How Long Can You Stay At The Airport: Legal Limits?

Some people like to arrive at the airport long before their flight leaves. If you like having plenty of buffer time before your flight or have a long layover, what’s the longest you can stay at the airport? 

You can stay at the airport for as long as you need to unless it closes at night or the airport’s regulations prohibit it. You’ll need a valid ticket to stay in the airside terminals, but anyone can stay in the airport before going through security. 

This article will discuss how long you can stay at the airport and some other common questions about long stays there. Let’s dive right in! 

How Long Can You Stay at the Airport?

How long you can stay at the airport depends on which section you’re in. Airports are divided into 2 sections: 

  • The airside terminals
  • The landside terminals 

I’ll discuss these in more detail below and will explain how long you can stay in each: 

Airside Terminals

Airside terminals refer to the lounges after passengers have gone through security, and immigration, in the case of international flights. You’ll need a valid ticket and passport to access these terminals. 

If you have a layover in an airside terminal, no one usually monitors how long you’ve been there unless the airport closes at night. If you’re at a major hub airport, there’s a good chance that the airport doesn’t close at night, and you can stay there as long as you like. 

For a very long layover in an airside terminal, it’s a good idea to check if there are shower facilities, sleeping pods, or layover hotels to make your stay more comfortable. 

Landside Terminals

Landside terminals are accessible to the public, and you can normally stay there for several hours if you’re unable to check in to your flight yet. Since airports take security seriously, they may question you if they notice that you’ve been there for a long time. 

If you can show them your plane ticket, they will usually leave you alone, but if the airport closes at night, they may ask you to leave. 

How Many Hours Can We Stay in Airport Lounge?

Airport lounges can make your stay in the terminal more comfortable because they offer many features: 

  • Food and drinks
    Comfortable seating
  • Shower facilities
  • Good WiFi 

You can usually access an airport lounge by paying. However, it’s also possible if your credit card has an airport lounge facility, or you have a business or first-class ticket. 

How many hours you can stay in an airport lounge depends on their rules. Many lounges only allow access if it’s less than 4 hours before your flight, while others only allow access for 2 to 3 hours at a time. 

If you want to enjoy an airport lounge before your flight, it’s worth researching what’s available in your terminal beforehand. 

What Can You Do at the Airport for 12 Hours?

If you have 12 hours at the airport, you can visit a lounge, go shopping, enjoy a meal, or get a massage. Some airside terminals offer aircraft viewing decks and beauty treatments, such as manicures. 

What you can do for 12 hours depends on the airport. For instance, if you have at least a 5.5-hour layover at Singapore Airport, you’re eligible for a free city tour and won’t need a visa. 

If you feel tired and grubby, you might consider checking into a transit hotel for a few hours. Here, you can take a shower and enjoy a peaceful nap before your next flight.  

Packing something to entertain you while waiting for your flight is also a good idea. Make sure you pack a phone charger, a tablet, or a laptop so you can watch movies, listen to music, or play games. 

Manchester Airport Terminal 2

What Do I Do if I Get Stuck in an Airport Overnight?

If you get stuck in the airport overnight, you can check into a transit hotel (if the terminal has one), or try and get comfortable and sleep in the departure lounge. 

Airports are typically quieter, approaching midnight and in the early hours of the morning. You should, therefore, be able to find a quiet place and get some rest. 

However, if the airport closes at night, you’d be forced to exit the building if you’re still inside at the closing time. If you want to learn more about airport opening hours, read our article for more information. 

What Is the Longest Someone Stayed at the Airport?

The longest someone has ever stayed at the airport was more or less 18 years. Iranian Mehran Karimi Nasseri managed to live in Paris’s Charles de Gaulle Airport until 2006. After that, he was housed in a homeless center in France. 

You might also have seen the movie The Terminal, in which Tom Hanks plays the lead role. The film was based on this real-life story and is extraordinary because the main character spent much of his life between countries at the same airport due to an immigration technicality.

Mehran Karimi Nasseri

Mehran Karimi Nasseri didn’t spend all those years in the airport for the thrill of it but because he was stuck there. He spent several years in Belgium as a refugee and tried to move to the United Kingdom in 1988 to look for his birth mother, traveling by plane from the airport in France to London. 

He was denied access to the plane to the UK because his documents were gone, and he was stuck at Paris Charles de Gaulle Airport, trying everything to get to the UK. He was left without documentation and nowhere to go. 

Final Thoughts

Staying at the airport can be fun or incredibly dull, depending on the facilities available and ways to entertain yourself. Sometimes, people are stuck there for several hours waiting for a flight. If you have a valid plane ticket, you can get some sleep in the terminals or get more comfortable in the airport lounge if you have access to it. 

The regulations vary depending on the airport you’re at, so you should be able to find more information on the airport’s website.