How Early to Arrive at Malaga Airport (Domestic & International Flights)

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Malaga Airport, known officially as Málaga–Costa del Sol Airport, is the fourth busiest airport in Spain and primarily serves the famous Costa del Sol region.

This airport is a gateway for millions of tourists seeking the sun-kissed beaches, historic sites, and rich culture of Southern Spain and consists of three terminals. However, Terminal 1 is closed to the public, and instead, all passengers will fly from either Terminal 2 or Terminal 3.

Given this, I recommend arriving at Malaga Airport at least 2 hours before a flight within the EU (elsewhere in Spain, Germany, Italy etc.) and a minimum of 3 hours before a flight outside of the EU (United Kingdom, United States, Canada etc.).

However, personal circumstances might necessitate an even earlier arrival. Considerations include travelling with young children, transportation means to the airport, and the time of your flight.

What Time Should You Arrive at Malaga Airport?

We typically recommend arriving at Malaga Airport at least two hours before departure for flights within the EU and at least three hours before departure for flights outside of the EU. This should provide you with enough time to;

  • Check-in for your flight
  • Drop your luggage
  • Navigate through security
  • Reach your gate well in time for boarding

In our opinion, it’s always better to arrive at the airport a little early and have some extra time browsing the stores or grabbing a bite to eat rather than arriving late, feeling rushed and running the risk of missing your flight.

Why Do You Need to Arrive Earlier For Flights Outside The EU?

I recommend arriving at Malaga Airport one hour earlier if you’re travelling outside of the EU as additional visa, entry requirements, immigration control and customs may be required.

If you’re travelling long-haul, then these larger aircraft with more passengers and subsequently have a longer boarding period which starts earlier to allow for all passengers to board the aircraft with enough time prior to the scheduled departure time.

How Are You Travelling to Malaga Airport?

One of the first things to consider when deciding how early to arrive at Malaga Airport is how you are getting to the airport. The traffic conditions not just around the airport but across the city can be notoriously bad.

As such it can easily take in excess of one hour to travel from Malaga City Centre to Malaga Airport in a car or longer if you’re coming via public transport.

Keep in mind that if you check Google Maps on a Sunday at 1pm, then the travel time may be very different to the reality you face if you’re actually trying to complete the journey at 7am on a Monday.

If you’re returning a rental car at the airport then I recommend arriving at the airport at least 30 minutes earlier as you may be required to wait in line and complete some paperwork before returning your vehicle.

In addition to this you’ll also then need to walk from the rental car drop-off location over to the terminal – all of which increases the amount of time you’ll need to get to the airport.

The Time of Year

The time of year in which you’re travelling can have a significant impact on how busy Malaga Airport is and subsequently how long you may have to wait to park your car, check in, drop your bags and get through security.

School holidays, Christmas and New Year can lead to some of the busiest travel days of the year, especially on weekends. As such if you’re travelling during one of these peak times, then you may want to look at arriving at the airport at least one hour earlier.

Checking in For Your Flight

The majority of airlines now allow you to check in for your flight using either the mobile application or web application up to 24 hours before departure.

Checking in using this service should provide you with a digital boarding pass and therefore only require you to use the bag drop service (if applicable).

However, if you’re unable to check in for your flight before arriving at the airport then you’ll want to make sure you arrive at the airport with enough time to do so.

The majority of airlines provide both self-service check-in kiosks and check-in counters at Malaga Airport which allow you to complete the check-in process quickly and easily.

However, keep in mind that airlines will close the check-in gates before the flight departs (exact times vary, however, it’s usually around 45 minutes – check with your airline).

If you have not checked in before the designated time then you will be denied boarding – even if you’re at the departure gate on time for the flight itself.

Dropping Checked Bags

Much like checking in for your flight, another factor you’ll want to consider when determining what time you should arrive at Malaga Airport is whether or not you’ll need to check your luggage.

The bag drop will close roughly one hour prior to the flight’s departure (exact times vary depending on the airline and destination so be sure to check your flight information) so you’ll want to make sure you arrive at Malaga Airport early enough to accommodate for this where applicable.

If you do not have any checked bags then once you have your boarding pass (either digital from checking in online or physical from checking in at the airport) you’ll be able to head straight through to security.

Which Malaga Airport Terminal Do You Need?

There are currently three terminals at Malaga Airport. However, Terminal 1 is closed to the public, and therefore only Terminal 2 and Terminal 3 serve passengers.

While airlines do occasionally change the terminal from which they fly the following typically applies;

Terminal 2

  • Easyjet
  • Ryanair

Terminal 3

  • Aer Lingus
  • Air Berlín
  • Air Europa
  • Air Nostrum
  • Air Transat
  • Alitalia
  • Akefly
  • Arkia Isarelí Airlines
  • BA CityFlyer
  • Blu Air
  • British Airways
  • Brussels Airlines
  • Bulgaria Air
  • Easyjet
  • Easyjet Switzerland
  • El Al- Israel Airlines
  • Estonian Air
  • Europe Airpost
  • Evelop
  • Finnair
  • Flybe
  • Germanwings
  • Iberia
  • Jetairfly
  • LOT-Polskie Linie Lotnicze
  • Lufthansa
  • Luxair
  • Niki Luftfahrt
  • Norwegian Air Shuttle
  • Royal Air Maroc
  • Ryanair
  • SAS Scandinavian Airlines
  • SmartWings
  • Swiss International Air Lines
  • TAP Portugal
  • Thomson Airways
  • Transaero
  • Travel Service
  • Turkish Airlines
  • Vueling
  • Wizzair


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