Flying can be stressful, especially when it comes to making sure that you leave enough time to make your flight.
Even if you pass through airport security in plenty of time, you could spend too long in the terminal, checking out the duty-free shops and getting a drink or snack, that you miss your flight.
So, it’s important to know when planes start and stop boarding, so you make flight without any stress.
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When Planes Start Boarding
Planes start boarding between 30-60 minutes before departure, though this can vary by airline, as well as the destination, and type of plane – e.g. a plane with a larger capacity will inevitably take longer to board than a smaller plane with fewer passengers.
Generally, the boarding process works by splitting passengers into groups or zones, depending on where they are sitting on the plane.
So, Group/Zone A or 1 may board first, followed by Group/Zone B or 2 etc., with those who paid for priority boarding being able to board first.
Why Planes Board So Early
Planes board so early because they need to make sure that they leave enough time for all the passengers to get onboard, place their luggage in the overhead, and get seated, to ensure that the plane leaves on time.
The plane you fly on likely has more than one flight planned that day, so the plane needs to depart on time and make sure that subsequent flights are also on time.
Planes Can Board Earlier Than Stated
Sometimes, though rarely, planes will board and leave earlier than stated, though it is usually only a few minutes before the official departure time.
As long as you are at the gate 15 minutes before the scheduled departure time, you won’t miss your flight.
The Plane Likely Won’t Wait For You
Airlines have strict schedules and timelines that they must follow, so a plane won’t wait for you if you’re running late.
Additionally, you have already paid for your ticket, so an airline won’t lose out if you miss your flight.
It is considered your responsibility to get to the airport and make your flight in time.
Having said that, if you checked in and checked your bag, the airline will make every effort to try and locate you, so you can make your flight, such as announcing your name over the airport’s PA system.
How Early to Get to the Airport to Make Your Flight
The general guidance is that you should arrive at the airport at least 3 hours early for an international flight, and at least 2 hours early for a domestic flight.
How early you should get to the airport can also vary depending on if you need to check in a bag, the airport you are flying from, the country you are flying from, and the flight time.
If you follow the above guidelines, while you might have to spend some time lounging around in the terminal waiting for your flight, it’s better to be safer than sorry than risk missing your flight.
Ella Dunham, a Freelance Travel Journalist and Marketing Manager, boasts an impressive career spanning eight years in the travel and tourism sectors.
Honored as one of "30 Under 30" by TTG Media (the world’s very first weekly travel trade newspaper), a "Tour Operator Travel Guru" and "Legend Award" winner, Ella is also a Fellow of the Institute of Travel, a Member of the Association of Women Travel Executives, has completed over 250 travel modules, and hosts travel-focused segments on national radio shows where she provides insights on travel regulations and destinations.
Ella has visited over 40 countries (with 10 more planned this year).