By Jennifer DeCamp

Travel through Tallahassee International Airport brings guests to the heart of the Sunshine State’s government. The city, known as “Florida’s Capital City”, is about to celebrate its bicentennial in 2024 and oozes southern hospitality with a capital “S” to its visiting guests.

Centrally located between St. Augustine and Pensacola, travelers also looking to experience the beauty of the Big Bend along the Gulf Coast will find travel through TLH the perfect jumping off point for vacationing in the quiet coastal cities of Apalachicola, Carrabelle, Steinhatchee and Cedar Key.

Travel to Tallahassee sees increased traffic during football season — the city is home to Florida State University and Florida A&M University — as well as from January through April, when the state legislature is in session. The airport welcomed 819,000 travelers in 2022 and provides nonstop service on seven routes. It just announced that JetBlue would be joining its list of carriers in 2024 so the list of destinations with nonstop service will see an increase.

 TLH’s intimate size and limited number of daily flights make it an ideal destination for travelers with disabilities, because the airport’s staff can offer individualized service when needed.

Planning Ahead

The first step in planning a trip to and through Tallahassee International Airport begins with the airline upon booking. Calling, e-mailing or sending a direct message via the airline’s social media account will be the quickest and easiest way to ensure the arrival process at TLH is smooth, starting with being met at the gate with a contracted customer care representative if needed.

TLH’s intimate size and limited number of daily flights make it an ideal destination for travelers with disabilities, both seen and unseen, because the airport’s staff can offer individualized service when needed.

Jim Durwin, the airport's Deputy Director of Aviation, encourages travelers who require special assistance to contact the airport ahead of time to schedule a walkthrough. This can be done as an individual, as a family, or with a group. A member of the airport’s team will host a dry run allowing guests to get used to the sights, sounds and layout of the airport. This can be arranged by contacting the airport through its website here.

“We’re committed to ensuring a smooth process through the airport for all of our travelers,” Durwin said. “Our size allows us to offer specialized services like our walkthrough program, making it possible to offer the highest level of service for all of our travelers.”

JR Harding, a member of the Florida Network on Disabilities and the Delta Airlines Disability Advisory Board, prefers flying through Tallahassee because of its small size and the dedication of the TLH team, the staff of the individual airlines and TSA — all of which go above and beyond.

“I have found they go out of their way to help whenever possible to remove barriers,” Harding said. Even when the worst-case travel scenario happens like malfunctioning equipment or a late flight, Harding has found that the “customer service people show great empathy and concern” for all travelers.

TLH’s compact, single-story layout means that the distance traveled from the furthest gate to the airport’s exit is minimal and easy to navigate for both newcomers or experienced travelers. There is only one passenger terminal, with two concourses and 14 gates. The airport has a main lobby that includes the airline check-in counters, baggage claim, rental car pick-up counters and the TSA security checkpoint.

Journey from Plane to Vehicle

Once inside the main courtyard, passengers have two options:

  • If passengers need to retrieve checked luggage, they head to Baggage Claim in the airport’s lobby, following signage to the correct baggage carousel, which will be clearly marked with the coordinating airline names and then flight numbers. There are only two carousels. After retrieving luggage, the outdoor pick-up curbs are less than 50 feet from the baggage carousels.
  • If passengers need a rental vehicle, the rental car counters are conveniently located directly across from the baggage carousels. Passengers traveling with more than one person in their party can easily split duties, with one person watching the baggage carousel and another member of the party handling the rental car check-in process.

Most of the seven rental car companies that operate at TLH offer vehicles equipped with hand controls with advanced notice, and the airport partners with two taxi services, City Taxi Inc. and Yellow Cab of Tallahassee. Yellow Cab of Tallahassee has a fleet of vehicles with wheelchair lifts upon request. It also allows service animals to ride with owners in their vehicles.

Guests will pick up their rental cars in the parking lot on the other side of the outdoor pickup curb. The parking lot sits lower than the airport’s main building and ride pickup curbs. There are wheelchair accessible ramps leading down to the rental car parking spots, or guests can use an elevator located on the opposite side of the covered walkway.

The airport also has contracts with Uber and Lyft, both of which have drivers capable of accommodating all types of disabilities.

Inside the Airport

A trip through Tallahassee International Airport keeps distance traveled to a minimum and its single-story floor plan means there are no necessary trips by elevator or escalator making the journey easy for guests with disabilities. All passenger traffic moves through the airport’s central lobby. Once guests pass through security, they’ll only travel a maximum of 250 steps to reach the furthest gate in either terminal.

That said, there are several stops that may happen once a passenger walks through the front doors, particularly for those with a range of disabilities.

RESTROOMS: TLH has spacious restrooms located on each concourse, conveniently positioned in close proximity to all gates, and all have at least one wheelchair-accessible stall. There are also restrooms located near the airport’s main entrance. Family restrooms, or companion restrooms, are located at each restroom. Accessible drinking fountains are adjacent to all locations.

SERVICE ANIMALS: Recognizing that service dogs need relief either before or after a long flight, TLH has an outdoor pet relief area. The outdoor pet relief area is located near the Ticketing/Arrivals door. It’s fenced in and has astroturf flooring and two faux fire hydrants. The area also includes park benches, a dog waste bag station and a trash can for the human companions.

QUIET SPACE: TLH has an Observation Room located on the airport’s second floor near the administrative offices. Because no traveler traffic passes through the second floor, it’s an ideal spot for those in need of quiet time before a flight. The room has seating and a fantastic view to watch the arriving and departing air traffic. Guests with physical limitations can reach this viewpoint by elevator.

The Return Trip

Passengers returning to TLH for their flights home tend to spend more time in the airport, often using more of the amenities before reaching their gate. The Rental Car Return area is conveniently located in the parking lot directly across from the airport’s entrance. The parking lot has a wide, centrally located covered walkway with an elevator that extends to the main doors of the airport’s lobby. The airline ticketing counters are located to the right. Guests who do not need to check bags and have e-tickets will be able to proceed directly to the TSA Screening Area.

People who need special accommodations at the TSA Screening Area should contact TSA Cares at least 72 hours in advance if possible. TLH allows non-ticketed passengers to accompany minor children, elderly travelers and those with disabilities to their gates. These non-ticketed passengers will need to be issued an Authorized Escort Pass from the passenger’s airline ticket counter.

Guests with hidden disabilities like autism will find that the airport is an Autism-Friendly Business as certified by the FSU Center for Autism and Related Disabilities. The airport partnered with CARD to create the “My First Sky Guide” which includes easy-to-understand illustrations and information to help guests navigate each step of the travel process through the airport. Travelers can download the book on TLH’s website or pick up a copy at the Visitor Information Center located just inside the airport's main doors.

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Places to Remember