Airlines generally recommend you arrive at the airport three hours before your flight. This gives you plenty of time to check-in, go through security and complete any immigration formalities. Airports love it too because, you know, captured audience equals spending.
However, it is possible to arrive much closer to flight departure time, especially if you have carry-on luggage only. How fine can you cut it and is it worth doing?
Arrive Last And Save Time
In his book The Only Way To Cross, John Maxtone-Graham tells various stories about the great transatlantic ocean liners of the twentieth century. There are one interesting parallel to the air travel experience today which I have never forgotten.
The specific portion says that people waited in the various queues for hours to board, while old hands knew to cut their arrival time as fine as possible, meaning they virtually went straight on board. It is not so different now.
I know full well that Fast-Track security at Dublin Airport takes about five minutes to get through and never more than ten. From there, it’s not more than a 15 minute walk to the furthest gate, and is usually less.
With boarding starting 25-30 minutes before flight departure, I could arrive at the airport at 5:15am for a 5:50am boarding time. That would result in me arriving at the gate right when boarding started, cutting out the waiting time completely.
It’s Risky Business Though
However, there is a problem. What happens if there is traffic on the way to the airport? Perhaps the vehicle I am travelling in has a mechanical issue. What if, for some reason, there is a problem with airport security and there is a delay?
All of this could happen, which is why some padding is needed, just for peace of mind. Also, I would not consider cutting things fine at an airport I didn’t know. My home airport and others I used frequently, sure. Some random place elsewhere? Not so much.
Some people rather enjoy hanging out in the airport, having a drink or doing some shopping. I can’t say I’m much of a fan of the airport mall experience, so for me, the quicker I am on board my flight, the better. I usually aim to get to the airport about one hour before boarding or about an hour and a half before flight time.
What about you? Are you a frequent business traveller who is so expert you can arrive at the gate just as boarding is called? Or are you the cautious type who arrives three hours before religiously? Thank you for reading and if you have any comments or questions, please leave them below.