How early to be at the airport?

Reading Time 🕗 5 minutes | January 22, 2023 | Author Karolina Lesicka | Editor Klara Krysiak

Would you like to arrive at the airport early enough to avoid feeling anxious and pressured by the imminent departure? Or perhaps you prefer to minimize waiting time before boarding and like to be at the airport at the last minute? Regardless of which group you belong to, read on to find out how much time you need to catch your flight.

How early to be at the airport before departure? Read our guide and avoid unnecessary rush before your flight

The amount of time you should arrive at the airport beforehand depends on several factors, such as the departure airport, destination, departure time, type, and number of bags, and traffic conditions in your departure city.

In this guide, we'll describe the most important factors to consider when deciding how early to head to the airport.

The distance and type of airport matter

The time you need to arrive at the airport largely depends on the type of airport. For example, if you're starting your journey at one of our domestic airports, we recommend arriving 2 hours before the scheduled departure. For larger international airports and intercontinental trips, it's safe to allow for a 3-hour buffer.

Remember that international airports are not only larger and more crowded, but the check-in process itself is longer due to additional requirements for verifying passenger personal data before issuing the boarding pass.

Furthermore, before heading to the airport, be sure to check the traffic conditions in your area. If you anticipate traffic jams, allow extra time for travel. Keep in mind that large airports often have crowded parking lots and queues for security checks.

Three people at the airport, how early to be at the airport

How early to be at the airport in summer, and how early in winter?

The season in which you travel has a significant impact on the traffic at your airport. For example, queues at check-in counters during winter months will be considerably shorter than during summer months, when travel demand increases significantly due to holidays and vacations.

Similarly, the departure time provided in your reservation can indicate the level of airport traffic. The least popular flights are those that depart in the early morning and late evening hours. Taking this into account, you can estimate that the airport will be more crowded during midday hours than in the early morning or late at night.

Are you facing a traditional check-in and baggage drop?

The procedures for check-in and baggage drop vary depending on the route and destination, so it's important to be well-informed.

For example, if you're checking in baggage and want to do so at one of the airport's stationary check-in counters, check in advance what time the check-in for your flight begins. The given times are additional time before departure, when you should report to your departure airport.

Remember that before the check-in closes, you must have your boarding pass in hand, and your checked baggage must be dropped off. Therefore, it's crucial to know not only the start times but also the end times of the check-in process, which apply to your journey.

When scanning your boarding pass, how early to be at the airport if I've already checked in online?

Use online services

Still wondering how early to be at the airport? To shorten the waiting time and necessary procedures at the airport, use our online services.

36 hours before the scheduled departure, you can check in online on our website. Online check-in allows you to choose your seat on the plane and download your boarding pass. This way, you'll gain extra time.

If you only have carry-on luggage and the online check-in was successful, upon arrival at the airport, proceed directly to the security checkpoint.

At the Warsaw airport, you can self-check your checked baggage using the self-service kiosks provided by LOT. It's worth noting that queues at these kiosks are usually shorter than those for full-service check-in.

Security check? Prepare in advance

Check-in, whether traditional or online, is done? Great! Now it's time for security screening. Make sure to allow enough time for this process. This will ensure you arrive punctually at the departure hall.

To pass through security smoothly, familiarize yourself with the list of prohibited items and what to pack in your carry-on luggage that you take with you onboard. This will help you avoid unpleasant surprises at the airport.

The passenger is checking in at the kiosk at the airport

Before approaching the gate, prepare your boarding pass.

Our advice: dress comfortably and minimize jewelry and accessories. This way, you won't trigger any alarms at the gate or draw attention to yourself by other passengers.

With these simple steps, the screening process will go smoothly. You'll have more time to shop in the duty-free zone before departure or enjoy a quiet coffee and browse through the press in one of our business lounges in Warsaw.

Make use of the business lounges at Chopin Airport in Warsaw

Are you traveling alone or in a larger group?

Is this a business trip, a vacation with children, or an organized tour in a larger group? Consider who you are traveling with when deciding how early to arrive at the airport.

During individual trips, you'll likely move quickly through the airport, going through standard pre-flight procedures. However, when traveling with children, you'll need to allow extra minutes for checking in a stroller or carrying out infant food checks to bring on board.

Your time at the airport will be different when traveling in a group. For charter flights, the meeting time is determined by the tour operator representative, who will welcome you at the airport and distribute tickets according to the participant list.

A smiling family at the airport


Although the rule of being at the airport 2 to 3 hours before departure is a good guideline, there is no universal answer to how early to arrive at the airport. Instead, it's better to treat each journey individually and consider the factors we've described in this guide.

The time before departure doesn't have to be a frantic rush — quite the opposite! If you remember our advice, the last minutes before departure will pass calmly, and you'll board the plane on time to enjoy your long-awaited journey!

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