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airportI’ve never missed a flight. I say this with a deep fear that, upon uttering such a bold statement, I’ll jinx myself and end up late for my next departure (which happens to be this afternoon). I’m fixated on arriving at the airport three hours or more before departure — whether for a domestic or international flight — and so far traffic jams, snaking security lines and ill-timed airport parking lot shuttles have been no match for me.

I think it’s inevitable that every avid flier will miss at least one flight at some point in his or her travel career, and I’m determined to thwart fate as long as possible. But I have to admit, I admire those dauntless travelers who stroll into the airport 45 minutes before departure and never run into any problems. How do they stay so calm? After all, arriving at the airport less than an hour before departure is not exactly the recommended check-in protocol.

In What to Expect at the Airport, we suggest the following: “For domestic flights, you should be at the airport at least two hours before your flight is scheduled to leave if you’re planning on checking luggage. If you’re bringing just a carry-on, allow at least 90 minutes. If you’re flying to Hawaii, the U.S. Virgin Islands or an international destination, arrive at least two hours early. During peak travel times, allow even more time at the airport — perhaps an extra 30 to 60 minutes.”

What’s your take? Are these rules meant to be broken?

— written by Caroline Costello

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5 Responses to “How Early Do You Really Need to Arrive at the Airport?”

  1. Lucie says:

    You never know what may happen! So very ealry is always good. Gives me time to cacth up on reading anyway! ;)

  2. jc says:

    I usually plan to arrive with 2 hours.. a few years ago, however, I got to the airport with only 20 minutes to go. Miraculously, I managed to get on the plane, but I had to sprint through the airport to do it. Definitely wouldn’t recommend that!

  3. chelsea says:

    I don’t get how, when we arrived at the airport the managers wouldn’t let us through even though we were 45 mins till the plane arrives and we had to go on a plane that had not took-en us home.

  4. Kristy says:

    Where’s the poll option for 1-2 hours? I would think that’s the most popular option since it’s should be pretty safe with just carry-ons without risking wasting over an hour waiting.

  5. James Bergman says:

    I have only ever missed one flight, and it was because I didn’t know how long it would take to get to the airport in Shanghai, China. I took the regular train instead of the express, a bad idea. Anyway, how early you get to the airport depends on how big the airport is. In Atlanta, you want to be there at least 2 hours ahead of time. At a smaller local airport, one hour is normally plenty of time. My rule of thumb is normally just two hours for every airport. However, make sure you plan your transportation ahead of time. It is no fun missing a flight.

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