How Long Does Baggage Claim Take? A Detailed Look

Waiting at the baggage claim after a long flight can feel like an eternity. If you’re short on time, here’s a quick answer to your question: Baggage claim takes 20-40 minutes on average after landing depending on the airport size and how many bags need to be unloaded.

But the time can vary widely based on many factors.

In this comprehensive guide, we’ll look at all the variables that impact baggage claim wait times. You’ll learn airport-specific averages, tips for estimating your wait, and strategies for getting your bags quickly.

Average Baggage Claim Times by Airport Size

Large International Airports: 25-45 Minutes

When traveling through large international airports, such as JFK in New York or Heathrow in London, passengers should expect baggage claim times between 25 to 45 minutes. These airports handle a high volume of flights and passengers, resulting in longer wait times.

However, it’s important to note that the actual wait time can vary depending on factors such as the time of day, the number of arriving flights, and the efficiency of the airport’s baggage handling system.

In some cases, passengers may be pleasantly surprised to find their bags arriving sooner than expected.

Medium & Regional Airports: 15-35 Minutes

Medium and regional airports, like Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport or Manchester Airport, typically have shorter baggage claim times compared to large international airports. Passengers can expect wait times between 15 to 35 minutes.

These airports serve a moderate number of flights and passengers, allowing for a more streamlined baggage retrieval process. However, it’s always a good idea to plan for potential delays or longer wait times during peak travel periods.

Small Local Airports: 5-20 Minutes

For travelers using small local airports, such as Burbank Bob Hope Airport or Portsmouth International Airport, baggage claim times are generally quick and efficient. Passengers can typically retrieve their luggage within 5 to 20 minutes.

These airports handle a smaller number of flights and passengers, resulting in shorter wait times. It’s worth mentioning that the size of the airport also affects the walking distance between the arrival gate and the baggage claim area, which can contribute to the overall time it takes to collect your bags.

It’s important to keep in mind that these average baggage claim times are just estimates and can vary depending on various factors. It’s always a good idea to check the official website of the airport you are traveling to or from for real-time updates on baggage claim wait times.

Additionally, factors such as flight delays, weather conditions, and airline policies can also impact the overall time it takes to retrieve your luggage. Nonetheless, knowing the average baggage claim times based on airport size can help you plan your travel more effectively and minimize any potential inconveniences.

4 Factors That Impact Your Wait Time

Airport Size

The size of the airport you are traveling through can greatly impact your baggage claim wait time. Larger airports with multiple terminals and a higher number of flights are likely to have longer wait times compared to smaller regional airports.

This is because larger airports handle a larger volume of passengers and have more baggage to process. For example, according to a study conducted by Airport Technology, in 2019, Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport in the United States was the busiest airport in the world, handling over 110 million passengers.

It’s safe to say that baggage claim at such a bustling airport can take some time.

Number of Passengers on Your Flight

The number of passengers on your flight can also impact your baggage claim wait time. If you are on a flight with a high number of passengers, it is likely that many bags will need to be unloaded and sorted, which can take longer.

On the other hand, if you are on a less crowded flight, the baggage claim process may be quicker. So, if you’re looking to minimize your wait time, consider booking flights during off-peak travel periods or choosing less popular routes.

Time of Day

The time of day when you arrive at the airport can also affect your baggage claim wait time. During peak travel hours, such as early morning or late evening, airports are typically more crowded, leading to longer wait times.

However, if you arrive during off-peak hours, you may experience shorter wait times as there are fewer flights arriving and fewer passengers to compete with for baggage retrieval.

Customs & Immigration

If you are traveling internationally, the process of going through customs and immigration can add to your baggage claim wait time. After retrieving your bags, you may need to proceed through immigration checkpoints, where your passport and travel documents will be checked.

This process can take varying amounts of time depending on the efficiency of the immigration officers and the number of passengers in line. Additionally, if you have items to declare or if your bags require additional screening, this can further prolong your wait time.

It is important to budget extra time for these procedures to ensure a smooth travel experience.

By considering these four factors – airport size, number of passengers on your flight, time of day, and customs & immigration procedures – you can get a better understanding of how long your baggage claim wait time might be.

Remember to plan accordingly and be patient, as these factors are often beyond your control. Safe travels!

Tips for Estimating Your Wait Time

Check Airport Charts for Average Times

One of the best ways to estimate your baggage claim wait time is by checking airport charts for average times. Many airports provide this information on their websites or display it in the baggage claim area.

These charts can give you an idea of how long it typically takes for bags to arrive at the carousel after a flight. Keep in mind that these times are averages and can vary depending on factors such as flight volume and airport efficiency.

For example, a study conducted by the Airport Council International found that the average baggage claim time at major U.S. airports is around 8 minutes. However, at smaller regional airports, the average wait time can be as low as 3 minutes.

It’s always a good idea to check the specific airport you’ll be flying into for accurate and up-to-date information.

Pro tip: If you want to save time, consider using an airline that offers expedited baggage delivery services. Some airlines provide options for passengers to have their bags delivered directly to their hotel or residence, bypassing the traditional baggage claim process altogether.

Consider Your Flight Size & Time of Arrival

The size of your flight and the time of your arrival can also impact your baggage claim wait time. Larger flights with more passengers typically have more bags to unload, which can result in longer wait times at baggage claim.

Similarly, if you arrive during a peak travel period when multiple flights are landing around the same time, it may take longer for your bags to reach the carousel.

For example, during holiday seasons or busy travel weekends, you’re more likely to experience longer wait times at baggage claim due to increased passenger traffic. On the other hand, if you’re traveling during off-peak hours or on less busy travel days, you might have a shorter wait time.

Pro tip: If you’re concerned about long wait times, try to book your flights during less busy times or opt for smaller regional airports, where wait times tend to be shorter.

Add Time for International Arrivals

When it comes to international arrivals, it’s important to factor in additional time for baggage claim. The process of clearing customs and immigration can add extra time to your overall wait time. Depending on the airport and the number of international flights arriving simultaneously, it can take anywhere from 30 minutes to over an hour to complete these procedures.

It’s worth noting that some airports have implemented automated customs and immigration clearance systems, which can help expedite the process. For example, the Global Entry program in the United States allows pre-approved travelers to use automated kiosks to complete the necessary paperwork, reducing wait times.

Pro tip: If you’re traveling internationally and want to minimize your wait time at baggage claim, consider applying for programs such as Global Entry or using airports with efficient customs and immigration procedures.

Getting Your Bags Quickly: 5 Pro Tips

Check-In Early for First Bags Out

One of the best ways to ensure a quick baggage claim experience is to check-in early. Airlines generally prioritize loading luggage onto the plane based on check-in time. So, if you arrive at the airport early and check-in your bags promptly, there is a higher chance that your bags will be among the first to be unloaded.

This can significantly reduce the time you have to spend waiting at the baggage claim area.

Sit Near the Front of the Plane

If you want to minimize the time it takes to retrieve your checked bags, consider selecting a seat near the front of the plane. Baggage is typically loaded onto the aircraft from the front to the back.

As a result, bags that are loaded closer to the front of the plane are usually among the first to be unloaded at the destination airport. By choosing a seat near the front, you increase the likelihood of your bags being within the first few to come out on the carousel.

Take Only Carry-On Bags

If you want to avoid the hassle of waiting at baggage claim altogether, consider traveling with only carry-on bags. By eliminating the need to check your bags, you can save valuable time and bypass the entire baggage claim process.

Not only will you be able to disembark the plane and exit the airport more quickly, but you also won’t have to worry about the possibility of your bags getting lost or delayed during transit.

Use Baggage Tracking Apps

Baggage tracking apps can be incredibly helpful in ensuring that you stay informed about the whereabouts of your checked bags. These apps allow you to track your bags in real-time and receive updates on their location.

By using these apps, you can quickly identify if your bags have been unloaded and are on their way to the baggage claim area. Some popular baggage tracking apps include “Trakdot” and “My Baggage.”

Head Straight to Baggage Claim

Once you have disembarked the plane and made your way through the airport, head straight to the baggage claim area. This will give you a head start in finding a good spot near the carousel and potentially being one of the first to retrieve your bags.

Avoid making unnecessary stops or detours, as every minute counts when it comes to getting your bags quickly.

By following these pro tips, you can significantly reduce the time it takes to retrieve your bags at the baggage claim area. Remember to check-in early, choose a seat near the front of the plane, consider traveling with only carry-on bags, use baggage tracking apps, and head straight to the baggage claim area.

With these strategies in place, your baggage claim experience will be smooth and efficient.


Baggage claim times can vary widely based on the airport and your flight details. By using the averages, estimation tips, and speed-up strategies in this guide, you’ll know what to expect and be able to breeze through baggage claim quickly. Safe travels!

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