What time should you arrive at the airport?



When considering what time you should arrive at the airport, the first step should be to look at the advice of both the airline you are travelling with and the airport you are departing from. If there is any difference in the advice, then go for the one telling you to get there earliest! If you plan on getting through security and having a bite to eat airside, then remember the restaurants can be busier than on the high street so factor in a possible wait for a table.

What time should you arrive at the airport – factors to consider:

Journey to the airport

Always allow plenty of extra time for your journey to the airport when you have a flight to catch. Consider potential traffic, unforeseen delays, and ensure you have ample time to make it to the terminal stress-free.


If you are planning on driving to the airport, choose and book your parking in advance for the best deals. There are often different types of parking available depending on the length of your trip. Short stay, mid stay and long stay all come with different shuttle bus transfer times.

Consider how long it could take you to find a parking space, walk to the nearest shuttle bus stop and wait for the shuttle bus to arrive and the transfer time to the terminal building.

Alternatively, many airports have a meet and greet service that you can book in advance. You let them know what time you will arrive and usually park in a designated meet and greet car park close to the terminal building then hand your keys to the meet and greet reception. While great in theory, it can occasionally take longer to queue and hand over keys than it would have taken to park and get the shuttle bus.


Your destination will play a part in what time you should arrive at the airport. International flights typically require you to be at the airport at least 3 hours before your scheduled departure time. Domestic flights usually only require you to arrive at the airport at least 2 hours before your departure time.


Most airlines require you to check in online and print your boarding pass before your departure day.

If you have already checked in online and are flying hand luggage only you do not need to queue for bag drop and can head straight to security.

Some airlines and airports do allow you to drop hold baggage at the airport the day or night before your trip depending on your flight time. This does help to speed things up a little on the departure day and it is worth looking into.

Airport security queues and checks can cause long delays. Even if you are travelling hand luggage only or have taken advantage of day before bag drop you still need to allow plenty of time to clear security and travel to your allocated boarding gate.

Boarding gates close promptly at the time stated on your boarding pass. Aim to arrive at the boarding gate well before boarding closes as there is often a queue to board. Boarding gates close promptly and if you are not there on time the plane will leave without you.

Airport Assistance

If you require airport assistance this usually needs to be arranged in advance directly with your airline. Usually, if you are using airport assistance you will need to allow longer to get through airport security and to the boarding gate.


Understandably security at airports is strict; to ensure the safety of passengers. This can lead to long queues. Also, if you get stopped at security it can hold you up for a long time too.

Fast track security is available to purchase at additional cost. This usually ensures a smaller security queue which could be worth purchasing if travelling in peak season. If you have certain medical conditions, then it is worth noting that many airports internationally recognise the Access Card. Access card is a universal access registration scheme to support you to communicate your access and queueing requirements. This is helpful to use if you have some minor access or queueing needs that have not qualified for airport assistance. You still should allow plenty of time for security, then use the extra time to relax airside before your boarding gate is displayed on the board.

What happens if I miss my flight?

If you miss your flight airlines are not required to help. Some airlines do have policies in place to help passengers and some offer rescue fares. You should check what the airline you plan to travel with offers.

If you have purchased travel insurance, you should check your policy wording to see whether your missed departure is covered.

Gold, Platinum and Cruise policies from Good To Go travel insurance include cover for missed international departures from the UK. This provides expenses for necessary travel and accommodation up to the amount stated in the policy to reach your booked destination if you miss your flight due to specific circumstances such as public transport delays on your way to the airport, car breakdown or accident.

Good To Go travel insurance have no age limits on their single and annual multi-trip policies and can cover for all types of existing medical conditions.