LivingTravelGetting around the airport

Getting around the airport

In the past, travelers could arrive at the airport a few minutes before departure time, head to the gate, and board their flight. Today, air travel is quite different. Airport security checks, traffic delays, and parking problems mean that passengers should plan to arrive at the airport well before their departure time.

When planning your next trip, remember to take into account the time it takes to get from the check-in counter to your boarding gate and, if you are taking a connecting flight, from one terminal to another. Here are some tips to help you determine how long it will take to get around the airport.

Before you book: Research your options

Check your airport’s website for information on connecting flights, security checks and customs inspections if you are making international connections. You will need this information before booking your flights.

Your airport website will also show you the best ways to move between terminals and find the services you need. It will include an airport map, contact information for all airlines operating from your airport, and a list of available passenger services.

If your airport has more than one terminal, look for transfer information. Large airports often offer shuttle buses, people carriers, or airport trains to help passengers move quickly between terminals. Find out what services your airport offers and print an airport map to use on your day of travel.

Wheelchair users should be aware of lift locations. Again, printing an airport map and looking at the elevator locations will help you find your way more easily.

Ask your airline how long to allow transfers between terminals. You can also ask travelers who have traveled from your airport for advice. Plan a lot of time, particularly during busy vacation periods, to get from one gate or terminal to another.

At the airport: airport security

Travelers must undergo an airport security inspection before proceeding to their boarding gate. At some airports, such as London Heathrow Airport, international travelers connecting to another international flight must undergo a second security screening as part of the flight connecting process. Security check lines can be long, particularly during peak travel times. Allow at least thirty minutes for each security check.

Return home: international flights, passport control and customs

If your travels take you to another country, you will have to go through passport and customs control when you arrive and when you return home. Allow plenty of time for this process, especially during the holiday season and holidays.

Some airports, including Canada’s Toronto Pearson International Airport, require travelers to the United States to clear US Customs in Toronto, not at their destination airport. Some travel agents and airline reservation specialists may not be aware of this requirement and may not allow you enough time to get from one terminal to another and clear customs.

Special situations: pets and service animals

Passenger pets and service animals are welcome at airports, but you will need to plan extra time to tend to their needs before boarding your flight. Your airport will have a pet relief area somewhere on the property, but it could be located far from your departure terminal.

Special situations: wheelchair and golf cart services

Contact your airline or travel agent if you need special services, such as wheelchair or golf cart assistance. Your airline should organize these services for you. It’s best to contact your airline at least 48 hours in advance, but if you’re flying last minute, ask for the services you need when you make your reservation.

Inform your airline or travel agent if you can climb stairs or walk long distances. Depending on your needs, the airline reservation specialist or travel agent will place a special code on your reservation record.

Plan for additional time, in addition to the time you have allotted for airport security, passport control, customs, pets / service animals, and moving between terminals, if you are using wheelchair or golf cart services at the airport. These services require extra time. Your airport has employees or contractors who drive golf carts and assist wheelchair passengers, but they can only assist a certain number of passengers at a time.

Always reconfirm any special arrangements you have made. Please call your airline 48 hours before your departure to make sure your requests have been correctly recorded.

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