Why You Must Get to the Airport Early

By on 20/12/2014

travelA theory states that air passengers must arrive as late as possible as every moment spent at the airport is valuable. On the contrary there is another theory that discusses the risk of pushing late arrivals too far. For some the extra time that is saved by not staying at the airport could be used as extra time in bed, or in office or at the beach. However, to some this extra leisure time could be destroyed by stress that is involved in the risk. So what exactly is idle when it comes to arriving at the airport for a flight? We feel the tips mentioned in the post are more like recommendations and not really rules. However, before we get to the advice bit, it is important to debunk three myths that are commonly shared by many people.

Myth Number 1: Airlines always let you move to the front of the security line if your flight is about to leave. Personally, I have witnessed many denials for such backing. I have also heard of passengers who intended to get to the airport on time but could not due to traffic jam or flat tires or other such reasons. Many of them were refused the opportunity to move forward in the line, making them miss their flights and leading them to pay hefty change fees or purchase new tickets.

Myth Number 2: The aircraft won’t take off without you if you have already checked in baggage. This is so not true, especially on domestic flights. The plane surely can leave with the bag and without you if it has to. On some international flights, the rule may hold right, but if you don’t show up at the gate at the last call, the airline is more probable to pull your bag out and continue to fly out at the pre-decided time.

Myth Number 3: Aircrafts won’t close the doors until five minutes before departure. So not true. If it’s a full flight and you are not in the boarding area within the airline’s specified time frame your seat might be given to another passenger without any compensation to you.

As for our recommendations:

  • For domestic flights at any major airport, if you plan to check-in baggage, get there two hours early. If you don’t have check-in luggage, make it 90 minutes in advance.
  • For smaller regional airports (something like Bozeman, MT), reduce it to 60 minutes.
  • On busy days, like the day before a big holiday, you might want to add an hour.
  • For international flights, get there at least three hours in advance of departure.

Other things to consider:

  • How big and busy is the departure airport? It might be a busy time of the year? Maybe a big holiday?
  • What are the airline guidelines about check-in?
  • What would it cost if you missed your flight?
  • Do you have access to Fast Track lines due to frequent travelling, first class tickets or pre-screening?
  • Are you travelling in a group?

In the hyper-connected world, everything seems to be at our fingertips, making our stay at the airport (or most airports) productive or worthwhile. Read a book of watch a movie, catch up on email or finish the presentation or simply just disconnect and relax.

Do you like airports or simply hate being there? How do you kill time in those long security lines or while waiting for the aircraft gates to open? Tell us in the comments below.

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