Questions about when to arrive at the airport and check in before a flight are all too common when the holiday season arrives, no matter how many times we’ve already asked them.
And after two years of restrictions due to the COVID-19 pandemic, we are even more rusty than usual.
So, to remind you of the basics and get those common questions answered once and for all, here’s what you need to know before you venture to the airport this summer.
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How long before a flight should you arrive?
The general rule is that you should arrive at the airport two to three hours before your flight, depending on where you are going.
Popular flight booking platform Skyscanner states: “For domestic flights, plan to arrive at the airport 2 hours early” and “For international flights, plan to arrive at the airport 3 hours early.”
However, this recommended time varies from airline to airline. Earlier this year Gatwick Airport echoed this advice, tweeting: “We always recommend arriving at least 2 hours before a short-haul flight and 3 hours before a long-haul flight.”
But while this is more common, the Heathrow website urges: “We recommend arriving three hours early for all flights (European and intercontinental).”
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The best option is to check the recommendations of the airport and the airline you are flying with and follow them. Remember, while restrictions have been relaxed, COVID-19 has slowed some processes.
So, if you’re still unsure, it’s worth going sooner rather than later, which will allow you to get to your gate without running, grab the food you need, or buy something you forgot to pack.
Just remember that boarding often starts around 45 minutes before take-off and the gate closes around 15 minutes before departure time (check with your airline).
Of course, if you’ve already checked in online, aren’t checking baggage or anything else that could speed up the process, you should be fine with a slightly shorter time. It is your decision, depending on your situation.
When should you check in?
Your first port of call when you arrive at the airport should be check-in if necessary. You should find out what time your airline’s check-in opens, which should coincide perfectly with your arrival time.
For example, Gatwick Airport states that the following times provide general guidance:
Long haul flights: check-in opens approximately three hours before scheduled departure
European flights: check-in three hours before scheduled departure
UK and Ireland flights: check-in two hours before scheduled departure
You can find your airline’s check-in counter and baggage storage by looking at the elevated displays for directions. You can check in at the counter or, if available, save time and use the self-service check-in to choose your seat and print your boarding pass.
Most airlines also allow online check-in up to 24 hours before departure, which is often the most popular choice.
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Whatever you decide to do, if you have a hold bag that you want to put on the plane, don’t forget to go to the luggage storage, both at the desk and in self-service mode. Check with your airline when it closes.
You can now go to the security checkpoints, then make any necessary purchases before boarding.
Have a good trip!
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