You are advised to arrive at the airport two hours before your flight

April 21, 2022
Why do we have to arrive so early for a flight? How would you reduce the wait times?

How often do you fly?

How early do you like to be?

Common advice is to arrive 2 hours before your flight. Or 3 hours if you cross international borders.

Why?

Simply put, because it takes a certain amount of time to get through all of the various queues that stand between the entrance to the airport and the boarding gate:

  • The queue at the check-in kiosk
  • The queue at the luggage drop-off
  • The queue at the security screening checkpoint
  • For most international flights, the queue at the border checkpoint leaving the country
  • The queue at the boarding gate

When I fly on a good day, I get through all but the last of these queues pretty quickly, and arrive at my boarding gate a half hour before the flight, and have time to enjoy some exotic airport cuisine in the luxurious faux leather seat in the boarding area.

On a bad day, there may be a hiccup that means I’m rushing through the last half of the queues, maybe even asking other passengers if I can jump in front of them so I don’t miss my flight.

Here’s a thought experiment for you to think about in your free time. Maybe the next time you’re waiting in queue at the airport:

How could some of these queues be eliminated or shortened?

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