How Early Should I Get to the Airport?

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Are you the traveller who makes the flight with minutes to spare, or, the one who arrives early to anxiously wait for boarding to open? Planning a trip involves many considerations, and one crucial aspect is arriving at the airport on time. Whether you’re flying domestically or internationally, it’s essential to know how early you should arrive to ensure a smooth and stress free travel experience. If you are wondering ‘how early should I get to the airport?’ – first, we need to know if you have arranged to travel via a commercial or private plane? Let’s dig a little deeper.

Commercial plane: how early to arrive for domestic flight?
For domestic flights, arriving at the airport early allows you to complete the necessary pre-flight procedures without rushing. Generally, it is recommended to arrive at least 90 minutes before your scheduled departure time. This provides a sufficient buffer to navigate through check-in, security screening, and other pre-flight formalities. And of course, a quick pre-flight coffee (or glass of champagne!).

Specifically, let’s consider the guidelines for domestic flights with three major Australian airlines:

Virgin Australia:
Virgin Australia advises passengers to arrive at least 45 minutes before the scheduled departure time for domestic flights. However, it is always wise to allow extra time during peak travel periods, such as school holidays or weekends, when airport queues may be longer.

Qantas suggests arriving at the airport approximately 60 minutes before domestic flights. This timeframe allows enough leeway to check-in, clear security, and proceed to your departure gate without any undue stress.

Jetstar recommends passengers arrive at the airport at least 60 minutes prior to their domestic flight departure time. Similar to other airlines, allowing extra time during busy periods is advisable.

Commercial jet: how early to arrive for international flight?
International travel involves additional formalities, including passport control, customs, and security procedures. To ensure a hassle free experience, it is crucial to arrive earlier than for domestic flights. A general guideline is to arrive at least 2 to 3 hours before your international flight departure time.

Here’s an overview of the recommended arrival times for international flights with Virgin, Qantas, and Jetstar:

Virgin Australia:
Virgin Australia suggests arriving at the airport at least 2 hours prior to international flight departure. This allows ample time for check-in, immigration procedures, security screenings, and other necessary pre-flight tasks.

Qantas advises passengers to arrive 3 hours prior to international flight departure. This extra hour provides additional flexibility, especially for flights to destinations with more rigorous security measures or during peak travel periods.

Jetstar recommends arriving at least 2 to 3 hours before international flights. As with other airlines, it is advisable to check the specific requirements for your destination as certain countries may have additional procedures that could lengthen the process.

While the recommended arrival times mentioned above provide a good starting point, several factors can influence your decision to arrive even earlier. Do keep in mind the following additional considerations:

Traffic and Transport: How will you be getting to the airport? Consider the factors of cost, distance, as well as traffic conditions at the time of travel. Allow extra time if you anticipate heavy traffic or public transportation delays. When using an on-demand taxi service, allow a buffer in case they cancel your journey and there are wait times / peak surge pricing. Ubers can now be pre-booked, but we are aware these can be cancelled too and are not 100% guaranteed.

Baggage Check-In: If you need to check in baggage, allocate additional time for the process. Generally, airlines close their check-in counters around 30-60 minutes before departure, so it’s crucial to complete this step well in advance.

Pre-Flight Services: If you plan to use airport lounges, dining facilities, or shopping options, arriving earlier gives you the chance to relax and enjoy these amenities without feeling rushed.

Arriving at the airport with sufficient time before your flight is vital to ensure a smooth start to your journey. For domestic flights, arriving at least 90 minutes before departure is recommended, while for international flights, allocate 2 to 3 hours. Remember, these are general guidelines, and we recommend you research with your specific carrier well in advance of your departure date.

Private plane: how early to arrive for domestic flight?
We ask that you arrive 20-30 minutes before your private plane departure is scheduled. You will meet either at pre-determined spot at GA airports or at a private lounge in larger city airports. There will be a quick meet and greet with the crew, your bags will be loaded and then a prompt aircraft boarding and departure. It really is as simple as that!

Private jet: how early to arrive for international flight?
Here we recommend arriving a little earlier, maybe 1 hour prior at a private lounge. We arrange all the necessary Off Terminal Clearance at the lounge for customs, immigration and quarantine. Before you know if you will be boarding your private jet and in the air!

Can we assist you with your next private plane or private jet hire? Get in touch today.