In an ideal world, everyone would like to arrive for their flight just before a flight takes off. However we don’t live in an ideal world. There are a number of factors to take into consideration when deciding how early you should reach an airport.
Missing a flight isn’t ideal, missing a flight because you arrived too late is even less idea and quite a horrible way to start a trip. On the flip side sitting at the airport for hours on end because of paranoia about missing the flight isn’t ideal either. So just what is the right time to arrive at an airport? Well a general thumb rule can be to arrive at the airport around 2 hours before a domestic flight and for international flights, taking into account immigration and other stuff you should probably arrive 3 hours before your flight.
It is important to note that most airlines also have their own requirements and guidelines when it comes to checking in. Failing to check in by the time stipulated by your airline could result in you losing the seat to a standby passenger. In case you have baggage to check in, many airlines close check in counters around 30-45 minutes before takeoff. Check with the airline you are flying what their counter closing time will be to avoid missed flights.
In some cases it may also be advisable to arrive at the airport earlier than the stipulated time. If you do not travel by air frequently and may not be aware of the various procedures involved, arriving a little may give you enough time to move at your own pace. The same can be said for airports that you aren’t familiar with. Another good reason to arrive early at an airport is if you are traveling on a busy weekend or during the holiday season when airports are generally crowded and queues may be that much longer. It is also important to note that larger airports are generally crowded through the year so that should also be taken into consideration while planning what time to arrive.
In other cases it may also be fine to arrive later than the usual stipulated time. A good reason not to arrive really early is online check in. if you have already checked in and do not have check in baggage then you can arrive even up to 45 minutes before your flight. Again if your are traveling during non peak times or if you are traveling from a smaller airport then you can arrive later than usual and still make the flight.
Checking the status of a flight is also an important indicator of what time to arrive at an airport. For example some flights get significantly delayed due to unforeseen circumstances. Check your flight status regularly on the day of travel to make sure you know the takeoff time. It is important to note that all these scenarios are not foolproof and following them may result in missed flights due to unforeseen events. So always try to be at the airport by the time stipulated by your airline.