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What time should I arrive for my flight?

Like the train and bus, the airplane is used as a means of public transport between different destinations. Nevertheless, pre-boarding procedures vary considerably, especially where airlines are concerned. For this reason, travelers are strongly advised to arrive at the airport well in advance of their flight. Find out here what the recommended arrival time is.
Published on January 25, 2024

Recommended arrival times according to flight type

Airlines will always advise you to arrive at the airport well in advance, so that you have enough time to complete all the formalities without worrying about missing your flight. Before reaching your seat, you'll need to pass through check-in, baggage check, security check and boarding.

For a domestic flight, expect an average of 1 to 2 hours before takeoff. On the other hand, for a long-haul flight, especially an international flight, this time increases to 3 hours.

Good to know: the estimated time of arrival is sometimes mentioned on your boarding pass issued online. This information takes into account peak or off-peak periods.

Please be vigilant. The route between your home and the airport is not included in these times. This is the recommended time for you to arrive at the airport, not the time spent travelling to the terminal. So remember to add the driving time from your point of departure. Don't forget to leave an extra safety margin on this journey time, to avoid stress in the event of unforeseen circumstances such as roadworks, detour or traffic jams.

If you can, have someone drop you off so you don't have to find a parking space at the airport.

Why do you have to get to the airport so early?

On-site scouting

The various stages between you and your seat can take more or less time, depending on the flow of passengers, the time of day and the number of airport agents on site.

When you arrive in the departure hall, you're going to spend a lot of time finding your way around, especially if it's your first plane trip. Rushing can lead to errors in orientation. With enough room to maneuver, you can avoid stress and panic.

Many airports have more than one terminal. So make sure you're in the right place to get to the right counter.

Waiting at the check-in counter

Check-in is the first place where a queue can form. The procedure takes around ten minutes per passenger. The check-in agent carries out the usual checks on your flight ticket or booking number, as well as your identity documents. As soon as your flight check-in has been validated, the staff will issue you with your boarding pass. Your hold baggage is then checked (weight, dimensions, etc.) before it too is checked in for the flight.

Good to know: every flight has a check-in deadline. This may vary depending on the airline, destination and airport operation. On average, check-in closes 40 minutes before take-off for domestic flights and 60 to 90 minutes before departure for international flights.

Similarly, the boarding end time is also set independently of the arrival of all passengers. But between check-in at the counter and boarding the aircraft, there's another step that can take time: the security check.

Passing through the security checkpoint

The security agent checks your flight documents. Your cabin baggage then undergoes an X-ray scan. Electronic devices and liquids must be stored separately. Before passing through the security gate, you must remove all metal objects likely to ring: belts, watches, bracelets, rings, necklaces, keys... The procedure takes around ten minutes. But the waiting time can be much longer, depending on the number of stations open in relation to the flow of passengers. Then it's time to collect your belongings and put them away, in search of your boarding gate.

A few hours' notice is never too much, especially as boarding starts on average 30 minutes before takeoff, and doors close on average 15 minutes before the start of the flight to allow passengers to settle in and safety instructions to be communicated.

2 tips to save you time before boarding

If you travel regularly, you'll want to make the most of your time to avoid wasting it in airport queues. Here are a few tips to help you avoid check-in at the counter.

1. Register online

It's not just booking that can be done online. The check-in procedure can also be carried out electronically. Electronic check-in is accessible from the airline's website or application 1 to 2 days before departure.

You receive your boarding pass directly by e-mail. You can then print it out or download it onto your smartphone. In this way, you can go directly to the self-service baggage drop-off point before going through security.

2. Travelling without checked baggage

Taking a flight with only one piece of cabin baggage also saves considerable time. There' s no need to check the weight and dimensions of your baggage. With no baggage to check in, and having checked in online, you can go straight through security.