Up to two thirds of Europe’s airports expect an increase in flight delays this summer adding to the usual travel stresses for holidaymakers. According to research by airports association ACI Europe, most passengers expect disruption, owning to a combination of high demand and staff shortages.
Already this week, passengers were forced to queue for hours at Manchester, Birmingham and Bristol airports, with some even missing their flights. It’s a situation that’s likely to be mirrored across the UK and Ireland in coming months.
But while some airports have advised passengers to arrive hours ahead of their scheduled departure, others have warned against overcrowding. sparked by early-bird travellers hanging around terminals awaiting check-ins to open.
Here are the advantages and setbacks of arriving early.
Will anyone be available to check you in?
Anxious flyers have always been advocates of early airport arrival. Having a few hours to spare certainly eases stress levels and allows for mishaps along the way.
However, most airline desks won’t be open until three hours before flight departure at the earliest – although each carrier operates a different policy, so it’s worth checking. Passengers could end up sitting – or standing – around for a very long time, which may result in more stress before even reaching security.
Do you have hold luggage?
Anyone dropping baggage should be prepared for additional queues, so this needs to be factored into travel schedules. Virgin Atlantic says the quietest check-in times at London’s Heathrow are between 3pm and 5pm. At Birmingham Airport, the biggest queues are early in the morning with thousands of travellers hustling to board flights that take-off before breakfast time.
However, if you opt for cabin bags only, it’s possible to head straight through to security and beat the queues. To avoid delays, just make sure all liquids are under 100ml, pockets are empty and all laptops and iPads can be easily removed.
Remember to check in online before reaching the airport, and have boarding passes either printed or easily accessible on a phone.
What type of ticket have you booked?
Those who pay more will always be front of the line. British Airways, for example, allows passengers travelling in First or Business to check in luggage from 5am on the day of departure.
However, unless passengers have forked out extra for VIP lounge access, they could be left with a lot of spare time to spend in expensive airport restaurants.
Most airlines and airports recommend arriving three hours in advance of a flight. Go too early and there’s a risk of a log-jam with passengers who have not yet departed on earlier flights.
So, for those only travelling with hand luggage, should keep to the usual two hours. If you’re putting cases in the hold, arrive with three hours to spare.