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How early should I get to the airport in 2021: Domestic and International Flights?

How early should I get to the airport in 2021: Domestic and International Flights

Every traveler’s nightmare is to arrive late at the airport and miss the flight. Imagine you’ve finished planning your dream holidays or a business trip, and suddenly find out that you don't know how early I should get to the airport to be there on time!

Besides external factors, such as a tailback on the way to the airport, it is important to keep in mind that thousands of people arrive and depart from the airports every day. It's better to plan way in advance and check at exactly what time you need to arrive at the airport so you’re not late for your flight.

Missing your flight might be dreadful since it can easily ruin your schedule and your flight itinerary. To avoid this, in this article we’re going to explain in detail how to determine the optimum arrival time at the airport as well as how long before a flight you should be at the airport.


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How early to get to airport for domestic and international flights

Determining the ideal time to leave for the airport is not an easy task at all. You’ll never guess how long a queue will take to do a check-in or how long it will take you to go through airport security.

As a general guide, you should leave for the airport at least fourhours before the flight, depending on the distance between your home and the airport.

Arrival times are slightly different depending on what type of flight you have. This is what we’re going to explain below.

waiting area London Heathrow airport 


How early should I get to the airport for domestic flights within Europe?

For domestic (those going to UK or Ireland) or European flights, you are generally expected to get to the airport at least 90 minutes prior to departure. Just to be safe, the optimum would be arriving two hours before your flight.

The queues are often shorter, and you can check-in online directly on your mobile phone so you can arrive at the airport a little later than otherwise would be required. 

The baggage screening and bag drop procedures take approximately 20 to 30 minutes, after which you will need to go through the security checkpoint. Even though it is not as stringent for domestic or European flights, it still requires at least 30 minutes.

But, please, do not behave suspiciously as Mr. Bean did! If airport cops will mistake you for the criminal, you will miss your flight with no doubt.


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When to arrive at airport for international flight?

For long-haul international flights, it is best to arrive at the airport at least 4 hours prior to departure. The queues to get a boarding pass are generally much longer than for domestic and European flights. The destination also plays an important role.

In the case of destinations such as, for example, the United States or Israel you are going to have to spend more time at the airport, as there will be heightened security checks.

Don’t run a risk of missing your flight and allow more time than expected for checking a bag, security line and screening, and other contingencies.

It migtht happen that the airline cancels your flight. Don't panic. In many cases, you have the right for compensation of up to €600 (£520). Check your eligibility with our free flight cancellation calculator


Check-in, boarding and departure times: verify flight information

check in airport

Many passengers ask themselves the questions: “How do I know when my flight is due?”, “How early should I arrive at the airport prior to departure?”. It is best to check the exact departure time several times to plan for any changes or delays before your flight.

Also remember to differentiate between check-in time, boarding time and departure time.

The departure time is the time when a plane leaves the gate, while the check-in time represents the time when the airline's doors open to greet passengers and check their baggage.

If you did online check-in, you will be left with more time at the airport to spend shopping or simply relaxing. The boarding time refers to the time when passengers board the plane.

In general, boarding closes 20 minutes prior to departure. Nowadays, there are many possibilities to know the exact times of check-in, boarding, and departure:


Online check-in when to arrive at airport

Almost all airlines offer the online check-in alternative. When you make an early check-in online, you can also see when you should arrive at the airport.

Typically, you will need to arrive at the airport at least ninety (90) minutes prior to your scheduled departure time if you need to check-in your bag on an international flight.

If you are not checking bags or flying domestically, you must arrive at the airport at least sixty (60) minutes prior to scheduled departure. It is always better to have 30 minutes extra time since airlines likely have additional procedures due to Covid 19.


Verify departure time online

You can easily check the status of your flight online at any time. Find your airline's website or app if any, click on “Flight Status” and you'll know exactly when your plane will take off.

You can also check if your flight has been delayed or cancelled. If this happens, you can get a refund with the help of AirAdvisor in the cases when the flight leaves or arrives within the European Union.


If your flight was delayed, canceled or overbooked within the last 6 years, you could be eligible for up to €600 (£520) in compensationCheck Your Flight


Check your ticket

If you don't believe in the power of the internet, you can check your ticket directly. Whichever airline you fly with or the type of flight you are taking, the exact departure time will be indicated on the ticket.


Call the airport

If you are unsure of when you should arrive at the airport, you can always call the airport for more information. Over the phone, you'll be asked for additional information like your name, airline, or flight number, so you should have it on hand to receive the information you need in just a few minutes.


Request to be informed by email

Another way to check schedules and flight status is to be notified by email. If you gave your email address to the airline at the moment of booking, expect updates on flight and scheduled departure times.

In addition, when you buy your ticket online, you will receive a confirmation email with the scheduled departure time and check-in time.


Plan the trip to the airport ahead of time

Arrange your travel to the airport ahead of time. Depending on the means of transport you use to get to the airport, you should anticipate any strikes, traffic jam or road works that may affect your journey.

If you are driving to the airport, you can monitor traffic conditions with the help of Google Maps. If you're going by public transport, it's best to catch your bus, train, or metro earlier than the one that gets you right on time.


Did you know that Google Maps can calculate the exact time of departure and arrival?

For very precise and real-time updates, use Google Maps on your mobile phone. Configure the "Arrive by" time setting option to plan your route to the airport. 

For example, if you are leaving London Heathrow Airport LHR for the holidays to some international airport, such as Madrid Airport MAD, at 10:35 am, you should arrive at Heathrow Airport around 7:30am.

Google will provide you with live traffic updates, so you can optimize your route and set an alarm to sound when you need to leave your home. This is extremely convenient and will help you to arrive at the airport on time.


Did coronavirus change the check-in and security procedures in the airport?

The Covid-19 has slowed down many activities, and one of the most affected industries is tourism. Under normal circumstances, the check-in and boarding process is fairly straightforward, but the coronavirus has significantly slowed down these processes and added more to them.

The UK government shares step by step guide how to travel safely in airports and on aircraft during the coronavirus outbreak. As for some of the basic precautions, instead of going straight to the Departures Hall, you first have to check your temperature and sanitize your hands - the so-called health screening process. 

Moreover, many countries require foreigners to take a specific Covid-19 test before arriving in the country such as PCR test or vaccine certificate that will be checked upon arrival at the international airport. Test requirements vary from country to country so it is advised to check ahead which one is required to travel to a specific destination.

These new precautions have extended the waiting time at the airport and, due to security reasons, you should be at the airport at least 30 minutes to an hour earlier than usual.

My flight might have been cancelled due to Covid-19 but I'm not sure, what to do? Check the status of UK cancelled flights and get a refund with flight cancellation checker


10 things to do at the airport

Arriving at the airport ahead of time has its own advantages, but arriving too early always means that you will be waiting a while in the departure hall. But you would agree that it's always better to be early than to miss your flight.

No one really enjoys wasting time in the terminal but it can be a great opportunity to relax and entertain yourself. We’ve put together a list of 10 things to do at the airport before you take to the skies:

inside airport

  1. Buy yourself an accessory in some luxury boutique because who deserves it more than you.
  2. Don’t forget about duty-free shopping and stock up on snacks for the plane.
  3. Update your social media with a photo of the pre-departure cup of coffee and let everyone know of the great time you’re having.
  4. Put together your favorite songs for an epic holiday playlist.
  5. Pay yourself a quick massage or beauty treatment to unwind before the flight.
  6. Treat yourself to a delicious meal with a glass of prosecco in one of the airport lounges.
  7. Go to the bathroom to freshen up, brush your teeth, etc.
  8. Take a really long nap after the tiring checking in and security screening procedures.
  9. Learn some slang words of your destination and the locals will love you.
  10. Call your loved ones and tell them you're already enjoying holidays for them.


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You are ready to take off!

Whether you are flying within the country or abroad, it is better to arrive at the airport early than to miss your flight. Keep in mind that it may take some time before you are in the Departures Hall and ready to relax. So always try to leave the house four hoursprior to departure.



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viking 13.01.2022

useful info need to know before boarding Viking Slough

William McCarthy 15.10.2021

Very helpful and definitely no red tape.

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