Wondering how early you should get to the airport for your international flight? Find tips and recommendations for a stress-free traveling 🧘♀️
Heading to the airport for a flight can be nerve wracking. You have to consider check-in procedures, security checks, navigating through a sprawling airport and making sure you board your flight on time. Being too late could mean missing your flight. Being too early would mean wasting valuable vacation time just waiting at the gate. So what is the ideal amount of time you should arrive at the airport before a flight?
General Recommendations from Airlines and Airports
Most major airlines and airports generally recommend arriving three hours prior to your scheduled departure time for international flights. This recommendation applies to airlines such as American Airlines, United Airlines, Delta, British Airways, Air France as popular international airports like London Heathrow, Frankfurt Airport and Dubai International.
For instance Heathrow Airport suggests arriving three hours before haul flights. Paris Charles De Gaulle recommends a three hour buffer for flights outside of Europe. Airports want to ensure that passengers have time for check in procedures passing through security checks without any hitches or delays.
Key Factors to Plan an Airport Trip
However the exact amount of time you need at the airport can vary based on factors:
- Size and busyness of the airport; Larger and busier international airports typically require time for processes.
- For airports or those, with crowds you may require less buffer time.
- Considerations for your travel time/season; During peak holiday periods and summers expect lines and increased congestion.
- If you need to check in luggage and obtain a boarding pass, arriving earlier is necessary. However if you only have carry on bags online check in can save you time.
- To reduce wait times take advantage of expedited security lines offered by TSA PreCheck and Clear.
- Higher airline status or having business/ class tickets may grant you priority check in and security access.
- If you wish to enjoy the perks of airport lounges it’s advisable to arrive
- Keep in mind that larger airports often involve walking. If your gate is away consider coming
- Allow for buffer time due to delays or traffic on your way to the airport.
Checking Airport and Airline Policies
Familiarize yourself with the recommended arrival time, for flights provided by your airline. Additionally be aware of their check in and bag drop times.
Policies may vary. You should anticipate that check in will open around 3-4 hours before your departure time and the bag drop will close about 45-60 minutes prior to takeoff.
Furthermore it is advisable to research the guidelines provided by the airport you are departing from. Major airports like LAX and JFK often have recommended minimum arrival times posted on their websites or apps.
Arriving Helps Reduce Stress
While every traveler has their preferences, frequent flyers and travel experts generally agree that it is better to arrive at the airport with ample time to spare. Cutting it close can lead to stress and increase the risk of missing your flight.
Do you prefer being rushed through each step or having time to handle any delays or lines?
Many travelers actually appreciate having some downtime at the airport where they can relax, shop, eat or catch up on work before embarking on an international journey.
TSA PreCheck Can Save Time
For those travelers who don’t enjoy time at airports, TSA PreCheck makes a difference. This trusted traveler program grants access to expedited security lines reducing the amount of time spent at the airport. PreCheck passengers are allowed to keep their shoes and jackets on and leave laptops in bags while going through security quickly.
CLEAR provides an option that saves time by allowing you to skip the line, for ID verification. While PreCheck costs $78 for a 5 year period CLEAR has a fee of $189. Both services aim to reduce stress and minimize the time spent at the airport prior to a flight.
How Early for Specific Airports?
When it comes to airports and how early you should arrive, research conducted by Upgraded Points suggests that some US airports require arrivals. For instance Chicago O’Hare recommends over 3 hours Los Angeles suggests under 3 hours. New York JFK advises almost 3 hours. Additionally airports like Hartsfield Jackson Atlanta, Dallas Fort Worth, Miami, San Francisco and more also suggest allowing 3+ hours for international flights.
To avoid the inconvenience of missing your flight it’s important to note that 2 hours is often not time at international airports. Therefore it is recommended to adhere to the 3 hour early arrival rule.
Can You Save Time By Checking In Online?
You may wonder if checking in online can save you time. Most airlines offer check in, up to 24 hours before your flight; however this primarily applies if you do not have any checked bags. If you need to check luggage at the counter and obtain a boarding pass, arriving at the standard recommended time is still necessary.
Checking in online does offer the convenience of skipping the check in line potentially saving you around 5 to 10 minutes. However when it comes to flights it’s important to note that it doesn’t significantly alter the recommended arrival time of 2 to 3 hours before your flight.
Don’t Take Risks
While every traveler has their preferences it’s generally advisable to adhere to the advice of arriving at the airport at least 3 hours prior to your international flight. Trying to time your arrival precisely can have consequences. Taking into account online check in TSA PreCheck, access to airport lounges and other factors can help optimize your time. Yet it’s always wiser to have some time and arrive rather than running the risk of missing your flight entirely.