When I first started flying, it was recommended that you arrive at the airport for your flight 2 hours in advance for domestic flights and 3 hours for international. At some time, that seemed to change to 90 minutes prior for domestic flights. Most airlines will tell you you’re expected to be on the plane 10-20 minutes prior to the flight for an on-time departure.
The reason for these times are basically lines. It only takes a couple minutes to check your bags, go through security and get to the gate, but that’s with no one else there. You never know how many people there will be. Even if not checking bags, you still should give it extra time.
Here is a story of our recent flight. First, I’ll tell you that everyone blamed TSA. You be the judge as to who was at fault.
We arrived at 5:35 am for a 7:20 am flight. We got in the line for bag check and waited only a minute or two for an agent. After our luggage was checked, we got on the escalator to security. Only one check point was open, possibly due to the departure of a World War II veterans freedom flight gathering at the other end of the terminal.
The line was out past the room where we normally would wind back and forth. The line went back and forth three times before we got the usual room The time was now 5:40 am. After about 5 minutes, a gentleman came up and asked to cut across the line as his flight was at 6:00. Another woman moved ahead with him. This process repeated more than a dozen times At one point, a group of travels all with flights before 6:15 am decided to go to the crew line to see if they could get through because their flights were so soon. TSA agents told them there was one passenger line and they must go through it.
When we got to within 30 people from security, we could see a new hold up developing. The TSA agent at the scanner made an announcement reminding everyone that they must remove all liquids from their bags. many bags were put through multiple times as a result of those “not remembering” to do so.
At this point, a gate agent was in the area and asked who was there for a 6:10 am flight. It was not 6:00 am. A passenger from the 6:00 flight was paged and she was still getting ready for the scanner (due to the liquid issue). She started having a meltdown.
We finally got through at 6:10 am. We would have been through be 6:00 or 6:05 if not for the people who cut ahead and those who didn’t remove stuff from their bags before the scanners.
Thinking this was partially caused by the airport event, we spoke to our gate agent. She was not surprised there were only five of us at the gate for a full flight. She said it’s always that way at security.
That changed my opinion slightly. The biggest problem was that people think it’s okay to arrive 30 minutes before a flight and expect the lines to move aside for them. Next are the people who have been in line for more than 10 minutes but can’t be bothered to follow the rules. Finally, it is possible that TSA needs more staff at times when there are more flight departures. This is hard in some airports though as there just isn’t enough room to add more people.
I don’t put as much blame on TSA as I do on the passengers because they chose to come so late and not pay attention to the rules.
The bottom line is no one likes waiting forever at the airport but do everyone a favor and get there at least one hour to ninety minutes prior to your flight. If you miss it, you’ve only got yourself to blame.