When you’re flying on long haul flights to faraway destinations, the check-in times for international flights can vary for each airline. Some people would check the site they bought their tickets from or the travel agent. However, you’ll find the information you’re given can be conflicting.
The best way to find out what time you need to be at the airport for check-in is to find out on your airline’s main website or by calling them. We’ve put together this information for you sourced directly from each airline’s website to make things a bit easier for you.
Airport Check-In Times
There are many major airports in the UK which have domestic and international flights. Each airport advises the following times for check-in which are as follows:
You should aim to arrive for these check-in times at Heathrow airport:
- International Flights – 3 hours before the scheduled departure time.
- European Flights – 2 hours early.
- National Flights – 90 minutes before.
Check-in times are suggested as:
- International Flights – check-in opens 4 hours before the scheduled departure time but Gatwick recommends check-in to be a minimum of 2 hours beforehand.
- European Flights – opens 3 hours before but again Gatwick suggests getting there 2 hours before departure time.
- Domestic Flights – opens 2 hours before but checking-in an hour before your flight leaves is fine.
Check-in for international flights usually opens 2 hours before the flight departure time but the airport advice is to check with your airline to decide what time you need to arrive by.
The following suggested times for check-in are:
- International Flights – 3 hours before your scheduled departure time
- European Flights – 2 hours early
- Domestic Flights – 2 hours before
The recommended check-in time is at least 2 hours before your flight is due to leave. However, the airport states the busiest flying times are between 06.00 to 07.30 so perhaps it’s best to arrive slightly earlier than the suggested 2 hours.
As a general rule, you’re advised to check in at least 90 minutes before your flight departure time but it’s best to check with your airline.
The advice is to check with your airline but you should aim to check in at least 3 hours before a chartered flight and 2 hours before a scheduled flight.
The general guide for check-in is:
- Long Haul Flights – 3 hours before departure time.
- Flights Within Europe – 2 hours before.
- Domestic Flights – an hour beforehand.
Liverpool John Lennon Airport
Passengers are advised to arrive 2 hours before their scheduled flight departure time.
Passengers are given the following advice for check-in:
- An hour before for domestic flights.
- 2 hours before scheduled departure time for international flights.
- 3 and a half hours early for El Al flights.
The times you should arrive for check-in are as follows:
- Long Haul Flights – 3 hours before departure
- Short Haul Flights – 2 hours early
- Domestic Flights – 1 hour before
There’s no specific guideline from the airport but they say check-in desks usually open 2 hours before the flight departure time for most flights. The exception is international flights which open 3 hours before.
Airports are open 24/7, 365 days all year so there’s no need to worry about this if you have an anti-social hour flight time. Some food places within the airport usually operate during these times too. Many people who have very early morning departures usually get to the airport the night before.
How to Check-In Faster
With options to check-in online, on your mobile or at the self-service airport kiosks in today’s day and age, this reduces the amount of time spent on the check-in process.
Popular airlines such as Easyjet and Ryanair’s online check-in times usually open from 30 days before the scheduled departure time and closes 2 hours before. Check-in times for larger airlines such as British Airways will vary but it’s usually 24 hours before.
Once you’ve checked in online, there are Bag Drop desks for you to check-in your luggage if needed otherwise, you just proceed to airport security when you arrive at the airport. But remember, boarding gates usually close 30 minutes before departure so make sure you give yourself plenty of time going through airport security checks.
Using the airport kiosks to check-in have shorter queues and things you need for this is usually your passport and booking ticket reference. These kiosks will print your boarding passes once you’ve checked in. Then all you need to do is check in your luggage at the Bag Drop desks.
Journey to the Airport
Planning your route before you make your way to the airport will help give an idea of when you need to leave the house by. Depending on how you will travel there, you should consider checking:
- Possible Road Closures – diversions, emergency repairs, accidents, gas leaks or burst water pipes.
- Public Transport – line closures due to engineering works on trains, timetables and where bus stops are located.
- Traffic – use an online map route planner for the day of the week you will be travelling so you get a general idea of how busy your journey will be.
- Congestion Charge – check the times congestion run from and until if your route includes a congestion zone. Most of these can be paid online in advance.
- Drop Off Points – if you’re getting a lift, check where you can be dropped off or where the short stay car park is.
- Taxi Fares – check what the fares are and book in advance. Be sure to confirm date, time and location again the day before as well.
Parking Your Car
Although airports usually have car parking facilities available, it’s still a good idea to check If you’re planning to drive to the airport. Things you should consider are:
- If airport parking can be booked in advance online – you can probably save a bit of money too.
- How much it costs to park your car at the airport.
- The length of time you can leave your car at the airport.
- Which area of the car park you can park in.
- Security of the airport car park.
Are you parking at Heathrow? Then read our guide on the 5 best car parks at Heathrow Airport.
Preparing For Security Check-in
By organising your hand luggage items at home before you leave for the airport, it will help to make the airport security checks quicker and smoother. The best way to do this is to check the guidelines on the website of the airport you’re flying from.
Some things you can prepare at home to make this process quicker are:
- Put liquids, gels and creams in clear and transparent bags or make-up cases measuring no more than 20 x 20cm and be able to close up properly. Don’t take any that are over 100ml.
- Place laptops and other large electrical items in compartments that can be easily taken out for airport screening.
- Keep small items such as keys, coins and mobile phones in one pocket so you don’t have to search for this stuff during screening.
Hand luggage varies with each airline so check with the airline you’re flying with before you start packing your stuff in. Preparing for airport security control is quite similar with many airports but be sure to double check this to avoid any delays.
Don’t forget your passport and other travel documents.
What Time Do I Need to Be at the Airport?
We all know that the official check-in guidelines overestimate times, so this section is to provide the reader with what time before their flight they can safely arrive without rushing.
If you’re not planning on doing any airport shopping or eating before you fly, then you don’t actually have to follow the airport or airline’s guidelines on check-in times.
Especially if you’ve checked in online, you will just need to give yourself enough time to check in your luggage and this is open until 40 minutes to an hour before your flight leaves.
Even if you don’t check in electronically, most check-in desks won’t close until 40 minutes to an hour before the scheduled departure time. Bearing in mind the airport security checks, you can probably get away with arriving just under 2 hours earlier.
So you don’t always have to follow the recommended check-in times for international flights if you prepare and check information in advance.