Airport Security Checks before flying to the US from Europe (how much time you will need)

Are you about to fly from Europe to the United States of America for the first time? Congratulations! In the past months travelling to the States has been a bit more difficult and irritating, just speaking of the Laptop and Camera ban, and of course, the travel bans for people from specific countries. Which is so ridiculous… As I often fly via Frankfurt Airport I have often heard the public announcements, that people travelling to the US should proceed immediately to their gates, due to increased security measures. But how long does this process actually take? From arriving at the airport, through passport control, another security scanning until you will finally reach your departure gate to the US? I was curious, and as I couldn’t find Info regarding how long the Airport Security Checks before flying to the US from Europe actually take, I did these timestamps of my own process.
Please note, that this has been my very own experience at Frankfurt Airport, Terminal 1. If you are flying from another Airport like London Heathrow, Amsterdam Schipol or Paris Charles de Gaulle, it might take significantly more or less time. This should just be an “approximate” timetable of the process.

Timeline of my Airport Security Checks before flying to the US from Europe

8:15 am my first plane of the day arrives at Frankfurt Airport. As we had an apron parking space, I had to take the Bus to the Terminal, arriving somewhere near Gate A5 at Terminal 1

8:35 am As you never exactly know how good the Food on the plane will be, I’m buying some last German pretzels (Laugenbrezel) to keep me calm during the flight – I can recommend the Bakery near Gate A12 in Terminal 1 in Frankfurt, also, the smell of freshly baked goods around there is amazing in the morning

8:45 am As my departure Gate is Z60 I immediately follow the signs and proceed to the Z Gates on a higher level than the A Gates. If you feel lost, there is a document (the picture will open in a new tab) of the location of the Gates in Frankfurt. Luckily, the Passport Control for the Z Gates is right next to the Bakery (near Gate A12 in Terminal 1), still on the ground level.
To my surprise, the passport control was not busy! (I took the picture of the queue at the Z Gates Passport Control already another day) There are several lines to check your boarding pass, they also asked me if I have a valid ESTA/Visa for the US, which I agreed to, and was able to proceed to the actual passport control. Waiting there took most of my time, but still less than 15 minutes. If everything is fine you will have to take the escalator right behind the control, and you’re already on the right upper Level of Frankfurt Airport.

9:00 am It gets busier and busier, with people queueing at Information desks as many flights have been delayed or cancelled, due to snow. Luckily, mine looked fine (back then)

9:05 am Upon arriving at the Z Gates there is another boarding pass control, they also check the name on the boarding pass with the name in your passport, and you’re fine to proceed. And, this has been the final check before actually boarding the plane! No further screening or any check if you have the right Visa. Nice! The boarding time of my flight was 9:20 am, so I arrived right on time. Keep in mind that boarding for big planes, especially the A380, take longer than they would for a smaller plane; simply as more people need to pass the boarding gate. Hence, arriving right on time should always be good enough.
In total, they just checked my boarding pass and passport, about two times each.

If you are flying right out of Frankfurt Airport, and want to drop off luggage, I’d recommend being there 2 hours ahead, at least, if Frankfurt is already your second Airport, about 1 hour to transfer should be fine, but you might be a bit stressed if the lines at Passport Control are longer than when I took my flight to the US / Los Angeles. 1,5 hours should be about fine if you want it more relaxed. Enjoy your flight!

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