Typically, from the time you make it through the line at the gate to the moment the flight leaves, you are looking at about a half-hour to one-hour waiting time for most airlines.
Also, remember that your flight may not leave precisely when it should, and the exact time depends on several factors like how long it takes passengers and crew to board.
How Long Does it Take to Board a Plane?
How long it takes to board a plane depends mainly on how many people are on the flight and how quickly they can get on the aircraft. Also, different airlines may have longer or shorter processing times, depending on their procedures.
Usually, on a domestic flight, it takes an individual five minutes or less to get through the boarding process and board the plane. This time includes how long it takes for the gate agent to scan your boarding pass and for you to make it to the plane and find your seat.
International flights can take a bit longer, though, because agents have to check passports and possibly other documentation as well.
But, remember that everyone who is boarding the plane needs to complete the boarding process before flying. Therefore, for the majority of flights, it takes between thirty minutes and an hour before the pilot can begin to take off.
Yet, you will know the flight is about to leave when an airline flight attendant or another crew member closes the cabin door.
Why Can a Plane’s Departure Time Get Held Up?
Specific issues can delay take-off, so flights may not always leave at their scheduled departure time.
For instance, if the plane becomes full, gate agents may have to check people’s baggage before the flight can take off. Taking passengers’ bags right before take-off and storing them in the cargo hold can cause it to take a bit longer to board certain flights.
A flight may also have a delayed departure because of certain weather events that can make it dangerous to take off or land, like ice or high wind. Thus, you may need to remain on the flight after boarding until the weather clears enough for take-off.
Yet, just keep in mind that airlines can not make you stay on a flight for more than four hours after it was supposed to depart.
Other reasons for a delay include too much air traffic, security threats, or slow crew members.
But, remember that although delays are upsetting, the airline, crew, and pilot will do everything they can to make sure the flight leaves as close to the departure time as possible. They try to keep on schedule because delays throw a wrench in the entire airport system, including not allowing connecting passengers to get to their seats on time.
So, most flights leave as soon as everyone has boarded, and it’s safe to fly.
What Can I Expect When Boarding the Plane?
Usually, boarding will begin about thirty minutes before departure or sometimes a bit earlier. At this time, an airline agent will start calling rows or sections in the gate area.
They may even call by or start with a particular group, like active service members.
When you hear them call your row, you need to stand in the queue at the boarding gate, which typically only takes a few minutes. Then, when it’s your turn, you need to show your boarding pass to the flight agent.
If you are boarding an international flight, you will also need to show your passport. Since every passenger will have to do this extra step to enter the plane, the boarding time will take a bit longer than on a domestic air trip.
Then, once you’re given the okay, you can walk through the door to enter your plane. If there are many people on the flight, however, or it’s taking people longer than usual to find their chair, you may have to stand in line.
But, when you’ve made it on the plane, you can go ahead and find your chair number and stow your carry-on in the overhead bin. Finally, you’ll sit down and wait for the plane to take off.
Typically, the last passenger boards about fifteen minutes before departure. Then the doors close, and the flight takes off.
Sometimes, if you’re lucky, departure can even happen earlier than it was supposed to.
How Early Should I Arrive at the Airport?
Overall, passengers should arrive at the airport two hours before a domestic flight and three hours before an international flight. You will need this time to get through security, make it to your gate, and board the flight on time.
However, for larger airports, you may want to set an arrival time a bit earlier than the recommendations above to ensure you’ll be sitting on the plane when it takes off.
How Much Time Does it Take to Get to the Airport Gate Once You Arrive at the Airport?
After you arrive at the airport, you will first check-in for your flight at the ticket counter. Here, they will ask you some security questions and give you your boarding passes.
How long passengers must stand in the lines to check in for their planes varies, which is why it’s best to arrive early. However, once you make it to the desk, this process likely won’t take more than five minutes.
Next, you will drop off your checked bags if you are flying with this type of luggage. For some airlines, you will hand over your bags at the ticket counter, while for others, there’s another place to drop your bag off.
This part of the procedure should only take passengers a few minutes as well. Unless, of course, they are part of a group, then it may take a bit longer.
The final step before you can go to your boarding destination is to get through security, where they will search your bag. When flying, security is often the longest process you have to go through before you can board the aircraft.
Normally, it will take about twenty minutes to get through the line, but the time varies depending on the size of the airport, how many flights are leaving at the same time as yours, the date of your trip, and how many security lines are open.
So, as you can see, it can often take an hour or less from when you arrive at the airport to when you get to the aircraft gate. But, when flying, you want to allow for extra time before you board to account for lines and how long it takes you to find your gate, especially if you are in a group.
Overall, getting past the gate agents and entering the plane will only take you a few minutes. But, different planes may take longer between boarding and take off than others, sometimes even 60 minutes or more.