Please sign in to post.

How soon before a flight do you get to airport, in Europe or US for that matter?

In the US it seems to be recommended to be at the airport about 1.5 to 2 hours before the flight. While taking flights from one European destination to another is this recommended or even less time or more? Also, what about differences between countries? From my US experience I've found our smaller airport at Sacramento to be pretty efficient in terms of security lines at all times of day and when I used to visit my friend in Oregon and had a 6am flight, I certainly did not get to the airport at 430 am.

Posted by
8889 posts

This is dependent on airline. You need to look at whever information (e-mail etc.) came with your ticket, or on the airline's website.

The cut-price airlines have a hard cut off, usually at 40+ minutes at check-in (but check) and 30 minutes at the gate, if you are one second late, you won't be let through. And you have to allow time to get through the airport to the check in/bag drop. 1½ to 2 hours is a good plan.
EasyJet doesn't open until 2 hours before the flight. With cut-price airlines, also check the rules about printing out your own boarding pass, some charge if you don't.
"Full service" airlines can be more flexible, especially at smaller airports.
Intercontinental flights have longer check-in times, typically 3 hours.

Posted by
349 posts

I like to arrive 2 hours ahead domestically and 3 hours internationally. I do not want to get stuck in a TSA line. However, in our small airport in Spokane, the 2 hours ahead is excessive depending on the time of day. We recently flew from Milan to Newark, and we used every bit of the 3 hours to get through checking in and the security. We do travel with a guide dog, and the United personnel in Milan had trouble finding my husband's guide dog notation on the reservation. It ended up being a translation issue.

Posted by
2526 posts

About one hour in advance of flight departures is adequate for us as our airport is small, counter staff on task and we participate in the Global Entry program. For airports overseas and returning to North America, we arrive about two hours in advance. Intra-European flights require less time in my opinion. As a side note, be mindful of all time and costs associated with flights between cities in Europe when comparing trips using trains and buses for like routes.

Posted by
487 posts

In some smaller airports, at least in the USA, there is limited staffing so the person who checks you in before security is also the person that helps load the plane. In this case, you would still need to get there early because there may not be anyone available to check you in. Of course, if you have and app or have printed your boarding passes and have carry-on only this would not be an issue.

Posted by
2526 posts

As noted by another, advance check-in (via a smartphone app or printing boarding passes at home) and carry-on baggage only, saves time.

Posted by
5697 posts

If the airline says three hours, I get there at least three hours ahead -- would rather sit around SFO (or Munich) watching other people frantically running for their planes than being the person standing in a long line worrying that I'll miss my expensive international flight because of delays at security/ passport control/ gate changes.

Posted by
1 posts

Can someone please let me know how they can get parking for cheap when flying out of Vancouver Canada? We live in Bellingham WA and I have been researching for weeks the cheapest parking option or way of transportation to get to Vancouver from Bellingham which is about an hour away depending on border waits. The hotels do not have Park and Fly deals. Almost all Hotels there if you stay there, then parking is free while you are staying, otherwise its $10.00 a day, which is crazy to me. It is going to cost us almost 300.00 just for a couple hours in a hotel, and parking our car for 10 days. We leave Monday evening as our flight is at 7:00 am, so we need to be at the airport by 5:00 am at the latest possible, would like to get there around 430 though. No shuttles during that time, so thats out of the question. I have already cancelled 2 hotel stays as i thought that the parking was included in our stay but after calling them have found that it is not.

PLEASE HELP. we cannot afford to pay 300.00 or more just on one evening and parking. We are already a lil over budget for our trip anyways.

ANY ADVICE would be much appreciated. THANK YOU

Posted by
487 posts

stephan.alyssa, your question is a different topic and you should start a new thread so you get notified of responses.

Posted by
167 posts

If I have an international flight I will often arrive the night before and stay in a hotel with shuttle near the airport. Since I typically use miles to book my business and 1st class flights I really do not want to take the chance on missing my US to Europe flight.
Last trip to Italy I was very glad I followed this plan as I would have missed the international flight because of a series of delays on my connecting flights to JFK.

Posted by
316 posts

I live ten minutes from LGA by cab, so for domestic flights, I never book anywhere else. For Southwest, which I usually use, I leave the house an hour before the flight departure time. I usually walk right into my boarding slot. If not, who cares. I don't need a special seat. It's not worth stressing over. Much easier to be the flexible one and let others who have particular needs get what they want. Maybe it earns me karma?

For international, I have to get to JFK (I refuse to go to Newark) so that takes an hour and a half to get there (I'm too cheap for cabs, part of why I can afford travel.) I try to arrive 2.5 hours before the flight. If the commute turns out to be a little shorter by luck, I'm there 3 hours before.

Posted by
9725 posts

Like some others, I fly from a very small airport. If I'm on the 515A flight and staying overnight in a nearby hotel so I don't have to drive 40 miles at 0dark30, I'll leave the hotel at 4:00 and am parked and in the terminal by 4:15. That's plenty of time as the desk agent does change in to the gate agent about 30 minutes before departure. Even checking in online, with a Delta FF account, with passport and Global Entry info on my account I find going to the desk to let them check my passport prevents them chewing me out at the gate when he wants to see my passport. It's just easier. If the weather is OK, this flight usually gets off the ground early. We are slow in some things in rural Idaho, but we can flat load a plane in record time.

International flight back? Three hours minimum in the airport. The last trip home from Paris in May, there was some kind of event in the airport which involved them locking down the front doors to the terminal. The plane waited for 2 guys who clearly had been running and I overheard them say the terminal doors had been closed for a while which made them late as they profusely apologized to all around them. I am way too old to run.

Posted by
2987 posts

Flying in Europe only, it depends on the airport, but generally I arrive later than I would in an American airport because I simply haven't experienced the security delays here that I have in the US at small to medium sized airports.

Mind you I am NOT talking about CDG or Heathrow or any huge nightmare airport. In those cases I always arrive at the "suggested" time, even earlier.

But at my local airport, I've been known to get there 20 minutes before boarding if I'm not checking a bag. Living life on the edge!

Posted by
109 posts

I like to get to the airport 4 hours before the flight to allow for any issues. I realize that the checkin counters open 3 hours before the flight at SFO and in Europe. By arriving SFO 4 hours before I don't mind waiting in the vicinity of the checkin counters.

In order to be one of the first to chekin I will line up 25 minutes or so before they open. This guarantees me a short wait. I have TSA Pre Check and please note that not all airlines participate in this program so I can get through security in a short amount of time.

I request assistance due to low visition and they bump me to the front of the security line.

It helps to know the location of the checkin counter. Also you need to figure out where the security checks are etc.

By allowing 4 hours before the flight you will not have any stress. I like booking an afternoon departure for instance on my upcoming trip to CDG I picked the 3:10 PM departure.

By selecting the 3:10 PM departure I schedule my ride to leave at 10:30 AM and I will arrive to SFO by 11:05 AM and checkin begins at 12:10 PM or there about. I will check to see if they can check me in before the 3 hour opening time. If not I will just walk around looking at the various people checking in for their flights or grab a coffee at one of the pre security coffee shops.

I am very good at nailing the timings. Also I call up SFO to see where the checkin zone is located and I try to find out the same for my European flights.

I have one of the world's best records that in my 32 years of travel I have never missed a flight because I figure out how much time I need.

WIth Priorty Pass I can access the Air France lounge at SFO and sip on some Champagne or good wine with some snacks and an espresso or two relaxing before the flight. I am one that does not like to rush.

If an airline or train says to be there 30 minutes before I am there 60 minutes before just to be certain that I will make the plane or train. Now I understand that things can be outside of my control but I am one to try to avoid it as much as possible.

I am ready to go with my online boarding pass, passport and weigh my bag at home and research the bag policies before I fly. It irks me when I am behind a family with 10 bags when I only have one bag and one carryon. I would carry on my suitcase but I do like to bring more liquids than TSA allows for a month trip.

I hope my tips help.

Posted by
250 posts

When flying from Europe to the US, I arrive at the airport 3 hours before departure for several reasons. I might breeze through luggage check in, immigration, and security...OR there might be unexpected delays. At London Heathrow, I have experienced long lines for luggage check in (economy passengers) but fast immigration and security processing. At Paris Charles de Gaulle, I have experienced long lines for all three. Once I had only carry on luggage at CDG but because the kiosk didn't properly scan my passport, I had to go through a relatively short line luggage check in line, but it took 45 minutes due to inefficient airline employees. Additionally, the jet door may close a full 30 minutes before departure.

Posted by
12923 posts

Each airline has its own rules.
My personal rule of thumb:
US domestic or Intra Europe: 90 min
US international: 2.5+ hours
EU intercontinental: 2+ hours.

Posted by
73 posts

Last week out of Prague (Schengen zone) to both Schengen and non Schengen zone countries the monitors wouldn't even display check-in desk numbers or departure gates until 2 hours before flight time, so I guess at least out of Prague 2 hours seemed to be sufficient.

On the other hand, like some other posters above, I'd personally much rather sit at the airport chatting with companions and drinking coffee before I need to be there than to be rushing around at the last minute, so I was happy to be there beforehand and wait for the boards to update!

Posted by
12898 posts

Hi,

When I am flying out of SFO to Europe, I get to SFO three hours prior to departure, or even earlier, no problem waiting at the airport. For domestic flights my time of arrival prior to departure is anywhere from 2.5 to two hours, depending on the hour of departure.

Posted by
358 posts

Each airline has its own rules.
My personal rule of thumb:
US domestic or Intra Europe: 90 min
US international: 2.5+ hours
EU intercontinental: 2+ hours.

That a pretty solid info right there.

If you know your airport that you fly out of and it's high-low periods you can play around with those times but, in general, you need to anticipate the unforeseen. There's a while lot that can throw a wrench into your travels if you don't give yourself enough time. Flying out of SFO, you have to deal with freeway commute traffic at either end of the day, business travel departures (5-8am), international arrival/departures (11am-3pm) which messes up traffic in and out of the airport (think multiple large capacity airplanes), and red-eye departures (10pm-1am), which also messes up traffic.

Posted by
362 posts

I also hate to rush to catch my flight.

I arrive 2 hours early for domestic US flights, and that is with Pre-Check.
I arrive 3 hours early for international flights or any flight that leaves in another country.

Travel can be stressful enough as it is, trying to make connections, find gates, deal with delays, changes, etc. I like to enjoy myself as much as possible and not rush.