How early to arrive at airport, early morning weekday flight?

On Friday 9/12 I have a flight to MCO (leaving from Columbus Ohio). The flight is at 7:05 am. I have always heard to arrive at airport 2-3 hours early to allow for baggage check, boarding passes, TSA screening etc. Not wanting to show up at 4:05 am, what do you think would be a safe arrival time to the airport?
I've never flown this early, so I don't know if it will be an empty airport where I just walk right through, or if it will be packed with business travelers clogging everything up and demanding the full three hours to get through TSA. Thanks for any advice.

We normally plan on arriving 90 minutes early, as long as we have checked in and printed all boarding documents at home. We do give ourselves a little extra time if we need to park the car. But I've never flown out of Columbus so I can't speak to your particular airport.

Go to your airport's web page - they should have information on how early you should arrive for domestic flights. I have never seen much of a difference in TSA wait times for early flights vs later morning ones, but you might also call the airport's information line to find out if you need to allow for extra time for your flight.

I find it is very specific to the airport. The larger the airport, the greater potential for a large backup at screening or bag check. I fly out of IND, I attempt to show up 60 minutes prior to takeoff. Columbus is smaller. 60 minutes should do fine. Everything published is going to tell you much later to cover their butts.

As a group, business travelers don't travel early Friday mornings. They fly out late Friday.

I've generally heard that you need to be at most midsized airports 60 minutes before take off. I've been at big airports (Boston, NY, SFO) for early morning flights where they moved people up in the security lines for flights that were within the hour. I would say 60-90 is plenty, unless you're parking at a distance or what have you. But 60 minutes in airport would be enough.

I've never flown out of Columbus, but I do fly frequently and have always had more than enough time arriving 60 minutes prior to takeoff.

2hrs national. 3 international.

I have noticed recently that with SW my boarding pass has called for me to board about 20-30 minutes before take off. I would be at the airport by 5:30.

I just flew SW and they were calling the A group at 30 minutes out so like PrincipalTinker stated you need to keep that in mind. They were doing quick turn arounds.

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We had a really crappy early morning experience at MCO once where there were next to no employees at the ticket/baggage counters & huge lines. We were two plus hours early and still had to power walk to make it. That said, my local airport is way less crowded and I'd feel confident showing up just an hour early for an early morning flight.

Please, for the love of Mickey, go early.

Last Friday I missed my 7 am MCO bound flight and had to rent a car and drive down- full flights all day.

I left my house at 4:15. There should have been zero delays, at that time of morning, but stuff happens. Security line, incompetent bag check staff....traffic delays.....

Better to nap at your gate than miss your plane.

I find that it depends on the airport and also on the terminal/gates. Some terminals/TSA lines have been way busier than others in the same airport. I live near a mid size airport and would plan to arrive 5-5:30 there (to park at terminal, check bags, go through security). But it's not Columbus.

Full disclosure - I live in Atlanta. The only thing worse than traffic here is our airport.


Funny, I live very close to Logan airport but travel out of state to always fly out of small regional airports. The longest lines I have ever seen happened one trip at 5:00am. You can never tell. My first trip out of Providence I did a dry run the weekend before but at 6:00am I almost missed my flight. It is not worth the worry to not give yourself an extra hour.

Thanks for all the replies everyone. I checked the web-site for Columbus and it recommends 90 minutes, or 2 hours during holidays, peak travel times. I'll go with 90 minutes. I think I'll plan to arrive at weekly parking by 5:00 am. That should have me in the terminal by 5:15 - 5:30. I will already have my boarding passes (print at home), so baggage check and TSA should be all I need to do in terminal. Based on some of the replies here, I'm doubting there will be much of a crowd this early on a Friday morning in Columbus, Ohio. If they start boarding 30 minutes early (flying SW), I'm guessing I'll have about 30-45 minutes for "nap time" at the gate. And if it is busier than I expect, I can always give up some nap-time. Thanks for walking me through this phase of my planning!!! Getting excited now. I have tickets for OSU Buckeyes game tonight, then leave for WDW 6 days later! Life is good. Sorry got a bit off topic there smiley


Wish I had seen this earlier. Wanted to add, we fly out of CMH at least 2 times a year. As I recall, TSA doesn’t open until 4:45 at Port Columbus.