At some point, most of us have likely gotten to the airport just in the nick of time to be able to catch our flight at least once.
Whether we slept through our alarm or got held up by TSA “security” – nothing is more frustrating (or stressful) than sprinting through the airport praying you catch your flight before it takes off.
But just how much time do you actually have to get to your gate before the airline staff won’t let you board?
And how far in advance should you get to the airport?
The true answer is – it depends.
Generally speaking, the age-old rule has been to arrive 2 hours before your scheduled flight if flying within the U.S. – and 3 hours if you’re headed overseas.
Most airports require you to be checked in at least 30 minutes before your departure time – but some bigger airports require a minimum of 45 minutes like Washington-Dulles, Denver, and Los Angeles.
And if you’re not at the gate within 15 minutes before departure time – they likely won’t let you board.
Seasoned travel pros who use TSA’s PreCheck® and travel with only a carry-on sometimes test the limits and stroll up to the airport at the very last second.
… and they miss their flight.
Giving yourself only 45 minutes – or even an hour – to get through security and to your gate is taking a pretty massive risk.
Your best bet is to check in online from the comfort of your home – and get to the airport at least 2 hours before your flight if you’re traveling in the U.S.
This way, you’ll have time to make it through security, grab a drink, find a seat and relax (or walk around) before you’re crammed onto a tiny plane for hours.
And of course – there are other factors you’ll want to consider.
Smaller airports are naturally easier to navigate compared to the massive international hubs with shuttles and TSA lines wrapped around the ropes in droves.
Other airports like Newark Liberty International Airport in Newark, New Jersey, are well-known for their flight delays.
But regardless of where you fly, the airlines are clear – if you don’t make it to the gate by their minimum standard of time – they won’t let you board.
The Points Guy reported:
“For American Airlines flights, boarding ends 15 minutes before departure, regardless of the destination…
“If you’re not on board, we may reassign your seat to another passenger,” per American. “You will not be allowed to board once the doors close.”
So while you may have a “minimum” time to arrive at the airport (depending on where you fly) – in today’s travel world – don’t risk it.
Get to the airport at least a few hours before your flight so you don’t end up stranded at the airport.
How early do you try to arrive at the airport before your flight.
(h/t Proud American Traveler)