Thursday, June 10, 2010

Airport Lead Time

This post has nothing to do with anything that's happened recently. It just happens to be a slow week. I believe the Catholics call this Ordinary Time.

So,'s a random question. Let's say you have a flight to catch. How early do you need to get to the airport?

The guideline I've always heard is that you should get to the airport two hours before your flight leaves. Is that overkill? Based on Amber's experiences - she's flown much more than I have, especially over the last two years - I'd say...depends. There are a lot of factors to consider:

- How big is the airport? I've never been to the State College airport (a.k.a. University Park airport), for example, but I would think you could walk through the front door of the airport 30 minutes before your flight and still have plenty of time to spare. Atlanta, on the other hand...two hours minimum, regardless of the circumstances. The Raleigh-Durham airport (RDU) falls somewhere in the middle of those two extremes. Starting from two hours, subtract 20 to 30 minutes for a medium-sized airport such as RDU. Subtract one hour for a small airport such as State College.

- Are you checking luggage? If not, you may be able to check in online before you even get to the airport, in which case, that's one less line to stand in. In this situation, the security line is your only impediment. (I've never done online check-in combined with checked baggage, but I think that's possible, too.) Subtract 30 minutes if you've already checked in and are not checking any luggage.

- Is it a busy travel day? If it's Saturday morning, no need for concern. But if it's Thanksgiving Wednesday, better get there early. Add 30 minutes to one hour if it's a busy travel day.

I think that's pretty much it. Based on my numbers, that means that if you're flying out of RDU on a normal travel day and aren't checking any luggage, one hour prior to take-off is a good time to get there. Is that reasonable?

Disclaimer: I've made exactly three flights - one round-trip and one one-way - in the last six years, and no flights in the last two years, so I'm probably the last person who should be having this discussion. But like I said, it's been a slow week.

I should also clarify that me bringing up this topic does not imply that we have any flights on the horizon. We're still planning on driving to Alaska in two weeks, not flying. This is pretty much a random topic.

1 comment:

amber said...

huh. I'd never heard of "Ordinary Time." I mean, I never knew there was an official, capitalized name and everything for it.