I have a 6am flight to Europe from Bristol airport (UK) and have one bag to check in. I know the official advice but what time do you really need to get to the airport? Has anyone arrived at an airport of that size at that time in the morning 90 minutes before the flight and been denied boarding?

I want to try to get some sleep if possible.

  • 2
    Follow the official advice Jul 30 at 5:43
  • What time of the year and what day of the week? I would arrive late on a Tuesday in September but not on a Saturday in August.
    – Willeke
    Jul 30 at 7:01
  • @Willeke I am flying this coming week on a weekday.
    – Simd
    Jul 30 at 8:20
  • 1
    Which airline (and ideally flight number or destination) is this? This would let us find out the bag drop and boarding deadlines. While Bristol is not Heathrow in terms of size, it’s still quite busy, there are 11 flights departing within 15 minutes of 6am, including 6 just for EasyJet. That’s 2000 people, more than half of those for EasyJet. That means possible queues at bag drop and at security. Also how are you planning to get to the airport? Any chance of a delay there?
    – jcaron
    Jul 30 at 11:19
  • 1
    Also, how comfortable are you finding your way through an airport in general and that airport specifically? The fact you are asking the question makes me think you are not a frequent flyer, which is not in your advantage. If you are flying on Ryanair, what is your citizenship? Have you checked in online and printed out your boarding card (or do you have it on your mobile)? Did you check your checked and carry-on bags are within both size and weight constraints?
    – jcaron
    Jul 30 at 11:24

2 Answers 2


There are two deadlines which actually matter, the bagdrop deadline (typically 40min to 1h before departure) and gate closing. The former is specified by airline policy, potentially on a per-airport basis. The latter is specified on your boarding pass.

For the bagdrop deadline, you need to take into account queing time. At a small airport, a counter might be serving essentially only one flight at a time. In this case, arriving only a few minutes before deadline is probably still going to work out. At a larger airport, you might end up in the same queue as people for later flights, and arriving at the last moment is going to be problematic. Objective here is to actually drop off your bag before the bag drop deadline has passed.

The actual gate closing time is typically after the printed one, but you don't know how much later (if at all), and if you miss this one, you're definitely not on the plane. Important thing is to be at the gate at the important time. You don't need to account for wait time at the gate, but you do need to account for security control as well as just the time it takes to walk (or take shuttles) to get to the gate.

Recommendations like "be at the airport 2-3h prior to departure" only matter if you miss any of the deadlines above and thereby your flight, and then try to shift the blame. If you followed the recommendation and encountered a freak 2h long queue at security, you can expect the airline to be way more cooperative then if you thought you could make it from the entrance to the gate in Heathrow in 20min and failed...

Another aspect to consider is that the system wouldn't work if anyone arrives at the last minute. So arriving at the last minute occassionally is fine, and shouldn't lead to missed flights (at the last minute, not after!!), but making a habit out of it is probably antisocial.

For your concrete setting (6am flight, Bristol), I personally would feel comfortable arriving at the airport 90min prior to departure. I'd probably bit a slightly earlier planned arrival time and leave some safety margin in case there is a delay on the way to the airport, I'd still be there about 75min prior to the departure.

  • I would not risk being close to the deadline on a day many people travel, like a Saturday in August.
    – Willeke
    Jul 30 at 8:02
  • @Willeke What about tomorrow, Monday?
    – Simd
    Jul 30 at 8:21
  • 4
    @Willeke I totally would, but that is a character flaw of mine.
    – Arno
    Jul 30 at 8:23
  • 1
    For a Monday in holiday season I would suggest at least 2 hours before the flight, even on Bristol as there is likely still a lot of holiday travel. I do never fly that early as I would want to be there 4 hour early.
    – Willeke
    Jul 30 at 8:28
  • Boarding deadlines are usually known in advance as well.
    – jcaron
    Jul 30 at 11:20

Since you are flying on EasyJet from Bristol, the “Important timings” section of this page from their website tells us that:

  • bag drop closes 40 minutes before departure
  • gate closes 30 minutes before departure

Since it’s unlikely that you would get from bag drop to the gate (through security) in less than 10 minutes (even with fast track if it were available), you need to count backwards from gate closing time, as that is the critical path.


  • 40 minutes before departure at the gate (to have a bit of margin), or more if you need space in the overhead lockers and thus want to be at the head of the boarding queue
  • plus the time to get to the gate
  • plus the time to get through security (there will be about 2000 people going through security at about the same time as you, so expect quite a bit of a queue — remember that Bristol airport is ranked one of the worst in the UK for queuing time, with an average of 30 minutes),
  • plus time to drop off your bags,
  • plus time in the bag drop off queue (expect a few hundred people in that queue),
  • plus time from your car to bag drop…

Without fast track, with bags to drop off, two hours before departure seems like a good target (this is actually the airport’s recommendation, and is the bag drop opening time for Easyjet at Bristol airport). 90 minutes would probably be cutting it quite short if the queues are on the longer side of things.

Of course, it could all go a lot faster, but it’s always hard to predict.

  • Thank you for this.
    – Simd
    Aug 3 at 3:17

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .