Airports are quite interesting in terms of when they’re open. Most international or otherwise major airports have flights coming in every hour of every day. So technically, they’re open all the time and therefore don’t have an opening hour. However, many parts of the airport do close once you’ve reached a late enough hour.
So what time does the airport open, exactly? Let’s take a look at the different parts of an airport to see what they’re open and when they’re closed. Keep in mind that most major airports are privately owned and therefore can run on their own hours. What might be true for one airport could be different for another.
For planes coming in particularly, there is no closed hour at the airport. To sustain a fluent and constant flow of traffic, airports have to remain open at all hours for incoming planes to land. This means that gates need to remain open, staff need to be on call, and pilots can find themselves flying overnight quite often.
Many airports also have flights departing deep into the night, though some close departures after a certain hour. There doesn’t seem to be a specific hour of the day where the airport is fully and officially closed, but there are moments where traffic is significantly lower.
The Late Shift
Once you hit a certain point in the night, most of the shops will close down for the evening only to reopen early in the morning. For many airports, shops close around midnight or 1 am, reopening early at 4, 5, or 6 am. This late period is where the airport is closest to being “closed.” There’s still activity, there’re still people, but the amount of activity is significantly less.
Some airports are even able to close down certain wings once they reach a certain hour of the night. You may find, if you’re stuck waiting during a layover or just arrived from a red-eye flight, that you’re limited as to where you can go. Typically, if the airport doesn’t have any flight landing or departing from a certain wing for a few hours, they’ll shut it down and clean it up while no one is there.
When to Arrive For an Early Flight?
So, as there is no point at which the airport is closed, you could find yourself with some pretty early flights out. What time should one arrive for such early flights? Treat it similarly to a normal arrival time for a flight – give yourself a couple of hours to get to the airport, get through security, and get settled at your gate. While there won’t be as many passengers to deal with, there will be fewer staff working during the early shifts.
When Does the Gate Open?
Typically, the gates will open about an hour before your flight takes off. If there are no flights before yours, your gate will likely be available and accessible. If the wing was shut down during the off hours, it will likely be opened back up about an hour or so before the first flight of the day.