How long before take-off should we get to the airport? This trivial question can be a real source of conflict and questioning for some people. 1 hour? 2 hours? 3 hours or even 4 hours? Between fear of missing the plane and waiting too long at the airport, you have to choose.
In order to answer the question, several factors must be taken into account. Depending on whether your flight is a domestic or international flight, the recommended time will vary.
In general, it is recommended to arrive at the airport between 1h30 and 2 hours before departure for domestic flights and 3 hours for international flights.
Air Canada’s recommendations
For domestic flights, Air Canada recommends 90 minutes (1.5 hours), with baggage that can be checked in only 45 minutes before take-off time (except for Toronto, 20 minutes maximum is sufficient).
For flights to or from the United States, the company recommends arriving at the airport 2 hours early, with baggage no longer being checked one hour before takeoff.
For international flights, Air Canada also recommends arriving at the airport 2 hours before departure, but specifies that if your plane leaves before 10 a.m., it is preferable to arrive 3 hours earlier, as this is the busiest time of day. The waiting time at the different checkpoints can indeed be longer.
The check-in counter
There is one absolutely crucial parameter to be taken into consideration in order to know up to what time one can arrive at the airport: the closing time of the company’s check-in counter. Be careful, it varies from one company to another.
On Air Transat, all counters close one hour before departure, while Air Canada offers 45 minutes for internal flights. Check with your airline, otherwise you may not be able to check in your baggage.
Knowing how to adapt
It must be understood that the suggested time to arrive at the airport must be weighted by several factors. Depending on these factors, one will either expect to be “wide” or, on the contrary, one will be able to afford to arrive a little more “last minute”.
Does your plane leave at 11:00 p.m. or 8:00 a.m.? The traffic at the airport will not be the same. For example, there is a lot of traffic in Montreal before 11 a.m., especially since many business people fly to Toronto or New York.
Do not hesitate to check with your airline or travel agent.
The road network
As we know all too well, traffic jams are an annoying reality that we must unfortunately deal with, especially when it comes to getting to the airport!
If you take the road at 3 a.m., you won’t have to deal with traffic jams. However, if you have to leave home at 7am, it’s a different story! In this case, choose the high option for the arrival time and leave well in advance. It is better to wait 45 minutes longer at the airport than to miss your flight.
If this is the first time you’ve ever flown, chances are you’re a little stressed, or at least you don’t immediately know where to go and how to check in your luggage. In this case, plan to arrive early.
If, on the other hand, you fly 10 times a month, you’ll know when to arrive so that you don’t miss your flight.
Checking in your luggage?
If you have baggage to check in, you must take into account the closing time of the check-in counter. If you arrive after the maximum time, you will be stuck. If on the contrary you have a suitcase that can go in the cabin, you will be able to arrive later.
Period of the year
Ignoring the time of year, holidays or vacations would be a mistake. An airport a few days before Christmas is very busy. Same thing on the first day of the holidays.
Again, find out and adjust your arrival schedule accordingly.
To the United States?
If you’ve ever been to the United States from Montreal, you already know that you have to go through U.S. customs. This step can sometimes be long if there is a lot of traffic.
U.S. immigration officials must ask each passenger several questions: about their destination, reason for travel, occupation, etc. They also have to fingerprint each hand, which is a time-consuming process.
The advantage of arriving early for check-in if you have not already booked your seat online is that you can do so directly at the counter. You’ll have more choices than if you arrive at the last minute.
To save time at the Montreal airport, we recommend that you use the free SecurXpress service. This allows you to reserve a priority passage at security and is available for all departures except to the United States. All you have to do is present your smartphone with the confirmation text message to the airport agent and that’s it, you will be taken directly to a special queue, avoiding the main queue which can sometimes be saturated and generate long waiting minutes.
Whatever the departure time of your flight, we advise you to always keep a “cushion” to deal with life’s unexpected events (traffic jams, flat tires, late taxis, excessive traffic, etc.).