How early should you arrive at the airport before your flight if you have lounge access?

Oct 18, 2019

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There are so many different ways to access airport lounges before your flight. Whether it’s through your airline status, ticket class or with a lounge membership like Priority Pass, getting lounge access is easily attainable.

You may have read some of our lounge reviews here at TPG UK, and if you have multiple lounge options before your flight, of course you’ll choose the best one you can. But when you’re booking that taxi or checking public transport timetables, how early should you arrive?

This depends largely on the time of the day and the quality of the lounge. If I have a 6:00 a.m. flight, even if there’s unlimited Champagne on offer, I value my sleep more than a free drink so will aim to arrive at the airport later rather than earlier. On the other hand, if my flight was departing at say 9:00 p.m. on a Friday and I could be at the airport several hours before then, I’d consider maximising my lounge time if the lounge was decent.

(Photo by Daniel Ross / The Points Guy)
(Photo by Daniel Ross/The Points Guy)

Assuming you have checked in online and are not checking any luggage, for a lounge where you simply want to grab a quick snack and drink before the flight from a UK airport, I would recommend arriving at the airport 90 to 120 minutes before your flight departs. This will allow you some time to navigate your way through security, locate the lounge, have a good 30 minutes to relax, recharge some devices and have a light meal and a drink.

If the lounge is a destination in itself like The Concorde Room in Heathrow Terminal 5 or the Virgin Atlantic Clubhouse in Terminal 3, I could personally spend all day in there. But for most people, if you have the time and are not sacrificing sleep, I would aim to arrive a full three hours before your flight departs. This will allow you to leisurely pass through security (noting that this may be quick if you have priority access anyway), and then give you enough time to relax, enjoy and explore the lounge. If you have access to features like an a la carte menu, you want to have sufficient time without having to clock watch.

A good 90 minutes will allow for a full meal, a shower (if you need one) and maybe catching up on emails or social media before switching your phone off. Oh, and a cocktail or two. Just don’t get too relaxed — you still need to make it on to the plane!

The Virgin Atlantic Clubhouse London Heathrow
The Virgin Atlantic Clubhouse London Heathrow. (Photo by Nicky Kelvin/The Points Guy)

If the lounge is truly amazing, is there such a thing as arriving too early at an airport in order to maximise lounge time? Priority Pass lounges usually only allow a maximum stay of three hours. I’ve visited dozens of Priority Pass lounges around the world and I can’t really think of any I’d want to spend more than three hours in anyway.

Many full-service airlines at their hubs allow all-day check in, meaning you can spend all day in the lounge if you really want to (some connecting passengers are forced to because of awkward layovers).

In general, Heathrow recommends getting to the airport three hours before the scheduled departure time for long-haul flights and those with El Al. For U.K. and European flights, LHR recommends arriving two hours before the scheduled departure time. Of course, if you have lounge access, you may want to spend more time at the airport.

Featured image by Nick Morrish/British Airways

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