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Gate Expectations: When to arrive at the airport

Never miss a flight again – here's when to arrive at every major UK airport for every flight.

Every major UK airport and airline offers guidance on how much time you need to leave between arriving and take-off. But our research shows that most UK holidaymakers are either turning up to the airport later than recommended, or so early that the check-in desks aren't open.

No one wants to miss their flight, and that's probably why every year there's arguments with our travelling companions about how early we need to get to the airport. But for those in the know there is a right time to get to the terminal.

Holiday Extras is all about hassle-free travel, and we did the hard work so you don't have to – contacting every major airport and airline and asking them when they recommend passengers arrive.

We've rounded up our findings below...

Traveller drinking a coffee and looking out at the runway in No1 Lounge at Gatwick's South Terminal.

Top tips for when to get to the airport

Earliest isn't always best

Check-in desks only open when the airline is ready to start processing passengers, so if you turn up much earlier than recommended, you'll just be hanging around waiting for yours to open. A few years ago, when the airports were experiencing post-lockdown delays, one of the biggest problems they faced was passengers arriving so early they couldn't check in yet, creating queues and crowds in the departure hall.

Check with your airline

Airports will offer general guidance as to how long it takes to go through security, but ultimately it's up to your airline when they open the desks – so check before you set off.

Most people don't miss their plane...

98.8% of passengers told us they caught their last flight. The people who were most likely to miss their flight weren't the ones who left less than an hour (97% of whom still made it), but the people who left more than four hours (only 94% of whom caught their flight, the worst performance of any of the different groups).

...and if they do, they just get the next one

Of the 3% of people who told us they missed their plane, all but three people (out of the thousand we asked) just caught the next one.

You can always just arrive the night before

If you want to make really sure you don't miss your flight, do what millions of other Holiday Extras customers do every year. Drive up the night before, park at the airport and sleep at one of our airport hotels, then stroll to departures in the morning.

Discover Your Perfect Airport Arrival Time

Enter your departure and arrival airports, and we'll advise how early you should be there before your flight takes off.

Book your airport hotel and parking in advance

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When to get to the airport to catch your flight – what do the airports say?

How many hours before your flight should you get to the airport? Here's what the airports say...

Airport Domestic Short haul Long haul
Aberdeen 1.5 2 2
Belfast City (George Best) 2 2 2
Belfast International 2 2 2
Birmingham 2 2 4
Bournemouth 2 2 2
Bristol 2 2 2
Cardiff 2 2 4
Dublin 1.5 1.5 1.5
East Midlands* 2.5 2.5 2.5
Edinburgh* 2.5 2.5 4
Exeter 1.5 1.5 1.5
Gatwick 2 3 3
Glasgow International 2 3 4
Glasgow Prestwick 1.5 2 3
Heathrow 2 2 3
Humberside 2 2 3
Leeds Bradford 2.5 2.5 2.5
Liverpool 2 3 3
London City 2 2 2
Luton 2.5 2.5 2.5
Manchester 3 3 3
Newcastle 2 2 2
Norwich 2 2 3
Shannon 2 2 2
Southampton 1 1.5 1.5
Southend 2 2 2
Stansted 2 2 2
Teeside International 2 2 2

*Check with the airline

When to get to the airport to catch your flight – what do the airlines say?

And here's how many hours in advance the airlines say you should get to the airport...

Airline Most flights Long haul
Aer Lingus 2 3
British Airways* N/A N/A
easyJet 2 N/A
Emirates 3 N/A
Jet2 2.5 N/A
KLM 2 3
Ryanair 2 N/A
TUI 2.5 3.5
Virgin N/A N/A
Wizzair 2 N/A

*Check with the airport. Yes, some of the airports say check with the airline, and some of the airlines say check with the airport. We asked both, and that's what they said. Our best advice is check on the day with both.