Airport urges passengers not to show up 5 hours early because it's causing overcrowding

Travelers seen arriving at the Stansted Airport.
Travelers at Stansted Airport.Dominika Zarzycka/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images
  • Some passengers at Stansted Airport are arriving five hours before their flights, the airport said.

  • It's too early and it's causing overcrowding, the airport told the BBC.

  • Airports worldwide have suffered from overcrowding amid this summer's travel chaos.

Stansted Airport said some passengers are arriving five hours before their flights, apparently fearing long lines amid the summer travel chaos.

It's causing overcrowding, the airport told the BBC Thursday, and has prompted its COO to urge passengers not to turn up so early.

"Three hours before the flight is our advice and that's what we're encouraging people to do," COO Nick Millar told the BBC. "What we can do is reassure the traveling public that when they arrive at that time, they will go through our processes and get to their gate and get on the plane without concerns."

Airports have been criticized by airlines and aviation unions for failing to adequately prepare for a summer ramp-up in travel. Thousands of aviation workers were laid off during the pandemic, resulting in ongoing staff shortages that are causing delays, cancellations, and issues with baggage-handling.

Amsterdam Schiphol Airport, one of Europe's busiest, has introduced a four-hour rule, urging passengers not to arrive earlier than four hours before their flight after experiencing queues of 90 minutes or longer at check-in.

Airport executives have suggested that passengers are adding to the problem by being inadequately prepared to pass through security and passport control.

In July, John Holland-Kaye, Heathrow Airport CEO, told the UK radio station Leading Britain's Conversation that passengers were packing more liquids in their bag than they normally would. "A lot of people are put off from checking in all of their makeup, for example, because they are worried about whether their bag will make the journey with them," he said.

Mr Millar told the BBC Thursday: "We ask people to look at the websites and listen to their airlines so they are prepared when they come to the terminal building. Then when they go through, they go through seamlessly."

Airport executives say they're working to recruit more staff to mitigate shortages. Meanwhile, some, including Heathrow Airport, have asked airlines to limit flights after capping daily passenger numbers.

Stansted was the UK's second-busiest airport by passenger numbers in 2021 and it's expecting to handle 2.6 million travelers in August. This volume would put its capacity at 90% of the pre-pandemic level for that month.

More than 2.4 million passengers passed through Stansted Airport in July, according to a passenger update published Thursday. The airport said 99% of passengers cleared security within 15 minutes that month. It's recruited 300 security officers since January 2022.

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