outside the terminal because of the construction project. You can find out if you’re eligible for the program here and learn how to apply here.

CLEAR at PDX

CLEAR is not available at PDX.

Mobile Passport at PDX

International travelers can use the CBP’s official mobile passport app at PDX. It’s free to use and available for both iPhone and Android devices. You can learn more about the app here.

PDX Wifi and Charging Stations

Free WiFi is available throughout the airport. To use it, connect to the SSID called “flypdx.” Next, you’ll see the Terms and Conditions page—you have to accept the T&Cs in order to use the free WiFi. If you don’t automatically see this page, navigate your browser to flypdx.com to get there.

Note that the connection lasts for one hour, after which you’re automatically disconnected. You can simply accept the T&Cs again for another free hour, and repeat this process for as long as you need to.

Connecting Flights at PDX

As mentioned, Portland’s airport is small enough that it has only one terminal and no trains or buses to get from one gate to another. Walking from your arrival gate to the gate of your connecting flight will generally take no more than 15 minutes—unless you arrive in one wing and need to depart from the other.

With the current construction project, the old post-security “Concourse Connector” is closed. So, if you arrive at one of the North gates and your next flight leaves from one of the South gates (or vice versa), you will need to exit the wing you’re in and go through the security checkpoint for the other wing. Note that “all connecting passengers at PDX may use the Express Lane,” whether you have TSA PreCheck or not.

For international arrivals (D gates) who haven’t previously gone through customs and passport control at another U.S. airport and who have a connecting flight at a B or C gate, you’ll have to take the shuttle to the baggage claim area first and then make your way to the security checkpoint for the B and C gates. Because you’re going through security again, the restrictions on liquids apply—and that includes Duty Free purchases you might have already made.

There are Global Entry kiosks at PDX for international arrivals, and the mobile passport app works in Portland as well.

Minimum connection times at PDX: 

While each airline sets a minimum connection time (MCT) that’s needed, the official numbers aren’t published in a public space. If you’re buying a complete ticketed itinerary, the MCT is factored in—you can’t be sold an itinerary that doesn’t give you the minimum amount of time that the airport has said you’ll need to reach your connecting flight.

If you’re building a multi-stop itinerary yourself, however, there’s nothing to stop you from buying a ticket that doesn’t give you enough time to get to your connection. The numbers below, then, are some recommendations that may help you out.

The boarding gate usually closes anywhere from 15-30 minutes before the scheduled departure (the shorter timeframe is more typical for short-haul domestic flights and the longer timeframe for long-haul international flights). We’re assuming here that you’re able to get off your first flight in under 10 minutes and it takes another 10 minutes to get to the next gate.

  • Domestic connection: 35 minutes
  • Domestic to international: 60 minutes
  • International to domestic: 60 minutes

Note: As mentioned above, during the construction project, if you arrive in the South wing and need to transfer to a flight in the North wing (or vice versa), you will need to go through security again so that means factoring in a bit more time between flights. Travelers with connecting flights can use the express lane, but it’s still another step you’ll need to do.

Map of the Portland Airport

map of PDX airport.

Food at the Portland Airport

Many of the former pre-security dining options are closed during construction. Portland Coffee Roasters (near D/E security) remains open, and there’s a new Flying Elephants Deli location in the ticket lobby.

And, since the construction makes it harder to get grub from a place that’s only available through the other security checkpoint, you may want to look at the airport’s restaurants in the AtYourGate program—they’ll deliver your order to you anywhere in the airport.

South Gates (Concourses B and C)

Concourse B is the smallest at the airport, and there aren’t any restaurants among the gates themselves. Local sandwich gurus, Lardo, and Stumptown Coffee Roasters both have PDX outposts just after the security checkpoint, however.

Concourse C’s dining options are more plentiful. You’ll find chains like Starbucks and McDonald’s alongside more interesting local offerings.

  • Best breakfast: Portland Coffee Roasters or Capers Cafe
  • Best quick bite: Potbelly Sandwich Shop
  • Best sit-down meal: Bambuza, Cafe Yumm, or Mo’s Seafood & Chowder
  • Best bar: Henry’s Tavern
  • Best late night: Henry’s Tavern
  • Best with kids: Capers Cafe

North Gates (Concourses D and E)

The lobby area just past the D/E security checkpoint presents three food options before you even choose a concourse. There’s another Portland Coffee Roasters location here, along with a Capers Market (a great option to pick up some picnic supplies for your flight) and The Country Cat. The latter was a Portland institution for ages, and has closed all locations except for this one at PDX.

Concourse D only has a few restaurant options, but Concourse E fills in the gaps. Each spot listed below includes which concourse you’ll find it in.

  • Best breakfast: Blue Star Donuts + Coffee (E)
  • Best quick bite: Burgerville (D)
  • Best sit-down meal: Deschutes Brewery (D) or Bambuza (E)
  • Best bar: Juliett (E)
  • Best late night: Deschutes Brewery (D)
  • Best with kids: The Tillamook Market (E)

There are more food-related changes in the works when the construction is finished, including the addition of more favorite local eateries.

Lounges at the Portland Airport

South Gates

There’s only one airport lounge on this side of the airport.

Lounge: Alaska Airline Club Lounge

  • Location: Concourse C, across from C5
  • Hours: 4:30am–10:30pm daily
  • Access: Emerald and Sapphire oneworld members who are traveling to Mexico City, Central America, South America, Europe, Africa, Asia, or Australia have free access to the lounge, as do those traveling First Class on Alaska flights. Travelers may also buy annual membership for access to all Alaska Lounges. Members can bring up to two additional guests at no extra charge.
  • Cost: $60 for a day pass

North Gates

There are two lounges on this side of the airport. Delta’s lounge is in about the middle of the D concourse and United’s is in the E concourse near the D/E security checkpoint.

Lounge: Delta Sky Club

  • Location: Concourse D, between D5 and D7
  • Hours: 4:15am–12:15am daily
  • Access: There are several access methods to Delta’s Sky Clubs, including buying an annual club membership, traveling First or Business Class on an international flight, and having certain partner American Express Cards or Diners Club Cards. In some cases, members can also bring up to two additional guests at no extra charge.
  • Cost: $59 for a day pass

Lounge: United Club

  • Location: Concourse E, across from E2
  • Hours: 5am–2:30pm daily
  • Access: There are several access methods to United Club lounges, including buying an annual club membership, traveling First or Business Class on a Star Alliance member airline flight, traveling Business Class on a United international flight, and having Star Alliance Gold Status. In some cases, members can also bring up to two additional guests at no extra charge.
  • Cost: $59 for a day pass

Sleeping at the Portland Airport 

There are no sleeping pods at PDX, and the current construction project means many of the notoriously comfy lounge chairs aren’t available at the moment, either.

Best Hotels near the Portland Airport

There are more than two dozen hotels within a few miles of the Portland Airport. The hotels listed below all operate courtesy shuttles between the airport and the hotel.

Shopping at the Portland Airport

All of the pre-security shops at PDX are closed at the moment due to the construction, but there are plenty of shopping opportunities once you’re through security.

Travelers can pick up uniquely local souvenirs at Made In Oregon, Pendleton Woolen Mills, and The Tillamook Market. Portland’s own single malt whiskey is available at the Westward Whiskey shop along with their other spirits, and two Tender Loving Empire shops are stocked with the record label’s music and a selection of local handicrafts.

Things to do at the Portland Airport

woman reading at the portland airport.

Some of the things that would have been on this list in recent years are on hold because of the construction project. It remains to be seen exactly how many of the old fun features of PDX will return or whether we can look forward to an entirely new list of airport pastimes. For the time being, though, that list is a little bit more abbreviated than travelers may have come to expect from Portland’s award-winning airport.

  1. Snap your own foot selfie with the airport’s newer carpet design as the backdrop—or head for Concourse E’s Tender Loving Empire store, which has a piece of the original carpet at the back of the store. Just don’t forget to add the #pdxcarpet hashtag and tag @pdxairport.
  2. Concourse C’s food court area offers another reason to look down. There’s a beautiful bronze inlay winding along the colorful floor that shows off the path of the mighty Columbia River that lies just outside the airport.
  3. Keep an eye out for other art displayed throughout the airport. There’s a program of rotating exhibits that regularly brings in new pieces by artists living and working in Oregon or Washington to different places at PDX.
  4. Follow the music. PDX has more than 20 volunteer musicians who bring a little bit of Portland’s musical culture to the airport by playing for passing travelers. And if you don’t have cash handy to drop in their tip jars, you’ll be pleased to know many of them have virtual tip jars, too.
  5. Say hello to a beloved former governor. A statue of Vic Atiyeh (affectionately known as “Trader Vic”) welcomes arrivals at Concourse D, the international wing of the airport. A nearby mural explains his importance in Oregon’s history, including how he helped usher Oregon onto a more global tourism stage.
  6. Go to a movie. The historic Hollywood Theatre in Northeast Portland opened a “microcinema” at PDX in 2017. The 22-seat theater in Concourse C shows short films by Oregon filmmakers. The program changes every quarter, and you can get a peek at what’s currently playing on the theater’s website.

Things to do with at the Portland Airport with kids

PDX is generally listed among the most kid-friendly airports in the U.S., though some of the things that make it so aren’t available because of the construction.

The floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking the runways post-security provided kids of all ages with an opportunity to watch planes landing and taking off. Those fabulous vantage points are part of the construction project, so they’re currently inaccessible.

Luckily, there are still a few things that PDX has going for it when it comes to traveling with kids—and the renditions of what the airport will look like when it reopens in 2024 will make this section much, much longer.

  • The microcinema in Concourse C, operated by the Hollywood Theatre, offers a fun distraction from the airport terminal doldrums.
  • The WiFi is free, which makes it easy to provide endless entertainment on a kid’s tablet.
  • There are art displays everywhere, some of which are sure to engage and inspire your artistic kiddos.

Lactation Rooms at PDX

There are two lactation rooms at PDX. One is near the South Lobby near Capers Cafe and the other is near Gate D2. The PDX website notes that while these are really “for use by people without their babies” for expressing milk pre-flight, they can also come in handy for people traveling with an infant who want some privacy to nurse.

Kids play areas in PDX

The former kids play area, which used to be in Concourse D, has been closed and now serves as a concession space. PDX officials “expect a kids play area on Concourse E to be opening in April 2022.”

Traveling through PDX with pets

Travelers with trained service animals are allowed in the airport at all times. 

Emotional support animals must be traveling with their person and stay in a standard airline carrier, if they fit in one that’s about 17x10x13. If the emotional support animal doesn’t fit in a carrier that size, the owner must carry the animal throughout the airport or, if it’s too big to carry, the critter must be kept on a short leash at all times.

There’s even a “dog therapy program” at PDX for travelers who may be nervous about flying. The program includes more than 20 dogs who make the rounds with their handlers during peak travel times.

Pet relief areas

  • Pre-security: Outside baggage claim at each end of the terminal
  • Concourse C: Near gate C4
  • Concourse D: Near gate D4

Getting to and from the Portland Airport

How to get from PDX to downtown Portland

Train: Portland light rail system, MAX, connects PDX to downtown via the Red Line. The station is outside the terminal at the south end of the lower level. Trains leave the airport every 15 minutes and it takes about 40 minutes to reach the city center. A ticket valid for 2.5 hours costs $2.50.

Shuttle: Dozens of area hotels operate courtesy shuttles, so be sure to check with your hotel before making other transportation arrangements. There are also a few shuttle services to other parts of Oregon. All shuttles pick up passengers on the lower roadway outside the terminal.

Taxi: Local taxi companies are Radio Cab, Broadway Cab, Flat Cab, and PDX Yellow Cab. They pick up passengers from the third island on the lower roadway outside the terminal. A trip downtown can take as little as 20 minutes without traffic, and taxi fares start at about $27.

Rideshare: Lyft, Uber, and Wingz are your PDX rideshare options. Lyft drivers pick up passengers from the terminal side of the lower roadway’s second island, while Uber and Wingz pick up from the parking garage side of the same island.

Unique Things About PDX Airport 

Bicycle resources

Portland is incredibly bike-friendly, so the airport is, too. There’s a “multi-use path” that allows intrepid cyclists to bike all the way to the terminal. There’s a work station near the airport’s MAX station for assembly or disassembly, making it easier to bring your bike with you on the plane, and the work area has tools if you need to do a little repair work, too. And every MAX train has bike hooks on board if you decide to take light rail part of the way.

Mini-movie theater

The funky Hollywood Theatre in Northeast Portland runs a 22-seat “microcinema” at the airport. It’s post-security in Concourse C and shows short films by local filmmakers. And it’s free.

Distillery

One of Portland’s more famous distilleries has two locations at the airport, including a shop in Concourse C. Stop by Westward Whiskey for a tasting experience, to pick up a spirit souvenir, or to learn how they make an American single malt.

Bar honoring women in aviation

Juliett, a gorgeous new bar, opened in Concourse E in March 2022. The menu includes bespoke craft cocktails and even locally-made beers you’ll only find at the airport, each of which is named for a historic woman in aviation. There’s also a series of portraits of female aviators, including Bessie Coleman and Hazel Ying Lee, and there’s information about each one so you can learn more as you sip.

Portland airport car rental

In preparation for the current construction project, the rental car center moved to its new location. And, in doing so, the need for those tedious rental car shuttles was eliminated. The updated long-term parking garage now also includes rental car parking.From the lower level baggage claim area, follow the signs to the rental car center—no shuttles necessary—and you’ll return the car to the same garage when you leave.

All of these rental car companies are located in the same place at PDX:

  • Alamo
  • Avis
  • Budget
  • Dollar
  • Enterprise
  • Hertz
  • National
  • Payless
  • Sixt
  • Thrifty
  • Zipcar

Parking at PDX Airport

The price to park at PDX varies depending on how long you plan to leave your car. You can see how much space is available at each lot using the drop-down menus on the airport’s website before you leave home.

  • Economy: $3/hour or a max of $12/day, 7th day is free; free shuttles run from economy lots to the terminal 24/7
  • Long-term: $3/hour or a max of $24/day, includes 10 EV charging stations on level 2; garage is a short walk from the terminal through the North or South tunnels
  • Short-term: $3/hour or a max of $27/day, includes 24 EV charging stations between levels 3 and 4; garage is a short walk from the terminal via the skybridges on level 4
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Frequently asked questions about Portland Airport

How early should I get to PDX?

The PDX website recommends arriving at the airport two hours before a domestic flight and three hours before an international flight, though with the current construction you may want to add a little more time to that.

How long do I need for a connection at PDX?

There isn’t a set minimum connection time (MCT) for flights in and out of PDX. According to the Port of Portland, “It’s safest for travelers booking with their airlines to ask that question of the airline.” If you’re booking a DIY itinerary combining different airlines and tickets, though, here are some general guidelines to help you figure out what’s possible and what’s not. Boarding gates typically close between 15–30 minutes before departure, for domestic and international flights respectively. If it takes you 10 minutes to deplane from your first flight and another 10 minutes to get to the next flight’s gate, plan on at least 35 minutes for a domestic connection and 60 minutes for a domestic-to-international or international-to-domestic itinerary. And keep in mind that, due to the construction, you may need to go through security again if your connecting gate is in the opposite wing of the airport, so factor that in as well.

How long do I need to leave the airport on a layover at PDX?

At the moment, especially considering that construction means security lines may be a bit longer than they used to be, it’s not a great idea to leave the airport on any layover less than six hours long.

Is there luggage storage at PDX?

No, there’s no longer any luggage storage at the PDX airport.

How far is Portland airport from downtown?

It’s a little more than 12 miles from PDX to downtown’s Pioneer Courthouse Square, affectionately known as “Portland’s living room.” It takes about 40 minutes on the MAX Red Line or about 20 minutes by car in light traffic.

What’s the fastest way to get from PDX to downtown Portland?

The fastest way to go is by car, assuming there’s no traffic. If you’re leaving the airport during any busy traffic period, you’re probably better off taking the MAX train.

Do I need a real ID to fly out of Oregon?

REAL ID will become a requirement at PDX on May 3, 2023. If your driver’s license isn’t a REAL ID, your passport works.

How far is Voodoo Donut from the Portland airport?

The funky and famous Voodoo Doughnut shop’s main store in Old Town Portland is a little less than nine miles from the airport by car (a journey of less than 20 minutes if there’s no traffic). Without a car, though, it’s an easy trip on the MAX Red Line. Just get off at the Skidmore Fountain station and sweet treats are a few minutes’ walk from the train.

Last Updated 
March 30, 2022
The Complete Guide to Portland International Airport (PDX) 2022
Jessica Spiegel
Freelance Writer

Jessica Spiegel is a freelance writer and editor based in Portland, Oregon. She's an obsessive knitter and loves Italy, pho, Sazeracs, the Portland Timbers, and altruism.

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