How Early Should You Get to the Airport?

Pensacola International Airport is considered a small hub airport by the standards and criteria of the FAA.  However, over the last several years, apart from 2020 and COVID-19, Pensacola’s airport has been more than just a small hub. Prior to COVID-19 and the setback associated, Pensacola International Airport saw exponential growth. In 2018 and 2019, our airport grew at a rate of 16 and 17% each year, respectively. By February 2020, we were exceeding the previous year’s numbers by 11% and we had not started the peak season yet. In a typical year, airports across the country plan for a 2-3% growth. So, while we are a small hub airport, Pensacola International Airport is growing, and we are done yet!

How does this growth information relate to arriving early at the airport?

Excellent question and one we hope to answer for you. Pensacola International Airport and our airline partners recommend arriving 3 hours before your scheduled departure. While many may think that amount of time is excessive, it is wise to follow the recommendation, especially if it’s a high traffic time. No two trips through Pensacola will be the same. Each day and hour are different depending on the airlines schedule and the season. Some factors to consider when planning your arrival time are:

Pensacola International Airport is currently seeing a huge increase in passengers and the wait lines at ticketing and TSA can get quite long and take several minutes more than usual. At the end of May 2021, United will add four new destinations to flight offerings. On June 10, PNS will welcome Spirit Airlines to the PNS team and they will offer seven nonstop destinations. In 2019, PNS had a total of 22 destinations. This coming summer of 2021, Pensacola International Airport will have 30 destinations offered by our 8 airlines. The exponential increase in passengers and flights will have an affect on the wait times for various locations, but particularly the ticketing area.

Bottom line: Get here early. Don’t wait and think that you’ll be able to speed through the queue lines. Better to be here early and wait than miss your flight altogether.

Travel Tips from TSA

Travelers should follow these six tips for getting through the TSA checkpoint as quickly and efficiently as possible. 

Tip 1: Wear a face mask. You must. Face masks must be worn on all public conveyances and at stations, ports, or similar transportation hubs regardless of state and local laws.  

Tip 2: Leave prohibited items at home. To reduce the likelihood of physical contact with TSA officers at the checkpoint, verify if items are prohibited by using the “What Can I Bring?” page on 

Tip 3: Prepare for the security checkpoint. Have a valid ID card readily available. Follow the liquids rule of 3.4 ounces or less, with the exception of hand sanitizer, which has a temporary 12-ounce limit in carry-on baggage. 

Tip 4: No guns at checkpoints ever. Airline passengers can fly with firearms only in checked baggage. All firearms must be properly packed and declared at check-in. Contact your airline for additional guidance.  And know what the laws are on both sides of your trip. 

Tip 5: Help is always available. Get live assistance by tweeting your questions and comments to @AskTSA or via Facebook Messenger, weekdays from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. EST and weekends/holidays from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. EST. You can also call the TSA Contact Center at 866-289-9673. 

Tip 6: Enroll now in TSA PreCheck®. “Travel with Ease” by enrolling in TSA PreCheck and avoid removing shoes, belts, liquids, food, laptops and light jackets. Most new enrollees receive a known traveler number within five days, and membership lasts for five years. 

TSA is committed to supporting a healthy and secure environment for our employees, airport personnel and airline passengers. For additional information about TSA procedures during COVID-19 as part of our “Stay Healthy. Stay Secure” campaign, visit

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