Because everyone checks in online these days, all you have to do once you get to the airport is drop your bags off. They don't need so many check in staff any more (see above!) so you all stand in a long queue to drop your bags off. Lots of people try to avoid this by taking everything they own in their carry-on bag, which means that you then have to stand in a long line at security while all the bags are scanned.
The internet has not made it any less necessary to get to the airport early. I work at Heathrow, and it is still as mad as ever. The shopping is good, though.
Germany to see DP Hand luggage only as I'm only going for 4 days, plus it was cheaper. Then he's coming back here for a week. We're trying to sort out trains to and from the airport in Germany, which is fun because the website is rather flash-y and so doesn't all translate using google translate! I've told him to ask his colleagues for advice.
Easyjet baggage drop off is strangely faster than Ryanair baggage drop off, despite the fact they're doing the same thing. I can't work out what it is that takes the extra time with Ryanair.
So yes - expect long queues for the baggage, although they should move reasonably quickly, and expect long queues for security. Then bear in mind the sometimes lengthy walk to the gate. I'd go for 1.5 hours but then I panic at the prospect of being late for anything.
Which airport ? Some you can pay a small amount to go fasttrack through security if the lines are long. Also depends on time of day - for a 6.30 flight at Birmingham, I can arrive at 5.45 no hassle. East Midlands (strangely full of oldies) needs longer
Sometimes boarding can be called early, where there is a delayed earlier plane (to another destination) and they can then use that runway slot. It pays in that sort of situation to be ready to get to the gate quickly, which you can't do if you drop your bags off late, take an age getting through security, they search you and possibly your hand luggage etc.
I would - our airport used to be quite quiet but now is very busy so it can often take 15 mins to get through security.
If you are flying with someone like Ryanair or Easyjet you still have to queue to drop off your luggage and the queues aren't split by destination so when we went to Pisa in July we ended up queueing for 40 minutes despite it being a 7.30am flight - glad I vetoed DH who wanted a bit more of a lie in.
Best not to be stressed before you leave - we actually now go a bit more than 2hrs in advance so we can relax and have a meal at the airport before we go
Depends which airport - Heathrow in summer you need at least two hours to make it through security and walk miles to the gate. Regional airports usually better, specially if you are checking in online.