Arriving at the airport
What time should I arrive at the airport?
One of the most common concerns when going on holiday is how much time to leave for checking-in at the airport. Even if the flight has not taken off, missing check-in means you probably won't be allowed to fly. As well as observing the timings set by your flight provider, make sure you leave enough time for queues at the checking in desk, making your way through security and getting to your departure gate. Online check-in allows you to enter your details on your flight provider's website and print your own boarding pass. Some airlines allow you to select meal preferences, baggage quantities and seating preferences. It is also possible to check luggage in online, with bag drop stations at the airport near the check-in desks.
Some airlines allow those travelling early in the morning to check-in at the airport on the day before your flight. You can also drop your bags off, meaning you can go straight to security on the day of your flight.
Even if you choose to check-in on the previous day or online, it is still recommended that you arrive at the airport at least two hours before your scheduled flight time to pass though security in sufficient time. If you are travelling through Heathrow airport, ensure you finish passing through security at least 35 minutes before your flight, as it may take a while to get to your gate.
Check-in can close any time between two hours to 45 minutes before the flight takes off so it is important to confirm timings with your airline. After that, aim to be through security and at the boarding gate at least 30 minutes prior to departure.
Here are the checking-in policies of some popular flight operators leaving from the UK:
British Airways check-in details
- Check-in desks close 45 minutes before the flights depart
- Online check-in opens 24 hours beforehand and closes one hour before the flight departs
- Due to increased security measures, those travelling to America must go to a check-in desk and speak to a British Airways agent
BMI check-in details
- Online check-in opens 24 hours beforehand and closes 30 minutes before the scheduled departure time (with the exception of Riyadh, Jeddah and Dammam, where it closes one hour before)
- Self check-in is available through machines which are available at most BMI airports within the UK and Ireland. These close 30 minutes prior to departure for UK Domestic and Western European short haul flights and 45 minutes prior to departure for all other routes.
- Check-in desks are available for those travelling on a Business or Flexible Economy fare and Star Alliance Gold or BMI Silver card holders. These desks open two hours before departure and closing times depend on the type of flight:
- Check-in for short haul flights closes 30 minutes prior to departure (although if you are travelling from Hanover you must check-in at least 40 minutes prior to departure)
- For mid haul and long haul flights from the UK, check-in closes between 45 and 60 minutes before departure, depending on the airport.
Emirates check-in details
- Check-in is available online between 24 hours and 90 minutes prior to scheduled departure for all passengers who have eTickets.
- However, if you are checking baggage, you will need to arrive at the airport at least 90 minutes prior to your scheduled departure time and if you are not checking baggage, you must arrive at the airport at least 60 minutes prior to scheduled departure.
EasyJet check-in details
- Check-in desks close 40 minutes before the flights depart
- Online check-in opens 60 hours beforehand and closes one hour before the flight departs
- Easy Jet offers an early check-in for those with an early flight from Gatwick. If your flight leaves before 8.30am you can check-in for this flight from 8pm the night before and leave your baggage at the airport.
FlyBe check-in details
Online check-in opens 36 hours in advance and closes one hour before the scheduled flight departure time
Timings of the check-in desks, self-service kiosks and bag drop closing times depend on whether or not your flight is domestic or international and whether you have hold luggage or carry on only:
Closing times for domestic flights:
- Carrying hold baggage - 30 minutes before the scheduled time of departure (60 minutes for departures from Campbeltown)
- Hand baggage - 20 minutes before the scheduled time of departure (30 minutes for all flights operated by Loganair)
Closing times for international flights:
- Carrying hold baggage - 60 minutes before the scheduled time of departure
- Hand baggage only - 45 minutes before the scheduled time of departure
Ryan Air check-in details
- Ryan Air only offers online check-in, which costs £6. If you arrive at the airport without a boarding pass, you may be charged a boarding re-issue fee.
- Online check-in closes four hours before the flight time
- The bag drop closes 40 minutes before the scheduled time of the flight
Qantas check-in details
- Online check-in is available for passengers travelling on Australian domestic Qantas and QantasLink flights. It opens 24 hours before your flight and closes one hour before departure. International flight check-in closes two hours before departure
- Qantas recommend a variety of check-in times on their website for those using the kiosk. These depend on your specific situation and flight details and can range from between 45 and 90 minutes before your flight
Monarch check-in details
- Check-in for all flights except long haul opens two hours before departure and closes 40 minutes before the scheduled flight time.
- For long haul flights, check-in opens three hours before departure and closes 60 minutes before the scheduled flight time.
- Online check-in opens 18 days prior to departure and closes 4.5 hours before. Bag drop closes 40 minutes before departure time.
- Monarch also recommends arrival at the departure gate at least 90 minutes before the scheduled time of your flight.
Virgin check-in details
- The suggested time to check-in at the desk is between two and three hours before the flight. The check-in desk will close 60 minutes before the scheduled departure time.
- Online check-in opens 24 hours beforehand and closes two hours before the scheduled departure of the flight.
- If you have an early flight, Virgin offers a Twilight check-in service at Gatwick airport. You can arrive between midday and 9pm the night before you travel and check-in both yourself and your baggage. The next day you can turn up (at least) 50 minutes before your flight is due to depart.
Information correct as of May 2011, please check with your airline for updated information.
If there are any airlines or information not included here that you would like to know more about, email us at email@example.com and we'll include the most popular.