Boarding a plane can be a stressful experience. Everyone is lined up at the gate, trying to get on the plane as fast as possible and hoping that there aren’t any delays.
So how long does it take to board a plane?
Once you are at your gate’s ticket desk, it should take you less than five minutes to scan your ticket and walk onto the plane. But, when you consider that everyone on the flight needs to do this, it can take up to an hour.
A small, domestic flight will board quickly, usually in less than thirty minutes. But, a larger flight, especially long haul flights, will take longer to board, usually fifty minutes or so.
International flights also take longer to board because the gate agents need to check for passports and any other documentation required for the country you are flying into.
So, while it will only take you a few minutes to board the plane, the entire process can take up to an hour from start to departure.
This article explains when you need to arrive at the airport for a flight, how to track your flight’s departure time, and when the boarding process ends.
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Estimated Time to Arrive at the Airport Before a Flight
There are a few things to consider when deciding when to arrive at the airport. You don’t want to be sitting in an airport all day waiting, but you also don’t want to miss your flight.
When deciding when to arrive at the airport, the first thing to consider is whether you are flying domestically or internationally. In general, you should arrive three hours before an international flight and two hours before a domestic flight.
The next thing to consider is when you are flying. If you are flying during any peak times of the year, like summer or during the holidays, you should arrive earlier than normal.
Furthermore, traveling during the day is more popular than flying during the early morning or late night. Most people prefer to fly, and a majority of flights are between 7 AM and 6 PM. Security lines are longer during these times, and the airport will be more congested in general.
Finally, consider the airport that you are flying out of. Larger, international airports will have more people flying out of them, so you need to arrive at them earlier than you need to arrive at small, regional airports.
Remember that your flight time is different from your boarding time. If your flight leaves at 7:15, boarding may begin as early as an hour before the flight, even though your group may not board until closer to the departure time.
So, don’t plan on getting to the gate when your plane leaves. Check your boarding pass after you check-in for your flight and plan to get to your gate before boarding.
How to Help Make Sure your Flight Leaves on Time
Staying updated on your flight time is important when you are flying. You don’t want to miss your flight if you are running later than you planned, but you also don’t want to show up at the airport if your flight is delayed.
So how can you track your flight status?
The best way to stay up to date on your flight is to download the airline’s app. You can check-in, access your boarding pass, and get flight alerts right to your phone. The app will notify you if your departure time changes when your plane begins boarding and if the gate or anything else changes.
Here are some of the features that the United Airlines App offers:
When it’s time to travel, check-in for your flights on the home screen and view real-time updates, such as amenities for your flight…. and stay up to date on your flight status through our push notifications delivered directly to your inbox.
You can also add your phone number or email to your reservation and request flight updates.
Alerts to your phone are the fastest way to get updates, and you can always check the app when you are checking your bags and at the security checkpoint. Then, when you are at the airport, you will know where you are going and how much time you have to get to your gate.
You can also keep an eye on the departure boards scattered throughout the airport.
The board at your gate will have all the boarding information, but if your gate changes, you need to know. So, make sure you use one of the methods above to check your gate when you arrive at the airport.
If you end up missing your flight, read about what happens when you don’t show up here.
When Does a Plane Stop Boarding for a Flight?
Planes will stop boarding no later than ten minutes before the flight departs, but sometimes it will be as early as twenty minutes. The crew needs time to close the plane doors and prepare the plane to leave the gate.
The goal is to start moving the plane at the scheduled departure time, not just have everyone physically on the plane, so they need an extra fifteen to twenty minutes to get everything done.
Boarding usually starts no earlier than an hour before your flight. But it is typically between 35 and 55 minutes before departure, depending on the size of your flight.
Here is American Airlines’ boarding process:
Most flights start boarding 30 – 50 minutes before scheduled departure, but the exact time depends on your destination and plane. Boarding ends 15 minutes before departure. If you’re not on board, we may reassign your seat to another passenger. You will not be allowed to board once the doors close.
Airlines board by boarding group, which usually range from one to nine. If you are in one of the lower group numbers, you will be able to board.
If you are in a higher boarding group, you will not board right at the designated boarding time. You will have to wait, usually ten to twenty minutes depending on the flight size, while the group numbers before you board.
But, once all the group numbers are called, anyone will be able to board. So, if you show up after most people board but before the plane stops boarding, you can board right away.
Just don’t show up after boarding ends because they can’t let anyone else on the plane after the door closes.