What Time Should I Arrive at the Airport?
Running late for your trip might ruin your vacation before you even arrive at the airport. Similarly, coming early might eat into your vacation budget long before you leave — after all, whiling away the hours at overpriced cafés and gift shops can grow costly!
To help you discover the sweet spot between being too late and being too early, we looked at the suggested arrival times for the UK’s 15 busiest airports, so you can breeze through security and get a quick snack without feeling rushed.
Belfast International Airport
Check-in counters at Belfast International Airport open two hours before the planned departure time of most domestic flights. For international flights, you should begin your check-in procedure three hours before your flight time.
Despite the fact that it is a tiny airport, they have advised passengers to follow these standards during peak travel times, particularly during the busy summer months.
If you want to travel with additional time, you may stay at Birmingham airport for up to four hours!
Again, always verify your airline’s instructions, but check-in opens four hours before your international flight and between two and three hours before your domestic and European flights in Birmingham.
Cardiff advises passengers to arrive four hours before an international trip and two hours before a short-haul journey (four hours or less) within the UK or Europe.
East Midlands Airport
Jet2 and TUI request that passengers departing from East Midlands Airport begin the check-in and security process three hours before their flight’s departure time.
Other airlines require a two-hour cushion to go through check-in and security.
Most airlines that fly out of Edinburgh Airport close check-in 30 to 40 minutes before boarding, and gates can close as short as 15 minutes before the planned departure time.
To ensure a seamless pre-flight experience, you should plan to check in three hours before an international flight and two hours before all domestic flights.
Are you leaving from Glasgow? Check-in counters will open four hours to ninety minutes before a flight’s departure time.
Allow three hours before an international flight, two hours before a European flight, and ninety minutes before a local trip. You can always check what time your airline’s check-in desk at Glasgow airport will open here.
Heathrow Airport in London
Are you going to the airport to check in? Heathrow suggests arriving three hours before your departure time at the check-in and luggage drop counters. Two hours is plenty of time to glide through the terminal for flights inside the UK and Europe.
If you’ve checked in online and don’t have any luggage to drop, Heathrow says you may avoid security three hours before a long-haul trip and two hours before a domestic or European flight.
Leeds Bradford Airport
It takes between two and three hours to pass through the checkpoints at Leeds Bradford.
They advise you to do this whether you have checked in online or plan to do so at the desks, so use your judgement!
Liverpool John Lennon Airport
Two hours before your flight should be enough time to go through the checks at Liverpool John Lennon Airport, however, your airline may advise otherwise, so double-check your reservation before you depart!
London Gatwick requires passengers to arrive at least two hours before their flight to complete the check-in and security procedures.
Check-in, on the other hand, opens four and three hours before long-haul and European flights, respectively. Check-in starts two hours before scheduled departures for flights departing from the United Kingdom and Ireland.
Those departing from Luton should keep in mind the boarding gate closing times, which are an even 40 minutes across all flights.
That gives you an hour and twenty minutes to complete the pre-flight procedures, since check-in and bag drop desks often open two hours before planned departure times.
The time you should arrive in Manchester varies greatly across airlines, and many leave the option up to you.
For example, Jet2 enables passengers to check in three and a half hours before their flight’s departure. If you check in online and are simply travelling with hand baggage, Jet2 claims you can complete the procedure in 90 minutes.
The airport suggests that you allow two hours after check-in to go through security, but following your airline’s rules below will get you through security.
If you’ve found an incredible package holiday offer, Newcastle airport recommends arriving three hours before your charter flight to guarantee a smooth, stress-free transaction. DIY-holidaymakers on a scheduled flight, on the other hand, can saunter through two hours before departure.
However, check-in times might differ from airline to airline, so it’s always best to base your selections on your carrier’s policies.
Check your airline’s guidelines for flights departing from Southend. Boarding gates may close 30 to 40 minutes before the planned departure time.
However, the normal guideline at Southend is to arrive at least two hours before your flight if you need to check in or drop off luggage at the desk.
Allow at least two hours before passing through security for your Stansted departure, so use your airline’s online check-in or arrive early to complete this at the desk.
Stansted recommends that you check your airline’s requirements well in advance of your travel date for further precise guidance.
Things to consider when deciding how early to arrive for a flight
1. Is it possible to check-in online?
Online check-in and carrying hand baggage can only save you a few minutes at the airport because you can usually skip right to security.
If you do need to check your luggage, your airline usually has a separate counter or self-drop-off stations.
2. What time does your airline need you to be at the airport?
Although the median time to arrive at the airport is two hours before your flight, as mentioned above, certain airlines need you to come far sooner or later than the airport standards. Always read the instructions that come with your booking confirmation carefully.
3. Is it the busiest time of year?
Will you have to compete with hundreds of other half-term vacationers or long-weekend warriors to get through the lines? Make this a priority in your calendar.
Outside of busy holiday seasons, you may need to consider regular corporate fliers. Early weekday mornings might be quite busy!
4. How do you intend to go to the airport?
Things beyond your control, such as a car accident that causes unexpected gridlock or having to deal with peak-hour drivers, can add valuable time to your airport commute. Checking traffic conditions well before you leave may help reduce the danger of being late, but if you’re concerned, add an hour to your journey time.
Similarly, buying your airport parking ahead of time not only saves you money but also guarantees you a place on the day, saving you crucial minutes. If you’re taking the train, be aware of any scheduled strikes and be prepared for delays.
5. What is the airport’s size?
And do you know what it is? Some airports are so large that it might take up to 10 minutes to go from security to the gate. It may not seem like much, but if you’re unfamiliar with the airport, it might mean the difference between missing your flight and making it.
6. How many persons are with you?
Will you have to organise passports, boarding cards, and baggage for your five-person family, or will you be travelling alone? It can take some time to get your party through the gate, especially if you’re travelling a busy airport with five carry-on baggage and three impatient kids!
7. Do you have the right to jump the queue?
If you belong to an airline’s frequent flyer club, your mileage status may entitle you to a substantially shorter wait, and the same is true for individuals flying business or first class.
Alternatively, by obtaining VIP Fast Track tickets, you may dramatically reduce your time spent in lines. They may start as little as £3 per person in UK airports!
8. What’s in your carry-on?
Hand baggage regulations say that liquids must be under 100mls in size and fit neatly into a transparent, one-litre plastic bag.
Though most airports supply these bags for free, you may easily save time by having this pre-packed rather than sifting through all your possessions to find that missing moisturiser.