This is the most stressful question when preparing to leave for the airport. And what’s better: arriving early and dying of boredom or getting there late and taking the risk of missing your flight?
Better be there early than just on time
The general rule is to arrive at the airport no later than 2 hours prior to departure for domestic flights and 3 hours for international ones - especially if you have a luggage to check in. In any case, you should always consult the airline and airport guidelines before leaving. All the more so since the closing of your gate may vary greatly from one carrier to another: some give you a timeframe of 45 min while others will only tolerate 15 min.
You might want to add an extra half an hour (2h30 for domestic and 3h30 for international flights) if you’re not a frequent traveller and might be anxious before the flight. The same applies if you’re not familiar with the airport or if you’re flying on a busy day.
But in some cases, you can cut yourself some slack
You might consider coming a bit later if you don’t have any luggage to drop off, if you have already checked-in online (as you should), or if you’re not flying during rush hour. Avoiding peak times might also help you save some money on your ticket.
The common misconception
Tracking your flight status: Imagine you keep track of your flight status and find out your flight has been delayed, so you decide to arrive at the airport later than planned.
First of all, delays and cancellations statuses aren’t always precise and are likely to evolve without being updated. Secondly, some airlines will require you to check in at the initially required time despite the delay. It’s not the brightest idea of the century, but you should follow this guideline if you don’t want to be considered a no-show and be denied boarding.
Cutting the line: Would airport personnel let you advance to the front of the line if you’re about to miss your flight? Not awlays. This is (unfortunately) not a right or a privilege, so don't count on that when considering oversleeping.
The check-in guarantee: Once you’ve dropped off your bag, the plane will not take off without you. Umh...no. Especially for domestic flights. For international ones, the airline is more likely to remove your luggage from the cabin than wait for you if you never showed up for the last call.
In the end, keep in mind that you should allow yourself enough time not to be stressed out before departure. And should you be scared of getting bored at the airport, you can always take a look at this article on how to spend your time there.
Stay tuned for more travel tips and useful passenger info!