How to prepare for congestion at airports
Pent-up travel demand and global labour shortages are causing congestion at many European airports. At some airports, there have been queues of up to several hours, for example at the security check. Preparation in advance and patience are your best travel companions when you are going on a flight.
A smooth travel experience is the sum of many factors. In addition to airline services, your travel path is influenced by many other air traffic operators, such as airports and ground service providers. During the pandemic, several operators had to lay off their staff, and they have not been able to recruit and train the staff at the same pace as the recovery of air travel. Several air traffic operators are currently suffering from a labour shortage, which also shows up as congestion at airports. For example, there is a shortage of personnel in security controls in various parts of the world.
Congestions at airports cause delays to flights, and these can be visible to customers in many ways. When the flight arrives at the airport, either a passenger bridge or stair trucks are needed so that customers can get off and board the aircraft. If the plane arrives at the airport behind schedule, you may have to wait, because the staff responsible for these functions may be taking care of another flight.
After the previous customers leave the aircraft, we clean the cabin and change the catering items for the new flight. We refuel the aircraft, process the baggage and cargo, and load new baggage on board. If there is a shortage of personnel in the airport's ground services, these operations take longer.
Air traffic control sets each flight a certain time limit when the flight can take off. If your flight is delayed beyond this time limit, for example, due to waiting for customers or delays in loading, you may have to wait for quite a while as the flight needs a new time for take off.
Tips on how to make your trip smoother during the busy travel season
- Check the latest Travel Instructions and requirements on our travel requirements map and find out which travel documents you need.
- Please keep your contact information updated at the Manage booking service. This is how you receive information about possible changes to the flights.
- We always recommend checking in before arriving at the airport, either on our website or through Finnair mobile app. You can check in up to 36 hours before the departure of your flight.
- Pack lighter. If you are travelling with hand luggage only, you do not need to queue at the bag drop point. Always pack the most important things, such as medicines, in hand luggage. See tips for lighter packing here.
- Unfortunately, due to congestion, checked-in bags can be left at airports in different countries. By attaching a name tag to both the outside and the inside of your bag, you will help us to find the bag faster and deliver it to you afterwards.
- Arrive at the airport no later than 2-3 hours before the departure of your flight, as there may be queues both at the service desks and at the security check. Check the airport's website for their recommendations for when to arrive.
- Be prepared to wait in line. An audiobook or music will make the time pass more comfortably, and a small snack and a bottle of water will make the waiting time more comfortable.
We always try to stick to the departure times of the flights, because the customers have onward connections, the crew has certain work time limits, and we also need the planes for the next flights. So, the flight can't wait very long for missing customers. If you miss your flight and have baggage in the hold, we will remove it before the flight departs.
If you miss your flight due to airport congestion, the airline is not obliged to arrange a new flight for you. The customer is always responsible for making it to the flight on time, even if the situation is difficult at the airport. If you have a Finnair Classic or Flex ticket, you can change your travel date before the flight departs – for example, if you estimate that you won't be able to catch the flight due to congestion at the airport.
You can change or rebook your flight online at the Manage booking service. If you have already checked in, the change can only be made through Finnair's customer service, because the check-in must be cancelled first. If you travel with a Light ticket, changes are not possible, so you have to buy yourself a new ticket if you miss your flight.