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How Early Should I Get to the Airport?

    How Early Should I Get to the Airport

    Whether you are a pro-jet-setter or flying for the first time, a common question that pops up is how early should I get to the airport? According to the Transportation Security Administration, you must be arriving two hours prior to the scheduled departure time.

    However, the coronavirus pandemic has brought in a new set of changes posing a challenge to the logistics and travel/passengers’ management at the airport. In this scenario one must stay updated.

    You need to follow what the TSA recommended about various protocols. 

    If you are going to the airport at peak time and on holiday, you can choose to keep an extra time of 30 minutes as there is a greater probability of a long check-in line and you would certainly not want to miss the flight.
    Let us further discuss some key aspects of reaching the airport.

    How Early Should You Arrive at the Airport for a Domestic Flight?

    It is recommended to get to the airport 60 minutes prior if you don’t have any check-in luggage. However, with luggage, you must reach 90 minutes before the flight. 

    Also, if you are traveling from major international airports in the US like the John F Kennedy Airport or the Hartsfield-Jackson, Atlanta, be ready to face heavy traffic so take the buffer time and try to reach a bit earlier than suggested time.

    If you have no check-in baggage or if you have checked in online, and already have your boarding pass on your own, then probably reaching the airport 60-90 minutes before the flight departure would do. 

    Remember, at larger airports; the check-in may take a longer time. As per Delta analysis, in the US, the check-in time can take 45 minutes to an hour, and you must be at the boarding gate 15 minutes before the flight departure. Hence, it is advisable that you keep a buffer time of 45 minutes and complete the procedure on time to save yourself from missing the flight.

    How Early Should Start If You Arrive at The Airport for An International Flight?

    For international traveling, you must start early to save from any last-minute hassle at the airport. As per the International Air Transport Association (IATA) reports, the pandemic is causing delays at airports. Hence, you need to check the latest updates by the USA’s Transportation Security Administration. And in special cases, you must reach the airport even before the official reporting time. 

    Get to the Airport

    On international flights, the boarding pass generally takes a much longer time, and your destination also plays an important role. So it is always good to reach the airport beforehand. 

    If you are going to such destinations as the United States and Israel, you have to spend a lot of time at the airport because of some high-security reasons or checking procedures. Usually, it takes 1.5- 2 hours for the complete process of check-in for the international flights but because of the pandemic and additional protocols,  you must reach the airport at least 3 hours before the departure time of the flight.

    What does American Airlines recommend?

    As mentioned on the American Airlines website, the passengers are required to reach the airport 3 hours before the flight departure time, in case of international travel.  For travel within the US, the airline recommends the arrival time as at least 2 hours before flight departure time.

    To speed the process of checking in, there is a procedure of online check-in that begins 24 hours before the flight time and ends 45 minutes before departure for domestic flights and 90 minutes for international flights. Luggage check-in may also take 45 – 60 minutes at the airport. However, there are many airports that have earlier check-in times, so it is better to confirm from the official airport website for the correct and the latest update.

    Key Things to Know to Make Your Flight Departure Easy

    Domestic Flights or International Flights

    The check-in time for domestic and international flights may vary. So, plan your time accordingly and leave for the airport earlier. Be ready for the long queue of baggage check-in at the airport, and if you don’t want to waste hours standing in the line, reach the airport at least 90 minutes to 2 hours before your flight for domestic travel and at least 3 hours prior to the flight departure time for international flights.

    Know About Peak Times of The Year

    Flying in the peak travel times can take more time at the airport, and you may have to arrive at the airport earlier for security purposes. In peak times like Labor Day, Thanksgiving, or the holiday season, the airport is bustling with the crowd, and security checkpoints and other formalities are going to take way more time than usual.  

    Baggage Drop-off

    At some airlines, you need to follow the strict baggage check-in requirements. You must see the instructions on your ticket for the baggage drop-off.  You need to visit the website of airline to know about the checking procedures for your bags.

    Passport Control

    For international flights, keep your passport handy when at Passport Control. Here the eligibility of the travelers is checked.  If you are traveling in a group/ family, stay together.

    Boarding a Flight at the Airport/ Must-Do Things at the Airport

    Checking-in – You can do online check-in or check-in at the airport using self-service kiosks. Check-in can also be done at the airport check-in counters. If you have done online check-in, printing the boarding pass can be done in a jiffy.

    Check-in baggage – If you have luggage check-in, then it will take 30 minutes or more (in case of a larger flow of people or peak season travel time).

    Airport security process – Once you drop off the baggage, you must move to the security line. Under normal circumstances, it will take a maximum of 20 minutes.

    Reaching the Boarding gate – Well, this depends on the location of the gate at the airport. Under the usual scenario, it should take 10 minutes for this. Most airlines close the boarding door 10 minutes before departure of the flight, and US airlines close the door 15 minutes before departure. The timings are printed on the ticket.


    Now that you are aware that you need to arrive at the airport early to complete the luggage, boarding pass, passport check, and other security check procedures, plan your time well and leave early when you have a flight to catch.

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