How Early Should I Arrive At The Airport During Covid?

With COVID-19 still impacting air travel, getting to the airport early is more critical than ever. In this comprehensive guide, we’ll walk you through everything you need to know to arrive prepared and on time.

If you’re short on time, here’s a quick answer: You should arrive at the airport at least 2-3 hours before domestic flights and 3-4 hours before international flights during COVID.

In this approximately 3000 word guide, we’ll cover when to arrive based on flight type, new COVID screening procedures, steps for checking bags and clearing security, how early to arrive if parking at the airport, and pro tips for minimizing stress.

Recommended Arrival Times by Flight Type

Domestic Flights

For domestic flights, it is generally recommended to arrive at the airport at least 90 minutes before your scheduled departure time. This will give you enough time to check-in, go through security screening, and reach your gate without feeling rushed.

However, it is always a good idea to check with your specific airline or airport for any updated guidelines or recommendations, as these may vary depending on the airport’s size and the time of day you are traveling.

International Flights

When it comes to international flights, it is advisable to arrive at the airport at least 3 hours before your scheduled departure time. This additional time is needed for passport control, customs clearance, and potentially longer security screening procedures.

International airports can sometimes be busier, especially during peak travel seasons, so allowing ample time will help ensure a smooth check-in process and avoid any unnecessary stress.

Flights Requiring COVID Testing

If you are flying to a destination that requires a negative COVID-19 test result, it is essential to factor in the time needed for testing, obtaining the results, and presenting them at the airport. Some airports may have dedicated testing facilities on-site, while others may require you to arrange testing in advance.

It is crucial to check the specific requirements of your destination and plan your arrival accordingly. Arriving a few hours earlier than the recommended time for international flights can be a wise decision to allow for any unexpected delays or issues with the testing process.

Remember, these recommended arrival times are just guidelines, and it is always better to be early than to risk missing your flight. Additionally, keep in mind that the COVID-19 pandemic has brought about changes in airport procedures and protocols.

Stay up-to-date with the latest information from the official websites of your airline and airport, as they will have the most accurate and current guidelines to ensure a smooth and safe travel experience.

Understanding New COVID Screening Procedures

Pre-Travel Health Checks

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to impact travel, airports around the world have implemented new screening procedures to ensure the safety of passengers and staff. One of the key components of these procedures is pre-travel health checks.

Before arriving at the airport, passengers may be required to complete health questionnaires or provide documentation of a negative COVID-19 test result. These measures are in place to identify individuals who may be carrying the virus and prevent them from entering the airport and potentially spreading it to others.

Temperature Screenings

In addition to pre-travel health checks, many airports are conducting temperature screenings at various points throughout the passenger journey. These screenings involve the use of infrared thermometers to measure a person’s body temperature.

If a passenger is found to have an elevated temperature, they may be subject to further medical evaluation and potentially be denied boarding. Temperature screenings are a quick and effective way to identify individuals who may be symptomatic and reduce the risk of transmission within the airport environment.

COVID Test Verification

Some airports have also implemented COVID test verification procedures, especially for international travelers. This involves checking the validity of a passenger’s COVID-19 test results to ensure they have been tested negative within a certain timeframe.

Airlines and airports may require passengers to present their test results upon check-in or arrival at the airport. This additional layer of screening helps to minimize the risk of infected individuals traveling and potentially introducing the virus to new locations.

It’s important to note that the specific screening procedures may vary from one airport to another, as well as between countries. Therefore, it is advisable to check the official website of the airport or airline you are traveling with for the most up-to-date information on the screening procedures in place.

When to Arrive for Checking Bags and Clearing Security

Arriving at the airport with plenty of time to spare is essential, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic when there may be additional health and safety measures in place. To ensure a stress-free travel experience, it’s important to know when to arrive for checking bags and clearing security.

Here are some factors to consider:

Check Airline Check-In Window

Each airline has its own recommended check-in window, which is the time frame during which passengers are advised to arrive at the airport. This window varies depending on the airline and the destination.

It’s always a good idea to check the airline’s website or contact them directly to find out the specific check-in window for your flight. By arriving within this window, you can ensure that you have ample time to check your bags and complete the necessary procedures before your flight.

Check Wait Times at Security

Security wait times can vary greatly depending on the airport and the time of day. It’s worth checking the wait times at your departure airport before heading to the airport. Many airports have websites or mobile apps that provide real-time updates on security wait times.

By checking these wait times in advance, you can plan your arrival time accordingly and avoid unnecessary stress or delays.

For example, if the security wait times are typically longer during peak travel hours, you might consider arriving earlier to allow for any potential delays. On the other hand, if you’re traveling during a less busy time, you may be able to arrive closer to your check-in window without any issues.

TSA PreCheck and Clear Benefits

If you have TSA PreCheck or Clear, you may be eligible for expedited security screening. These programs allow pre-approved travelers to enjoy shorter security lines and a more streamlined process. If you’re enrolled in either of these programs, you can save a significant amount of time and arrive at the airport closer to your check-in window.

However, it’s important to note that even with TSA PreCheck or Clear, it’s still a good idea to arrive with enough time to spare. Unforeseen circumstances can still occur, and it’s better to be safe than sorry.

Airport Parking Considerations

Allow Extra Time to Park

When considering how early to arrive at the airport during COVID, it’s important to factor in the time it may take to find parking. With increased health and safety measures, including reduced capacity in parking lots, it’s possible that finding a spot may take longer than usual.

To avoid unnecessary stress and potential delays, it’s recommended to allow extra time for parking. Consider arriving at least 30 minutes earlier than your usual arrival time to give yourself ample time to find a parking spot.

Reserve Parking Ahead of Time

To guarantee a parking spot and save time, it’s advisable to reserve your parking ahead of time. Many airports offer online booking services that allow you to secure a parking spot in advance. This not only ensures that you have a spot upon arrival but also eliminates the need to drive around searching for available parking.

Additionally, some airports may offer discounted rates for pre-booked parking, saving you money as well.

If you’re unsure about the availability of parking at your chosen airport, you can visit their official website or check reputable travel websites for information on parking options and reservations. Websites like ParkOn or Parkopedia provide comprehensive details on airport parking services, including availability, pricing, and location.

Public Transit and Rideshares as Alternatives

If you prefer to avoid the hassle of parking altogether, public transit and rideshares can be convenient alternatives. Many airports have well-connected public transportation systems that provide easy access to the terminals.

By utilizing buses, trains, or shuttles, you can bypass the need for parking and arrive at the airport stress-free. Additionally, rideshare services like Uber and Lyft can drop you off directly at the terminal, saving you time and effort.

Before relying on public transit or rideshares, it’s recommended to check their schedules and availability, as they may have adjusted their operations due to COVID-19. You can visit the official websites of the public transit agencies or rideshare companies for the most up-to-date information.

Pro Tips for Minimizing Airport Stress

Pack Smartly

One of the best ways to minimize airport stress is to pack smartly. Make sure to check the airline’s baggage restrictions and pack accordingly. Consider using packing cubes or compression bags to maximize space and keep your belongings organized. By packing efficiently, you can avoid the hassle of rearranging your luggage at the airport and save time during the security screening process.

Print Boarding Passes in Advance

Printing your boarding passes in advance can save you time and reduce stress at the airport. Many airlines offer online check-in services, allowing you to print your boarding passes from the comfort of your own home.

If you prefer using your smartphone, you can also opt for mobile boarding passes. By having your boarding passes ready before arriving at the airport, you can skip the long check-in lines and head straight to the security checkpoint.

Charge Devices Before Leaving

Don’t forget to charge your devices before leaving for the airport. Having fully charged electronics can keep you entertained during long layovers or flight delays. Additionally, having a power bank or portable charger can be a lifesaver in case you can’t find an available outlet at the airport.

Remember to pack charging cables for all your devices to avoid any inconvenience.

Wear a Face Mask

In the era of COVID-19, wearing a face mask is not only a safety measure but also a requirement in many airports and airlines. Make sure to bring a comfortable and well-fitting mask to wear throughout your journey. It’s also a good idea to pack extra masks in case you need to change them during your travels.

By following the guidelines and wearing a mask, you can help protect yourself and others while reducing your stress levels.

Bring Sanitizing Wipes and Hand Sanitizer

Keeping your hands and surroundings clean is crucial, especially during a pandemic. Remember to pack sanitizing wipes and hand sanitizer in your carry-on bag. Use the wipes to clean frequently touched surfaces such as tray tables, armrests, and seat belts.

Hand sanitizer can be used to disinfect your hands when soap and water are not readily available. These simple precautions can help you stay healthy and minimize your worries while traveling.


Arriving early for flights is always advised, but especially critical during COVID-19. Build in extra buffer time for new health screenings, longer security lines, and potential travel delays. While every airport and trip is different, using the arrival time guidelines and tips in this article will help ensure you get to your gate relaxed and ready for your flight.

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