How long before take-off should we get to the airport? This innocuous question can be a natural source of conflict and questioning for some people. 1 hour? or 2 hours? 3 hours or even 4 hours? You have to choose between the fear of missing the plane and a long wait at the airport.
With the lack of manpower, flight delays, lost luggage, road works, and papers to be provided at check-in, what is THE correct answer?
To be able to answer the question, several factors must be taken into account. The recommended time will vary depending on whether your flight is domestic or international.
Generally, arriving at the airport approximately 2 hours before departure for Canadian destinations and at least 3 hours for international flights is recommended.
Air Canada recommendations
Air Canada recommends 120 minutes (2 hours) for domestic flights, and baggage can be checked in only 45 minutes before take-off time.
For flights departing from or arriving in the United States, the company recommends arriving at the airport 3 hours before, as baggage is no longer checked in one hour and a half before take-off.
Air Canada also recommends being at the airport 3 hours before departure for international flights. Still, it specifies that if your plane takes off from Montreal (YUL) or Toronto (YYZ), it is best to come 4 hours before, especially if your flight is before 11 am, as this is the busiest time of day. The waiting time at the various checkpoints can indeed be longer.
The check-in counter
A crucial parameter to consider to know when you can arrive at the airport is the closing time of the company’s check-in counter. Please note that this varies from company to company.
On Air Transat, all counters close one hour before departure, while Air Canada offers 45 minutes for internal flights. So check with your company. Otherwise, you will need help to fit in your luggage.
Know how to adapt
It should be understood that several factors should weigh the suggested time to arrive at the airport. Depending on these factors, we will plan “large”; on the contrary; we can afford to come a little more “last minute”.
Does your plane take off at 11 p.m. or 8 a.m.? Traffic at the airport will be different! For example, there is a large crowd in Montreal before 11 a.m., especially because many business people fly to Toronto or New York.
Do not hesitate to inquire with your company or your travel agent.
The road network
We know it all too well: traffic jams are an annoying reality with which we, unfortunately, have to deal, and this is all the more true when it comes to getting to the airport!
If you hit the road at 3 am, you won’t have to deal with traffic jams. On the other hand, if you have to leave the house at 7 am, that’s another story! In this case, plan to go earlier to arrive within the prescribed time. Better to wait 45 minutes longer at the airport than to miss your flight.
If it’s your first time on a plane, chances are you’re a little stressed, at least not immediately knowing where to go and how to check in your luggage. In this case, plan to arrive in advance.
If, on the contrary, you fly 10 times a month, you will know very well when to arrive to make your flight.
Luggage to check in?
If you have baggage to check in, you must consider the check-in counter’s closing time. 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, which is recommended if you can travel light, you can arrive later.
Ignoring the holidays, holidays, or holidays would be a mistake. An airport a few days before Christmas is bustling. Same thing on the first day of vacation and very often before long weekends.
Again, find out and adapt your arrival time accordingly.
To the United States?
Those who have already been to the United States from Montreal know that you must go through American customs. This step can sometimes be long in case of traffic.
US immigration officials must ask several questions of each passenger; about their destination, the reason for their trip, their job, etc. That’s one more line to do after baggage drop and security!
The advantage of arriving early for check-in if you still need to reserve your seat online is that you can do so directly at the counter. You will have more choices than if you arrive at the last minute.
We advise you to use the free SecurXpress service to save time at the Montreal airport. This allows you to book priority passage through security and is available on all departures except to the United States. You have to present your smartphone with the confirmation text message to the airport agent, and that’s it; you will take a fine line directly, avoiding the main line, which can sometimes be saturated and generate long minutes of waiting.
Whatever the departure time of your flight, we advise you always to keep a “cushion” to deal with the unforeseen events of life (traffic jams, flat tires, late taxis, excessive traffic, etc.).