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How early should I get to the airport?

Whether you’re travelling for business or pleasure, running late for your flight can put a damper on your entire trip before you even manage to reach the airport. On the other hand, arriving in the departure lounge too early can see you putting a dent into your holiday budget before you have even taken off.

So this begs the question, taking everything into account - from parking your car and catching the shuttle bus to the terminal building to checking in your bags, passing through security and reaching your departure gate - just how early do you need to arrive at the airport before a flight? Read on for our top tips.

How early to get to the airport

Deciding on just how much time you need to give yourself to leave for the airport is not an easy task and will naturally depend on a number of different factors, such as which airport you are flying from, how far away you live from the airport, your method of transportation and whether or not you have booked to park your car in an airport car park. However, it is generally advised that you arrive at the airport’s check-in gates - car parked and ready to check your luggage in - at least two hours before your scheduled departure time. While you may not need to arrive quite as early if you have checked-in online and do not need to check bags in, arriving two hours before take off time is still a good rule of thumb to aim for.

That being said, how early you need to get to the airport prior to departure will also be impacted by the type of flight you are catching. We discuss this in more detail below.

How early should I get to the airport for an international flight?

As a general guide, you should arrive at the airport between three and four hours before departure to be absolutely sure you will not miss your international flight. This is because international flights typically contain larger numbers of passengers. When compared to domestic and other short-haul flights, more passengers on international long-haul flights also tend to check baggage, meaning queues to get your boarding pass and check your bags in are usually longer and more time-consuming to navigate.

Additionally, security in airport terminals which are specifically designated for international flights also tend to feature heightened security checks. This, combined with the fact that these terminals are usually busier than airport terminals used exclusively for domestic flights, mean it’s better to give yourself more time than you think you actually need to get to your departure gate.

How early to get to the airport for a domestic flight

When it comes to domestic flights (those scheduled for other areas of the UK or Ireland), you should aim to arrive at the airport at least 90 minutes before departure. However, as mentioned above, arriving - ready to check in - at least two hours before your scheduled departure time is preferable.

Although there are fewer passengers on domestic flights than international ones - with fewer bags being checked-in and less stringent security and passport checks - collecting your boarding pass and passing through security can still take anywhere between 10 and 40 minutes. Coupling this with navigating to the correct departure gate (perhaps in an unfamiliar airport) and any preflight eating/shopping you want to do, the logic behind our two hour guideline starts to become clear.

Can I arrive early for airport parking?

In most cases, arriving at your pre-booked airport parking early shouldn’t be an issue. While an agreed arrival time may be mentioned on the email that confirms your car park booking, so long as your early arrival does not take you into the previous 24-hour period, you should be permitted to arrive at any time on the date of your booking. If you do arrive in the previous 24-hour period, however, you will likely be charged an additional day’s worth of parking.

To help you work out just how early you should arrive at your pre-booked airport car park, full details regarding arrival procedure and how long it takes to travel from that location to the airport terminal will be provided at the time of your booking. When you make a car park booking with Liverpool Airport, you can also find these essential details that can help you to plan your journey on our website, here.