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I'm currently planning a trip to Australia and New Zealand with my fiancee, and specifically I'm trying to decide how much time to budget for the "airport stuff" before our flights. Specifically, we have...

  • A flight from Cairns, AU to Christchurch, NZ (Qantas)
  • A flight from Queenstown, NZ to Wellington, NZ (Air New Zealand)
  • A flight from Auckland, NZ back to LA (by way of Hawaii) (Hawaiian Airlines)

Growing up in Dallas and Los Angeles, I was always taught to arrive at the airport 2 hours before the flight takes off. But this is my first international trip (as an adult at least), and it occurred to me that airports in Australia or New Zealand might have different policies/systems that take different amounts of time, or might simply be more or less efficient (like DFW vs LAX), or that international flights might take longer to check into. (For example, some of my non-American friends complain about American airports, implying that other countries' airports may be more efficient as a rule.)

Is the "2 hour" rule fairly applicable in these sorts of situations, or should I budget more (or less) time for international and domestic flights in Australia and New Zealand?

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Your domestic flight within NZ requires check-in at least 30 minutes before departure. For international flights, a typical minimum lead time is 90 minutes.

Qantas says (assuming economy class):

  • recommended 120 minutes
  • minimum 90 minutes

Air New Zealand says:

  • at least 30 minutes for domestic flights

Hawaiian Airlines says:

  • no later than 60 minutes

The Auckland international terminal isn't anywhere near the size of LAX or DFW. Wait times for security are usually not very long. However, there is an extra secondary security screening for flights departing to the USA. This usually isn't very long either, but I would allow at least 2 hours for your NZ-Hawaii leg.

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Can confirm, I flew from Sydney to Christchurch last night (Jetstar) and have done trans-Tasman and domestic flights in both countries.

It's generally airline dependent, and sometimes depends on plane-size for boarding times, but in terms of checkin, most international flights will open for check-in 3 hours before, and close 90 minutes before the flight.

My boarding time last night was 35 minutes before departure. Another flight leaving later had an earlier boarding time, but was on an A-380 - so they need more time to load more people, I presume.

Again, even with the same airline, it can differ with airports.

So let's look at Jetstar, for example:

Jetstar timelines for domestic flights

Jetstar timelines for international flights

where checkin closes 45-60 minutes beforehand.

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