It’s one of the more divisive subjects of travel; just how early should you get to the airport?
The organised insist it’s hours in advance, while more moderate travellers seem happy to saunter into a queue following the very last call to board. But there are some indisputable facts of the beginning of any journey: a lack of planning and consideration of schedules can run the risk of you missing your flight and tarnishing your holiday. If you’re unsure of how early you should be arriving at the airport, here are a few things you should consider.
Where are you flying to?
Whether your journey is domestic or international greatly alters the timings of your airport arrival. A good rule is that an optimal arrival time at the airport is at least one hour in advance of domestic flights and at least three hours in advance of international ones. Both take into consideration potential bottlenecks at security, check-in times where stowed baggage is required and time taken to traverse the airport itself.
Check with the airline you are flying as they might have different arrival policies is place.
Where are you flying from?
Airports vary wildly in size and structure so don’t ever assume you can get to your gate with a few strides. Munich’s Franz Josef Strauß Airport, for example, requires a shuttle to take you between some gates, while the walk between Terminal A-West and Terminal E at Philadelphia’s International Airport clocks in at 1.7 kilometres. In short, don’t assume you’ll be able to get from A to B (or check-in to gate) in 10 minutes and take this into account when considering your arrival time.
Are you checking in online?
Online check-in is widely available to passengers and eliminates additional time spent in a queue, so if you’ve got a seat and a ticket, you can probably safely shave off an extra half hour from your time spent at the airport.
Do you have baggage?
Add a little time to your schedule if you’re travelling with baggage. Even if you don’t have to check in, you’ll have to drop your bag at a counter (Qantas has speedy self-service bag drop counters at all domestic airports, as well as international departure terminals in Brisbane, Sydney or Perth).
What time of year is it?
Think you’re the only one heading off for a break? Think again. It stands to reason that if you’ve decided to make the most of the October long weekend so have many other people. According to recent data, the busiest times of the year for flying are the mentioned long weekend, along with Easter and Christmas. If you’re travelling at these times, it’s advisable to add an extra half hour for safety.
Who are you travelling with?
If the family is in tow, it pays to arrive a little earlier. Ferrying several people through check-in, security and the airport in general certainly adds more than minutes to your transit time. Also, if you’re in time for when boarding begins, you’ll benefit from the family-first rule – where those with children begin the boarding process, allowing for a less stressful boarding experience.
Which class are you travelling in?
If you’re travelling in Business or First Class, you’ll want to get to the airport early for an entirely different reason: to spend as much time luxuriating in a lounge as possible.