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I'm not sure if this is airline or airport-specific? (assuming airport)

I know that if I have an early morning flight and show up the night before, I'm denied because the date on my ticket is for the next day. However, I just took a flight from Lima to Easter Island that left at 1:20 AM, and while I was denied through security at 11AM (yeah, I tried, I was already at the airport) I was allowed to enter around 4 PM, just over 8 hours prior to the flight. (Security was fine, but Immigration balked at my earliness, and eventually let me through when they got tired of waiting from an answer from above.)

I've had 12 hour layovers like this before, but only on international connections through an airport.

I'm interested in the general answer to the question, but I do have a localized situation that has prompted it:

I have an upcoming 9:45AM flight (international) into Santiago, Chile, and my connection (domestic) will get me to the airport around 9PM the night before. I'd prefer to stay at the airport and sleep, but it would be much nicer airside, especially if I get into a lounge. Do I have a chance of waiting until 1AM or so (so the date matches my boarding pass) and being allowed through security?

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Very much airport (rather, I'd say country) specific. Please add that detail to your question. –  Ankur Banerjee Nov 30 '12 at 0:21
Sorry, I'll make it more clear, but that detail is included in the blockquote at the end. –  jjeaton Nov 30 '12 at 0:26
Shouldn't you be able to go through security once you get the boarding pass? –  Grzenio Nov 30 '12 at 10:01
@Grzenio, through experience I've learned that you are denied for trying to go through too early, even if you have a boarding pass. –  jjeaton Nov 30 '12 at 15:05
This also depends on the airline - many will not let you through more than 4 hours before, and some won't let you through more than 2 hours before! Check with your airline! –  Rory Alsop Dec 1 '12 at 0:30

1 Answer 1

up vote 10 down vote accepted

The specific rules depend on the airport and country. Usually the check-in starts 3 hours before the departure. So if you travel with luggage to check-in, the answer to your question is 3 hours in advance. If you don't have luggage to check-in, you can go through security 3 hours in advance and sometimes more than 3 hours in advance . That being said, keep in mind that security and immigration is closed during the night in some airports. So if your flight is at 6am and security opens at 4:30am, you can go through security at 4:30am or later.

In most US airports the rule is

  • if you depart after 4:30am, you can go through security any time after 4:30am on the date of departure,
  • if your flight departs between 12:00am (midnight) and 1:30am, you can go through security on the previous date (after 4:30 am) or on the date of departure (before 1:30am).

  • In order to check in for some international flights, you need your documents to be checked by an airline agent (that depends on the destination, the airline, and your citizenship). Then you can go through security only 3 hours before the flight.

(This is only a general rule and you should double check what specific rules are at the airport of departure.)

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+1 Good answer. –  MeNoTalk Nov 30 '12 at 17:40
check-in may start 3 hours before departure, but it's often possible to check in much earlier using another desk operated by the same airline. I've done this many times with KLM at AMS (though not recently, they may have changed their rules), walking up to an empty checkin desk and asking if it's ok usually tends to get you a smile and a boarding pass. –  jwenting Aug 6 at 8:29

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