How Early You Should Arrive At the Airport For a Flight? (Domestic and International)

Find out in this post how early should you arrive at the airport for a flight, including domestic and international ones.

Are you planning to fly in the near future? Check our guides on how early you should arrive at the airport, features tips on travel planning for domestic and international flights.

how early to arrive at airport

Why Should You Arrive Early At the Airport for Your Flight

Commercial flights indeed make our life much easier, as you can fly to any city within your country in just a few hours. For international and intercontinental flights, flying is usually the only viable option. Crossing the Atlantic Ocean is just 7 hours is extremely convenient, but we all know that flying also has its disadvantages. One of the them, is to arrive at the airport much earlier than your flight.

Important Aspects Influencing Your Boarding Speed

Before we get to analyze the ideal time frames in which you should be at the airport, let’s check some key-factors which influence your boarding experience.

Checked-in Baggage

If you will bring baggage to check-in, you can expect the time to arrive in the airport to be earlier than otherwise. Checking baggage will at least add one more queue to your boarding at the airport, thus adding more time to arrive in advance.

Mobile Check-in

Mobile check-ins are relatively new, but they are already available in most airports and wit most airlines. Checking in to your mobile reduces the number of queues you will need to pass to get to your gate. With a mobile check-in and no checked-in baggage, you can arrive to the airport and go straight to the airside.

Airport Size

This may not be an obvious factor for some, but the airport size certainly influences your boarding time. If you are flying from big airports, odds are you will have to walk longer distances to get to your flight.

Another important aspect here is, if you are flying from a big airport and you haven’t been there before, you might need more time to get to your gate.

Gate Closing Time

Another thing you should consider when flying is the actual gate closing time. Your gate will always close sooner than the actual departure time, and how soon will also depend on a number of factors.

Domestic, short distance flights usually have a short time difference between the gate closing time and actual boarding time. Intercontinental flights have the longest time gap between closing the boarding gate and departing.

How Early Should you be at the Airport for Domestic Flights

For domestic flights, you will not need to arrive at the airport much earlier than your flight. Domestic flights do not involve immigration, and the speed of boarding is usually faster.

With mobile check-ins proliferating in most airports, passengers can have fast access to their gates. That is especially the case if you do not have any checked baggage. Even if you opt for checking in at the airport and you have baggage to drop at the counter, domestic flights are still more straightforward than international flights.

As a rule of thumb, in most domestic flights and in most countries, you should be at the airport one hour before your departure time for domestic flights.

How Early Should you be at the Airport for International Flights

While checking in for international flights is usually more time consuming, following basic rules can make boarding a smooth experience.

Mobile check-ins are also available for many, if not most, international flights. This also can speed up your boarding process, but you will still need to arrive earlier than for a domestic flight.

For most international flights, arriving at the airport 2 hours before your flight is the ideal to check your baggage, get your boarding pass, go through immigration and board your flight. If you have an intercontinental flight and you want to play it safe, arriving at the airport 3 hours before your flight is a good idea.

How Early Should you be at the Airport for An International Flight in the Schengen Area

If you are flying in the Schengen area, the time requirements to arrive at the airport are lower. The Schengen Area comprises 26 European countries with no border controls. For that reason, when flying from Spain to Denmark, or Poland to Portugal, there are no immigration in neither departure nor arrival, speeding your boarding time considerably.

Bear in mind that not all European Union member countries are part of Schengen. Some example of European Union countries that are not in the Schengen area are Romania, Ireland and Bulgaria. Some other countries in Europe are part of the Schengen Area, but are not members of the European Union. Norway, Iceland and Switzerland are in this category.

In most cases, you can safely arrive at the airport 2 hours before your flight if you are flying inside the Schengen area.

Still Uncertain About When to Arrive at The Airport Before Your Flight?

Finally, if you want to double check your exact boarding requirements, the best is to contact the airline directly. Delta Airlines for example has a comprehensive minimum required check-in time for many of its destinations.

Arriving At Your Destination Airport

Another thing you should consider when flying, especially to a new destination, is the infrastructure at the airport in which you are arriving. While it is essential to plan well your arrival at the airport in which you are departing from, it is also good to plan your arrival.

Planning your arrival will certainly avoid a number of problems in your business or leisure trip. Spending a lot in taxi fares if public transport is closed in late hours for example. In case you arrive hungry, you might miss most restaurants or snack bars opening hours.

Other Resources

If you are still looking to book a flight you can use Jetradar to compare the best fares for flights. You may also want to read our other air travel related guides. Check which airports have the most direct international connections and which European airlines accept Paypal. Finally, check our Europe guides and Asia guides for your next trip.

Do you have a question regarding arriving early at the airport? Do you want to share some of your airport experiences? Leave your thoughts in the comment section below.