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How to avoid airport queues

44% of British travelers find going through security the most stressful part of an airport, whilst 1 in 3 find checking-in the part they dread – suffice it to say, for a nation known for its queuing, we really hate a queue.

But summer holidays are back this year, and we’ve asked our team of in-house seasoned travelers for their top tips on getting through the airport without a hitch – so you can stop worrying about the airport and start planning what you’re going to do when you land.


1.Get to the airport on time

Recently, some passengers have been arriving at the airport five or six hours early, panicking that they’ll get caught in queues and miss their flights. But this can be counterproductive and can actually cause extra delays, by disrupting the flow of passengers going through security.

Experts from ABTA recommend that you should stick to the standard, suggested time frames of arriving for a short-haul flight two hours prior to departure, and a long-haul flight three hours before departure.

The only exception would be if your departure airport or chosen airline offers different advice. For example, some have been recommending that passengers arrive three hours before short-haul flights during peak times. Just check the airport and airline websites the day before you travel for the most up-to-date advice.


2.Check-in online

Checking in online can really save time on arrival at the airport. Online check-in is mandatory for some airlines, like Ryanair, but even for airlines where it’s not, it’s usually an option.

If you’ve already checked in online, you can completely avoid the first check-in queue at the airport, going straight to bag drop or security. You’ll also be able to choose your seats in advance, snagging some extra leg room or a window seat before the other passengers get the chance.

Checking in online usually gives the option to add extra bags or other extras to your booking, for a lower fee than at the airport. Also, make sure your phone or other devices are charged to ensure easy-access through the airport check-points.


3. Prepare for airport security – or book ahead

Following the recent security delays at Australian airports, Qantas CEO Alan Joyce noted that passengers were rusty after a couple of years off from travelling. While it’s certainly not the passengers’ fault that there have been delays, it’s worth refreshing your memory on security procedures so that you can pass through as quickly as possible.

Remember that all liquids and creams (including hand sanitiser) must be in containers of 100ml or less, and able to fit into one transparent plastic bag (that you can get at the airport). Remove laptops and other portable electronics from your hand luggage before you join the queue, and drink any water that you have in bottles that can contain over 100ml.

You’ll likely have to take off your coat and belt before walking through the security screening, as well as some shoes, like boots or high heels. The more you prepare before passing through security, the faster the process will be.

At most UK airports, you can pre-book a fast track service through airport security, or passport control on your way back. At London Stansted, the service starts from £7, and there are similar services available at London Heathrow, London Luton, Manchester, Leeds Bradford, Bristol and many more.


4. Remember that you can get delayed coming home, too

It’s not just the UK transport industry that are struggling to fill staff vacancies, and the increased demand for travel post-pandemic. As your holiday abroad is coming to an end, glance over the gov.uk website, as well as the websites of your departure airport, airline and travel provider and before you fly back home. If delays or cancellations are expected, you’ll be able to find out in good time, and adjust your plans accordingly.


5. Get your documents in order

Even though travel is becoming more straightforward, every country has its own specific entry requirements. Although many destinations are removing the need for passenger locator forms, negative COVID tests and proof of vaccination against COVID-19, a great deal of destinations still require some form-filling.

Check your destination’s current travel restrictions on our live map, and make sure you have all your documents to hand when you arrive at the airport. We recommend printing hard copies of everything, in case you lose WiFi or your phone battery dies just before you get to the front of the queue. It’ll speed up the process for everyone.


6. Invest in travel insurance

It’s never been more important to invest in decent travel insurance, especially a policy that covers travel disruptions. That way, if the worst happens and you miss your flight thanks to delays, or it gets cancelled, you’ll be able to claim back some compensation. Here’s our comprehensive guide to purchasing travel insurance during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Know your rights, too. If your flight is canceled and you’re offered a replacement that doesn’t match what you booked, you’re not obliged to take it.


If you prepare yourself for the airport as much as possible, chances are you’ll have a normal, stress-free experience. If things do take a bit longer than usual, hopefully these tips will help ease the journey. Happy traveling!

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