If know that my flight will be delayed by several hours, what is the minimum time I must be at the airport and at the gate (per regulations) if I have already checked-in?

For instance, I want to arrive at 1900 when the flight will now be leaving the airport at 2100. Originally, the flight was scheduled to depart at 1800.

I'm more specifically concerned about the TSA and/or homeland security requirements.

Other details:

  • I have already checked in and am a confirmed passenger with printed boarding pass. (This is the difference between my question and a flagged duplicate)
  • This flight is the first leg of my trip.

Details that should not matter for the answer I am looking for but I know people will ask for:

  • Flight is with a major US carrier.
  • I do have a check bag (but once again, I am looking for the required minimum time not the recommended time).
  • It is from a standard USA airport -nothing special.
  • My trip is ending internationally (IE there is a layover in the USA but ending in Europe).
  • My actual flight times are more tightly compressed (I just exaggerate for simplicity).
  • 1
    Your airline should tell you when they notify you of the delay. The answer will depend on the cause of the delay, and if they think there's any hope of reducing the delay nearer to departure
    – Gagravarr
    Commented Dec 2, 2015 at 17:27
  • @NeanDerThal, I saw that one but the difference is that I have already checked in (online) and am merely trying to get to the flight at the optimal time (for me). Commented Dec 2, 2015 at 19:32
  • I am not going to vote to reopen. This question already has two answers which are both on point. They might not be saying what you want to hear, but are (instead) telling you to be at the gate on time for your original departure, as long as your flight remains delayed and not cancelled. I also agree that TSA is not relevant. You have a boarding pass and it has not been used, therefor, TSA will allow you through. If they even ask about the fact that the time has already gone by, a simple explanation of delayed flight will suffice.
    – CGCampbell
    Commented Dec 31, 2015 at 18:08

2 Answers 2


For the airlines I'm familiar with, they would say something like "you should be at the airport at 1600 and at the gate at 1730". In other words, the same as if the flight were not delayed.

There is almost always the possibility that the airline will be able to avoid the delay and have the flight leave on time, or with less of a delay than originally predicted. If this happens, and you miss the flight, they are not going to be be very sympathetic.

As an example, here is what Southwest Airlines says:

Since Southwest strives to maintain an ontime schedule, even after we notify you that a flight may be delayed or cancelled, we may substitute or reroute aircraft at the last minute in order to get flights back on the published schedule. Since flight status and gate assignments may change at any time, check airport monitors for the most updated information.

As far as I know, TSA / Homeland Security aren't relevant here; they should let you through security any time up until your plane has actually left (I'm not sure that they even check departure times at all). It's entirely a matter of airline policy.


The thing about delays is that they are generally estimates; the airline might be able to shorten the delay, or it may turn out to be longer. Sign up for flight status alerts (if offered by the airline) and/or check the flight status yourself regularly to see if the estimated departure time has changed. If the flight still shows the delayed time, plan to be at the airport a little more ahead of the new time than you planned to be ahead of the original time (e.g., if you planned to be there two hours ahead of the original time, I suggest two and a half hours ahead of the new time).

The reality is that you probably will end up waiting at the airport for a long time, since delays often get worse, but sometimes they are shortened.

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