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How early to arrive at airport?

(55 Posts)
earlydoors42 Wed 11-Sep-19 17:46:29

I am flying to America soon. Haven't been abroad for years. The airline says to arrive 3 hours early for an international flight. The first train will get me there for just over 2 hours before. Is that enough time or do I really need 3 hours? It's from Manchester. I will check in online but have a suitcase to check in. Thank you!

berlinbabylon Wed 11-Sep-19 17:50:35

I always arrive far too early for flights, but I would definitely get the train before the one you think you need to get.

We live 30 mins from Heathrow and leave 3 hours before the plane is due to go (European flights with 2 hour check-in) so allow an hour's delay time as 90 mins is enough but usually arrive 2.5 hours before.

We live just under an hour from Southampton, and also leave 3 hours before as the car park is very close to the terminal and it's so small that you can get through everything very quickly. We are usually there 2 hours before though, but just over an hour would be plenty.

The one thing I've had happen to me twice is the liquid thing. One time the plastic bag was too big and the other time I had something that wasn't liquid but they said it looked like it on the screen. Both times my case/bag was pulled out to be looked at manually and I had to hang around for at least 15 minutes before they did it. That would make me nervous about cutting things too fine.

berlinbabylon Wed 11-Sep-19 17:52:36

I've only missed a flight once. I was coming from Central London to Heathrow by tube and the tube got stuck one station out, 2 hours before the plane was due to leave. We were messed around, told to get off and get a bus, told to get back on, it was a mess. Finally arrived just as the plane was due to leave.

Lufthansa booked me on a later flight for no charge. Those were the days, now you'd have to pay ££££ for a new flight.

JayDot500 Wed 11-Sep-19 17:54:05

If you can't afford to buy another flight, I'd get an earlier train or stay overnight. 2 hours can be enough time, but with so many variables that could work against you, I'd not risk it by cutting it so close.

JayDot500 Wed 11-Sep-19 17:54:45

Ps, I've missed over 5 flights inc to/from the US grin

Quartz2208 Wed 11-Sep-19 17:56:35

It can really depend on queues - we arrive in Verona airport just over before and by the time we had queued to hand in luggage, queued through security got water and gone to toilet then passport control we literally we near the end of the queue to get to the planes.

Queues can get you - and for an international flight you have to remember its a big plane they will start boarding around an hour before take off time because its take off time (not the time you get on the plane)

loutypips Wed 11-Sep-19 17:58:42

Definitely get there earlier! I would say at least 3 hours before, check in queues can be horrendous, then you've got queues for security. Sometimes (although rarely!) flights leave early, and more often, flights are overbooked, so if you check in late, bye bye seats! They've gone to someone else!

drsausage Wed 11-Sep-19 18:41:24

I arrived so early for my flight yesterday I ended up taking the one before it - which was handy grin

Doesn't tend to work so well for transatlantic flights though.

OP have you done your Esta?

earlydoors42 Wed 11-Sep-19 18:45:53

Just realised my flight is 2 legs - first leg is to Dublin. Might that be a smaller plane and maybe ok not to arrive so early? I am overall thinking now though to arrive 3 hours early!

Thank you, I did my ESTA and got insurance. Phew! I had to ask someone how you know which desk to take your case! (I know that bit now at least)

taxguru Wed 11-Sep-19 18:48:49

I really wouldn't trust the trains around Manchester. Northern are well known for cancellations and delays. Personally, I think 2 hours is too tight at Manchester. If the train is late/cancelled and you end up with less than 2 hours, you'll almost certainly miss it. There are usually horrendous queues and delays at security, and first thing in the morning is the worst time. Can you not get a taxi or go the evening before and stay in an airport hotel?

cyclingmad Wed 11-Sep-19 18:53:57

Its more than enough time provided your train is not delayed and you go straight in to check in bags and then straight through to security line (no stopping for food or whatever).

Recently I got all my timings mixed up and had literally 45 mins before my flight left from Eindhoven airport (Netherlands), I thought shit I am going to miss my flight but I hotfoot from my hotel (15min walk to airport) and basically just had to queue jump my entire way through the airport but I made my flight. The secuirty line alone was 1hr wait but those in line were nice enough to let me skip past them.

Starisnotanumber Wed 11-Sep-19 18:55:01

If you're doing manchester it's at least a 10 minute walk to the terminal from the station so need to factor that in to your calculation. You can book fast track security which may help save some time . If you're at terminal 2 the last time we walked over 1 kilometre from station to the gate so can take quite a time just in moving from one place to another

earlydoors42 Wed 11-Sep-19 18:58:28

Thank you all! I am sufficiently alarmed to look for a taxi instead! If I missed it I would be devastated!

Funghi Wed 11-Sep-19 19:00:42

2 hours is plenty. Especially with online checkin.

taxguru Wed 11-Sep-19 19:02:06

It's a major failing of the train system that the first trains of the day from some parts of the North West don't arrive at Manchester soon enough for the peak early morning departures.

saraclara Wed 11-Sep-19 19:05:02

2 hours is plenty if you actually get there then. But it's the journey there that needs contingency built in. I always plan to get there three hours before, because as I've discovered in four decades of travelling, anything can happen. I've been stuck in massive traffic jams when I used to drive to the airport, and I've had two consecutive trains cancelled (among other complications involving the tube, and me getting on the wrong train blush
Each ended up with me still getting my flight. But if I hadn't built in tht extra hour, I wouldn't have.

drsausage Wed 11-Sep-19 19:06:44

Just FYI, if you're doing Aer Lingus via Dublin then you'll clear US customs and immigration at Dublin, and on arrival in the US you'll be treated as a customer arriving on a domestic flight.

Summersunshine2 Wed 11-Sep-19 19:15:56

It may not be that you NEED two hours in the airport but you NEED to leave earlier to factor in any travel delays.
I had a car crash on the way to Stansted this summer. After the relief that everyone was ok I can't tell you the stress it caused trying to get my car towed (it was un-drivable)and a taxi from the roundabout it happened on so we could catch our flight. We made it miraculously because we left early (and thanks to smartphones) but the stress stayed with me for a few days after.
Get there early and have a stress free start to a lovely holiday!

Herocomplex Wed 11-Sep-19 19:22:57

I fly a lot, most if the time I’m through to departures smooth as you like. Then there are the other times, slow through security, bag drop system not working for 40 mins, change of gate, long walk to gate.
Arrive three hours ahead for US flight. Don’t chance it.

UrsulaPandress Wed 11-Sep-19 19:29:18

Whoa. Is that true about Aer Lingus being treated as a domestic flight?

I’m shocked.

rookiemere Wed 11-Sep-19 19:31:02

I arrived 3 hrs early for a US flight but as it was via Heathrow boarding was at normal 30 mins before departure so a waste of time.

GinandManic Wed 11-Sep-19 19:34:13

Check in closes about an hour before your flight departs on longhaul flights in mist cases. With this in mind arriving 2 hours before departure gives you one hour to check in, clear security and get to the gate. All fine if not much in the way of queues.

However, you may want to consider that you don't have much leeway for travel issues or delays on your train.

It's a hard balance because if you arrive too early then check in or bag drop won't be open.

chemenger Wed 11-Sep-19 19:35:56

Dublin flights to the US are treated as domestic when they arrive there. US customs in either Dublin or Shannon is usually a more pleasant experience than in the US.

Branleuse Wed 11-Sep-19 19:38:59

if they say 3 hours, id plan for 3 hours, not 2. Its better to be there and reading a book or passing time at the airport than to risk missing it.
If its so early in the morning that its hard to get there on time, then stay nearby, or just dont book flights for silly o'clock

taxguru Wed 11-Sep-19 19:42:25

or just dont book flights for silly o'clock

That's fine if there's a choice. Some airlines only have one flight per day from Man to each US destination, and for some airlines, that's around 9am in the morning as they arrive overnight from the US.

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