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Is arriving at the airport 2 hours before a flight too early? You might need 3, in some cases

Is arriving at the airport 2 hours before a flight too early? You might need 3, in some cases


Wish to begin an argument? Inform your journey companion you will not be arriving two hours earlier than your flight.

Go on, strive it. I will be proper right here.

No, this is not a frivolous, first-world drawback. Holidays have been ruined due to it. Marriages have ended. And with a record-breaking summer for air travel ahead, it is time to settle this query as soon as and for all.

As with so many issues in journey, there is a easy reply – and a sophisticated one.

The easy reply is: Two hours for home flights, three hours for worldwide flights. (Roughly.)

“The 2-hour suggestion is pretty normal throughout the business,” says Heather Lissner, Phoenix Sky Harbor Worldwide Airport spokesperson. “We advocate the 2 hours in order that vacationers have sufficient time to get dropped off or park their automobiles, verify their baggage and get by safety to their gates.”

The difficult reply: It relies upon.

Did you get to the airport too late or too early? Tell us about your experience. ​​​​​

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Lissner explains that whereas skilled vacationers could discover they want much less time, the 2 hours give those that don’t journey as often an opportunity to have a much less rushed and demanding journey expertise. And through busy vacation durations or particular occasions, the airport could advocate including much more time.

A couple of years in the past, the parents at Sky Harbor adopted a “3-2-1” suggestion: Arrive on the airport ticket counter to check-in three hours before your flight; be in line at the airport security checkpoint two hours before your flight; be on the gate one hour earlier than your flight.

How “normal” is this recommendation? The Transportation Safety Administration agrees with it, and a few airways too. As an illustration, American Airways advises passengers to be at the airport three hours before flight time for international departures and two hours for domestic flights. There’s an exception for flights to sure abroad locations, which require that you just verify in earlier.

United Airways’ minimum check-in times range from 30 minutes to 90 minutes, relying on the kind of flight. When you have baggage to verify, you might have to verify in earlier, and there’s a checklist of airports which are exceptions to the rule.

Confused but?

It could assist to notice the doubtless motives behind the recommendation. The TSA and airports need you to get there earlier, every for its personal causes. The company doesn’t prefer to be rushed with screenings, even when there is a lengthy safety line. Airports need you to make the most of their unbelievable purchasing and eating amenities, which you’ll’t do should you’re dashing to the gate. Additionally, they issue within the time it takes to search out parking. Airways, alternatively, don’t need you milling across the boarding space for too lengthy.

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However these tips do not take into consideration the truth that you are coping with individuals – some with mobility issues, others who’re nervous and would arrive a day earlier than their flight if they might. That is the place issues get attention-grabbing, and that is the place the “relies upon” actually turns into obvious.

Joe Reimers, a gross sales engineer from South Bend, Indiana, describes himself as a “conservative” traveler, particularly when he is checking a bag. But when he flies out of his dwelling airport, which he is aware of nicely, he typically arrives simply 45 minutes earlier than his departure.

“Flying out of much less acquainted airports on return journeys is a distinct story,” he says. He sticks to the airline recommendation of two hours for worldwide flights and 90 minutes for home flights. “At very giant airports, I could go even longer,” he provides.

But different skilled vacationers say their lead time is at all times the identical. Douglas Jensen, an info know-how advisor from Natick, Massachusetts, is a top-level elite frequent flier with 45 years of air journey expertise.

“I at all times permit two hours for home flights and three hours for worldwide flights,” he says. Which means leaving his dwelling at 1 a.m. for a 5 a.m. flight provides him the safety of understanding that he will not miss his flight.

And that basically is the item of this entire train: to not miss the flight. So the actual query is whether or not to go along with the airport and TSA-recommended extra beneficiant arrival instances or the airline instances that reduce it a bit nearer.

On this case, the airports and the TSA are completely right. By no means thoughts the overpriced airport meals, the cheesy duty-free retailers your native airport needs you to frequent, or the pat-down the TSA brokers hope you may endure. And overlook the seasonal lull, which can in all probability be over by the point you are completed with this text.

For those who miss your flight, you’ve an entire new set of issues. You do not need to go there.

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What to do on the airport at no cost when you wait

  • See the artwork. Phoenix Sky Harbor, for instance, has an impressive collection of art. Terminal 3 has artwork devoted to Arizona’s wildlife by this fall.
  • Watch the planes. Probably the greatest locations to plane-spot is Honolulu Worldwide Airport (HNL). Terminals there are related by lengthy, open-air walkways, the place you possibly can see the plane up shut, scent the plane gas and listen to the deafening roar of plane engines revving up. Different statement alternatives may be discovered on the Spotters Wiki:
  • Take a hike. Sitting in a pressurized aluminum tube for hours at a time is nobody’s concept of enjoyable. However you possibly can stretch your legs earlier than you are taking off by strolling by the airport terminal. The longest walkable concourse? That would be Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport. It is 2.16 miles from check-in to your gate at DFW.

This story was originally published on Feb. 19, 2017.

Did you get to the airport too late or too early? Inform us about your expertise. 

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