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Are there any resources that give a guide as to how long it may take to get through airport security on any given day?

For example, I am flying out of Heathrow on Saturday, and I'm concerned that, as it's the start of the school holidays, the queues will be longer than usual - so I need to know if I should allow extra time to make sure we catch our flight. We'll have already checked in, and are travelling hand-luggage-only, so it's only the length of the security queue that could delay us once we get to the airport.

  • I suspect you'll only get an answer for LHR, these tend to be very airport specific – blackbird Jul 26 '16 at 13:14
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    I suspected as much, which is why I specified the airport, in order to avoid beng too broad. Answers for LGW are also welcome :) – Nick C Jul 26 '16 at 13:15
  • There's whatsbusy.com/airport but unfortunately it only seems to include US airports. – A E Aug 7 '16 at 11:03
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I'm sceptical that you'll find truly useful current data. I saw one site that claimed to have current data, but seemed to be non-functional. Anyway the problem is that the state of the queues now is not sufficient if you live any distance from the aiport - you need to know what they are going to be an hour or two in the future.

Hence what we really need is a reliable model. To help with that you could look at the published performance figures. You will see that for the most part the security delay is 5 or 10 minutes. I have travelled through Heathrow on many occasions in the last few years and never found departure security to be an issue.

However:

1). The check-in process, especially if you have not been able to check-in online and/or have lots of luggage can be slow.

2). An exceptional event (strike, security alert) has the potential to disrupt anything. Hence have a look at the current news and Heathrow website before you leave home.

I normally follow the 3 hour international, 2 hour domestic policy, and have never yet had any problems other than spending too long in the air-side restaurants.

One other thing to bear in mind: the other very unpredictable factor is any delay in actually getting to Heathrow. Both road and rail can suffer disruption, the roads around heathrow can get very slow if there are problems on adjacent motorways, always check the state of the transport system you want to use. I'd consider this to be a far greater risk factor than departure security.

  • The 3h rule for international may be overkill if the OP doesn't check bags and has already checked in – blackbird Jul 26 '16 at 19:49
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    Aye, there's the rub. I did say that I spend too long in airport restaurants. I much prefer to build an amount of slack into my schedules and err on the side of caution. Some people say "if you don't miss 3 flights a year you are spending too long in airports". Personally, if I'm travelling anywhere significant then I don't have anything special to do at home, so I may as well get to the airport early. Actually, even I don't always allow the full 3 hours ... – djna Jul 26 '16 at 20:02
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    I'm with you, I'd rather wait in the terminal after than rush and stress. Just mentioning what the OP asked for :) – blackbird Jul 26 '16 at 20:31
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    I too don't like to rush or stress. I agree with the point about the transport system too, I live SW of London which means (when using the train) going into London and back out again (oh for a direct Reading-Heathrow train), increasing the risk of delay... – Nick C Jul 27 '16 at 8:55
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    In the end we got there 2.5 hours ahead, then sat and had lunch airside. I still hate travelling through Heathrow though, it's far too crowded... – Nick C Aug 3 '16 at 9:05

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