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How many hours should I arrive before my flight? The rules for easyJet, British Airways, Ryanair, Tui and Jet2

Horror stories and heart-sinking photos of queues and missed flights are making a trip to the airport feel like Mission: Impossible. But to be sure you won’t miss your flight, how early should you get there?

<p>Queues at Stansted Airport in April </p>

Queues at Stansted Airport in April

As the UK and Ireland’s airports and airlines struggle to process the wave of holidaymakers jetting off this spring, a worrying picture has emerged. Manchester, Bristol, Birmingham, Gatwick and Dublin, among other airports, have all seen worried customers waiting in longer than usual lines.

It’s understandable that you might want to check in as early as possible to avoid getting caught up in the chaos. However, airport bosses are warning that getting to the terminal too early can clog up queues and prevent people with earlier flights than yours getting through - adding even more to the stress levels.

So how many hours before your flight should you arrive?

Here’s what the UK and Ireland’s airlines and airports are advising:

EasyJet

EasyJet says it “directly advises customers in advance of what time to arrive for their flight” by email, in the days before travel - so look out for that. This will depend on your airport, as bag drops open at slightly different times - but it will typically be two to three hours before departure. The airline says it factors in any predicted airport delays or weather disruption when giving this time.

If you’re travelling hand-luggage only with easyJet, you can check in online between 30 days and two hours before departure and print your own boarding pass to speed things up - leaving only airport security to get through. The airline advises arriving two hours before your flight for security checks. For those dropping off checked baggage for the hold, easyJet’s bag drop usually opens two hours before departure time. In-person check-in is still available and closes 40 minutes before departure.

At easyJet’s main hub, Gatwick, check-in opens two hours (UK & Ireland flights) or three hours (European flights) before your departure time. The airport says: “We advise that you arrive at least two hours before your flight to allow plenty of extra time to check-in and pass through security.”

British Airways

Like easyJet, you can check in online and print your own boarding pass for the speediest airport experience - this is available from 24 hours before your flight. You can also check in and print baggage labels at the airline’s airport kiosks on arrival.

Its main hub of London Heathrow advises all passengers to arrive at least three hours before their flight time (but no longer), while BA’s social media staff is advising three hours for long haul flights and two for short-haul flights. This is mainly because bag drop may not be open earlier than two hours beforehand for short-haul services.

Check in closes at slightly different times for different BA airports (listed on a table here): assume it will be 60 minutes before a long-haul flight and 45 minutes before a short-haul flight to be on the safe side.

If your flight departs before 1pm from either London Heathrow T5 or London Gatwick, you can also speed things up by using BA’s ‘Overnight Bag Drop’ service - dropping bags between 6pm and 9pm the night before you fly.

Ryanair

The budget carrier’s bag drop opens two hours before your flight’s departure time, and closes 40 minutes before it. So you can arrive somewhat earlier to allow for check-in queueing time, but you likely won’t be able to drop off your case before the two-hour mark.

Ahead of the busy jubilee and half-term weekend, Ryanair has been advising customers in an email: “Please arrive at the airport three hours prior to the departure of your Ryanair flight as we are experiencing security delays at the airport. Please note that our boarding gates close 30 minutes prior to the departure of your flight.” This could be with hour-long check-in queues in mind.

The airline’s main hubs are Dublin and London Stansted. The former advises arriving 2.5 hours before a short-haul flight, but in order to avoid the early morning queue surge, it adds: “if your flight is at 8.30am or after, please do not enter the terminals any earlier than 6am”.

Tui

Tui has more clear-cut advice than most carriers on its website: “At UK airports, Bag Drop desks open two to three hours before your departure time. If you’re taking a long haul flight, we recommend you drop off your bags three hours before your flight leaves.”

It advises that you drop off any bags well before check-in closes - usually 45 minutes before departure, but an hour before latest is advised.

If you’re flying before midday (12pm) from Birmingham Airport, Gatwick North Terminal or Manchester Terminal 2, you can check your bag in the afternoon or evening before - between 2pm and 9pm.

Jet2

Jet2’s check-in desks usually open 2.5 hours before your departure time and close 40 minutes before it. The airline advises those dropping bags to arrive in “good time”, which we’d interpret to be 2-3 hours beforehand to allow for any queues.

If you’re travelling hand-luggage-only, you can check in online between 28 days and five hours before your departure, on the Jet2 website or app, and print your own boarding pass to speed things along.

The airline flies from 10 UK airports, so you should check your airport’s individual advice, too: Glasgow Airport advises arriving two hours before a domestic flight and three before a European route, for example, while East Midlands advises three hours for all Jet2 customers.

Jet2 also has a day-early drop-off service called Twilight: to use it, you must be flying from one of eight specific airports (including Stansted and Manchester) before midday. If this is you, you can drop off bags between 3pm and 8pm the day before.

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