I’m unusual in that I love airports. I’ll regularly arrive 2-3 hours in advance of my flight, sometimes even at a small airport without a lounge. There’s just something about being around the bustle of people in motion and aircraft on the tarmac that I find reassuring.
But let’s say that you’re a normal person. Assuming you don’t want to live as I do, when should you arrive at the airport before a flight?
Two simple guidelines will help.
- Domestic flight (no checked bags, boarding pass printed or on your phone): 40 minutes before the flight is usually sufficient
- International flight or any other variable (checked bags, no boarding pass, traveling with a monkey): 90 minutes before the flight is usually sufficient
Key Principle: The times where you almost miss the flight are far greater than the times where you really miss the flight.
You don’t need to be nearly as early as you think. More often than not, you’ll make the flight.
P.S. There’s at least one big exception. If flying out of Angola you need to check in four hours early. But if you’re flying out of Angola, you’re probably ready to leave long before then.