How Many Hours Before My Flight Should I Be at the Airport?

PHOTO BY Jerome Ascano

( Holidays in the Philippines mean long lines at airports as Filipinos return home or go on vacation, bringing about added stress and worry to pandemic travel. Maybe your parents made points arriving at the airport a day before your flight. It's obviously a joke, but airport runs are taxing on the day itself and nothing assures hassle-free flights quite like ample preparation and strict adherence to safety protocols.

Don't let new normal travel rules on top of the holiday rush get the best of you.

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Here are tips to beat the holiday travel rush:

Be there early

Passengers must be at the airport at least three hours before departure for domestic flights and four hours for international flights. Cebu Pacific flights depart from either Terminal 3 or 4 of the Ninoy Aquino International Airport. Philippine Airlines international flights depart from Terminal 1 or 2, while all domestic flights depart from and arrive at Terminal 2.


Check your itinerary or ticket for your terminal for smooth drop-off.

Airports will be full during holidays, so arm yourself with extra preparation and patience.
PHOTO BY Jerome Ascano

Complete documents

Passport? Check. Need a visa? Be sure you have it. At least one valid ID? Got it.

It goes without saying that your vaccination card is now the next most important travel document after your passport. Protocols are subject to change depending on the COVID-19 situation, but double-check before your flight for a smooth experience.

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Still, prepare printed and digital copies of your VaxCert and even the vaccination card issued by your local government unit as immigration officers will check this before you leave the Philippines and once you arrive in your destination country.

Arriving passengers in the Philippines must fill out the new electronic or eArrival Card within 72 hours prior to departure from country of origin. Save a printed or digital copy of the QR code at the end of the form as you need to present this upon arrival in the Philippines.

Also read: Here's How to Get the New VaxCertPH This February

Online check-in

Skip the long queues at the airport by checking in via the Cebu Pacific mobile app or on the website under the "Manage Booking" section.

Both online options are available from seven up to one hour before scheduled time of departure for domestic flights.

For international flights, the only check-in options will be available up to four hours before scheduled departure.


Passengers flying via Philippine Airlines can check in 24 hours to 1 hour and 15 minutes prior to their international flight's departure time or 24 hours to 1 hour prior to their departure time for domestic flights.

If you're traveling with a group, ensure that all members are checked in and that all check-in baggage are dropped off at the right counters.

Go to your gate

Check-in counters close one hour before scheduled time of departure to ensure there is ample time for all necessary pre-flight procedures.

Passengers are encouraged to proceed to their respective boarding gates as soon as possible after check-in. Boarding commences 45 minutes before the scheduled departure time.

Gate number and flight schedules can be found on your ticket.

Don't forget your luggage

To minimize contact and risk of spreading COVID-19, Cebu Pacific implemented contactless flight procedures for passengers.

Guests flying out of the following select destinations are reminded to self-tag their check-in luggage prior to proceeding to counters for bag drops:

  • Manila
  • Davao
  • General Santos
  • Bohol
  • Iloilo
  • Zamboanga

Under Philippine Airlines, passengers with check-in baggage must be at the Online Check-in Bag Drop Counter for documents verification and acceptance of check-in baggage no later than 45 minutes before departure time.

No check-in baggage? Be at the gate no less than 15 minutes before departure time to undergo documents check.

Passengers headed for international destinations must be at the Online Check In Bag Drop counter no later than 1 hour before the time of departure for documents verification, whether or not they have check-in baggage.

Hand carry bags and exemptions

Only one carry-on bag may be brought inside planes for a more convenient flight experience. The carry-on bag must not exceed 7 kilograms in weight and must fit in the overhead bins or under the seat for both Cebu Pacific and Philippine Airlines flights.

Cebu Pacific recently expanded the list of allowed items that may be carried on top of the single-hand carry bag:

  • Gadgets or food items that cannot be checked-in
  • Items purchased inside the airport (requires proof of receipt)
  • Assistive or medical items such as walking canes, foldable walkers
  • Baby food and necessities for adult passengers traveling with infants
  • A small bag that can fit under the seat

Philippine Airlines also allows two of the following items to be carried on board:

  • Laptop
  • Small camera or binoculars
  • Overcoat, wrap, or blanket
  • Infant carrying case or infant food
  • Crutches, walking stick, or prosthetic device
  • A reasonable amount of reading materials
  • Duty Free bag

Checked baggage policy

Cebu Pacific has a per-piece baggage policy which applies to all passengers with
checked baggage. Passengers have the option to purchase either a 20kg or a 32kg capacity, both equivalent to only one (1) piece of check-in luggage.

You can choose to buy both, allowing passengers to purchase a maximum of 64 kg worth of bags from the previous 40 kg limit.


Any excess in size, weight, and pieces are subject to Oversized Baggage Fee, Excess Baggage Fee and/or Extra Bag Fee, respectively.

Philippine Airlines has a prepaid check-in baggage pricing matrix in case you're planning to check in multiple bags or bring back extra weight from your trip.

For more information on pandemic travel guidelines and flight guidelines, check out the Cebu Pacific website and the Philippine Airlines website.

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