Some places are designed for you to be late. For instance, take movie theaters. They always have about half an hour’s worth of previews before the movie starts. So, unless you’re with one of those people who insists on watching the previews (we all know at least one) you have plenty of time to mosey in at the last minute. And of course, it’s also known that you don’t show up half an hour early to a party—you want to be fashionably –it’s the cool thing to do!
Airports, however, fall into a different category—you’ve got to be early…REALLY early for your flight, now more than ever. You’ve probably heard the advice that you need to get to the airport at least two hours before your flight. But is it really necessary? Knowing more about peak travel times and how airports function will help you understand why it pays to be early for your flight.
There are many steps you must go through before you settle into your seat on the plane and dive into the romance novel you bought in the airport shop. One thing people may not consider is parking at the airport. It can take some time to find a parking spot, unload your luggage, and walk to the terminal. As AVL has grown, parking lots may fill up quickly during peak travel times, so it is important to arrive early enough to make arrangements to park and get to the terminal.
And what about your luggage? If you’ve ever loaded up a car with luggage for a trip you know that this process takes some time. Now imagine loading luggage for over a hundred passengers onto a plane. Checking in at the ticket counter as early as you can before your flight to check your luggage allows the airline employees to quickly load the plane without holding up the flight.
Once you check in with the airline, you need to go through the TSA security checkpoint. During peak travel times the lines can start to get long. The TSA does a good job of moving people through quickly, but when you have people scrambling to remove shoes and other clothing, put items in bins, and get bags through the x-ray screening there are bound to be delays. You can help the process by reading up on TSA screening and carry-on requirements ahead of time. There are valuable tips about not wearing excess clothing, which items need to be removed and placed in a bin, requirements for liquids, and prohibited items (for example, did you know that prohibited items include bowling pins, baseball bats, hiking poles, Magic 8 Balls, and nunchucks?).
You also need to allow yourself time to walk to your gate, use the restroom, fill up your water bottle, and get a last charge on your cell phone. If you arrive early you will have time to check out AVL’s Blue Ridge Trading, which offers unique local products and plenty of reading materials for your flight (like that romance novel). You may also want to grab a bite at the Blue Ridge Tavern, or a goodie at Cinnabon.
Flights sometimes begin boarding as soon as 30 minutes early and a lot of airlines require you to be there a minimum of 15 minutes before. Don’t be that person that holds everyone up, or worse, misses your flight because you are running late. Once the airplane door closes it cannot be reopened. And the airline will not wait for you.
The main thing is to be prepared for your flight. Read the information the airline sends you about checking in, read the information on the TSA website about screening and carry-on requirements, and check out the AVL website for information about parking and what we offer at the airport. Be sure to arrive early to avoid the stress of getting stuck in a line and panicking about whether or not you’ll make your flight. If you get to the airport at least two hours early, you’ll have plenty of time to get through the checkpoints and get to lounge at your gate in style. When it comes to airports, it pays to be fashionably early.