How early should we arrive at JFK for a flight to Barbados?
April 1, 2013 7:00 AM   Subscribe

How early should two people who will not check baggage arrive at JFK airport for an 8:00 AM flight to Barbados (BGI)?

A friend and I will land at JFK in the evening and will spend our 11-hour layover at a hotel that's four miles away from the airport. Our next flight (to BGI) leaves at 8:00 AM.

We'll travel to the airport with the hotel shuttle, which should drop us off at our departure terminal. We're flying American Airlines.

Since it's a layover, the airline will have our luggage. We'll just have our carry-ons.

We're travelling on one American and one European passport.

How early should we arrive at the airport?
posted by neushoorn to Travel & Transportation around New York, NY (11 answers total)
neushoorn: "Since it's a layover, the airline will have our luggage. We'll just have our carry-ons."

Did you confirm this with the airline? Even if it's the same airline for both flights, they might make you pick up your bags and re-check them in (for security purposes?) or whatever.

And for international flights you're supposed to be there 3hrs before take off, but I have never had a problem arriving 2hrs before, especially if I can check in online beforehand.
posted by Grither at 7:31 AM on April 1, 2013 [1 favorite]

Best answer: American suggests that you arrive two hours before all international flights on their website. Yours is actually a special case because you are already checked in and cleared the night before, so if you are a live on the edge kind of person you could probably make the flight as late as 45 minutes before take-off. I'd advise against taking a chance on last-minute arrival because 8am at JFK can mean very long lines to get past TSA, although the average is probably about 20 minutes. I've actually made a flight at JFK where my cab pulled up to the door with 35 minutes until we took off, but that involved jogging and a lot of good luck. Personally, I'd be comfortable with an hour before take-off. My wife would insist on two hours. Given that you will already have checked-in and that they will have your bags, it really should be smooth. If they can't give you boarding passes when you check-in for your first flights, you can get them printed the night before at JFK before you go to your hotel. You want to have boarding passes in hand so that you can proceed directly to the TSA screening when you arrive in the morning.
posted by Lame_username at 8:09 AM on April 1, 2013

I do 2 hours, no matter what. I fly out of Hartsfield and I need every minute of those two hours for the 3 mile hike once I'm at the airport.

8AM at JFK, especially on a weekday, may mean a very long line at security, you just never know.

How much stress can you handle?

My philosphy on this is that with 2 hours, I glide through security, have time to get coffee, a newspaper and some breakfast and I can lounge at the gate with my Kindle. Also, I have a few minutes to fluff my hair and use the ladies room, should I need to.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 8:37 AM on April 1, 2013 [2 favorites]

I've never actually flown out of JFK, but it seems like I pick people up from the place all the time.

Be warned that the area surrounding the airport is notoriously traffic-clogged, and that JFK is the most unnecessarily huge and complicated airport that I've ever seen. Your shuttle bus could very easily spend half an hour just dropping people off at the airport's 7 terminals. ATL looks like a beacon of sanity and efficiency by comparison.

My general rule of thumb with airports is "leave extra time," except for JFK, where it's "leave lots of extra time."
posted by schmod at 8:38 AM on April 1, 2013 [2 favorites]

Best answer: So the thing in your favor is that JFK is mostly a European/South American gateway for AA, that means nearly all of the flights leave in the afternoon/evening - either going to Europe or sending people coming in off of European flights to their final destinations around the US. The early AM flights basically consist of a token few flights to their Hubs in Miami and Chicago, a flight to LAX and SFO, and their Caribbean destinations. So usually security isn't too bad early morning. Personally I'd aim to get there at 6:30 and be content with not stepping in the doors until 6:45 - especially if I have boarding passes and nothing to check.

Most of their domestic flights are out of LGA.
posted by JPD at 9:08 AM on April 1, 2013

I'd plan to be there* at 6:00 AM, since you're supposed to check in two hours before an international flight. It might be the case that, since this is a "layover", you're technically already checked in. But there are FAA standards for this sort of thing and I would hate to miss the flight based on a technicality (i.e. they can't let you board because you were technically checked in but not actually present, or some other ridiculousness).

*per schmod, to clarify: BE ACTUALLY AT YOUR TERMINAL at 6, not leave the hotel at 6.
posted by Sara C. at 9:35 AM on April 1, 2013

Best answer: There is no such thing as a legal requirement for you to be checked in at a certain time. Airlines might close the window at some point, but that's just an argument for checking in the night before.

From experience I will tell you there will be no one in the terminal at 6 AM.
posted by JPD at 9:47 AM on April 1, 2013

Best answer: I'd try to get there 1.5 hours before your flight - ie, leave your hotel via hotel shuttle at 6. At that time of morning, there should not be any crazy lines at the AA terminal at security. Once you get through security, there is a restaurant called Bobby Van's Steakhouse to the right, kind of diagonally across from the Hudson News, that does a pretty decent breakfast.
posted by bedhead at 9:55 AM on April 1, 2013

I've missed a flight due to blowing a check-in window by five minutes. If OP actually speaks to an AA rep who confirms that they're already checked in and DO NOT need to be at the airport two hours early, great! If they can't get a crystal-clear confirmation on that, I wouldn't risk it.

I've been in JFK plenty of times at 6:00 AM. The terminal will definitely be open. Not all of the shops will be open, but there will be a Starbucks or Dunkin Donuts and potentially some other breakfast oriented things available. What do you think all the other people who aren't on long layovers are going to do, just kinda sorta not bother to show for their 8:00 AM flight?
posted by Sara C. at 9:56 AM on April 1, 2013 [1 favorite]

I would just get to JFK at 6. Weekday early mornings can be busy with business travelers.
posted by J. Wilson at 11:39 AM on April 1, 2013

Response by poster: Thanks, everyone. My travel companion and I have agreed that we'll aim for 6:00, knowing that we have a bit of wiggle room if it turns out to be 6:15 or 6:30. I also plan to grab an AA rep when we land and get their input.
posted by neushoorn at 1:42 AM on May 17, 2013

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