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Boarding Time vs Departure Time – What’s the Difference?

When you check into a flight and get your boarding pass, you’ll see two times on it: boarding time and departure time. The departure time is what you choose when you book the flight. 

But what’s the difference between boarding time and departure time?

Boarding time is when you are allowed to start boarding the plane, and departure time is when the plane is scheduled to leave the gate. At departure time, everyone should be seated on the plane and ready for takeoff. 

This article has everything you need to know about boarding and departure times for a flight and how the boarding process works. 

How Early Do Planes Start Boarding?

Planes start boarding as early as one hour before the departure time and as late as 30 minutes. So, you need to be at your gate well before the departure time. 

Learn more about boarding times and how early you need to arrive at the airport here.

When Does Boarding Time End?

The end of boarding time depends on if you are flying internationally or domestically, what airport you are flying from, and what airline you are flying. But, in general, boarding time ends 15 minutes before departure. 

For example, if you have a flight at 7:20, you must be boarding the plane by 7:05 at the latest. 

Delta ends boarding for domestic flights 15 minutes before departure: 

You’re required to be at the gate and ready to board 15 minutes before scheduled departure.

But, for international flights, Delta requests that you be there sooner:

We recommend being at the gate and ready to board 45 minutes before your scheduled departure time.

United also requires you to board 15 minutes before departure for domestic flights:

For flights within the U.S., all customers must be on board the aircraft 15 minutes before the scheduled departure time.

But, for international flights, they only require you to be there 30 minutes before departure, unless you are flying out of specific airports:

If you are departing from the following airports, please be advised that you are required to be at the gate at a specific time before departure, as additional security or documentation checks may be required:

So, airlines and airports have different requirements for when you need to board a plane. 

Furthermore, it takes longer to board an international flight because the gate agents need to check passports as you board the plane. 

And, they need you to the gate before it’s time to board in case they need to verify your passport (which sometimes happens at check-in, too) or verify other travel requirements like visas or health requirements. 

What Happens if You Miss Boarding Time?

Unfortunately, if you miss boarding time, you will not be able to get on the flight, and you will have to find a new flight.

You have to find your airline’s customer service desk and have them help book you on another flight. If you missed your flight because you were late, you might have to pay a fee to rebook another flight. Keep this in mind when deciding how early to get to the airport, as you do not want to cut it too close. 

Sometimes, you may miss the boarding time if you have a delayed connecting flight and you do not have enough time to get to your second flight’s gate. In this case, you need to do the same thing, go to customer service, but there should not be any fees since it was the airline’s fault and not yours. 

You may end up flying standby for a few flights or get a seat on the next flight depending on what is available and how many flights there are to your destination each day. 

Remember that if you miss your first flight and you have a connecting flight or a return flight on a round-trip ticket, the airline will cancel your other tickets if you do not alert the airline. If you are stuck in traffic or know you will miss the flight for any reason, you should alert the airline as soon as possible. The earlier, the better so they can try to get you on another flight.

How Long Does It Take to Board a Plane?

It will only take you a few minutes to board a plane, but when you add up the time it takes for everyone to board a plane, it usually takes between 30 and 50 minutes. 

The time it takes to board a plane depends on how many people are flying and whether it is a domestic or international flight. Read more about boarding a plane here

What Happens Between Boarding Time and Departure Time?

Once the boarding time starts, passengers start boarding the plane. All passengers will have to scan their boarding passes, store their carry-on bags in the overhead bins, and find their seats. 

The crew uses this time to greet the passengers and prepare the cockpit for takeoff. 

You should buckle up, read the safety pamphlet in the seat back pocket, and do anything else you need to do to prepare for takeoff. 

You and the other passengers will be on the plane and settled in your seats well before the scheduled departure time. When departure time arrives, the crew is ready, and all checked bags are on the plane, it’s time to pull back from the gate and head to the runway for takeoff!

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Hayden Wall

Hayden is the founder of Travel Gear Discounts and tries to vacation as much as possible. He loves finding the latest travel accessories that will make getting out easier and planning the perfect weekend getaway.