The Crucial Detail European Airports Often Won't Tell You Until The Last Minute

Security lines, flight delays, overpriced bottles of water — there are a lot of things that can trigger airport anxiety. If you know you tend to feel frazzled on travel days, you might be careful to double-check TSA guidelines, arrive extra early to the airport, and locate your gate as soon as possible.

Unfortunately, the latter isn't always an option when flying through European airports. Travelers from the U.S. and some other countries may be used to learning their gate number once they receive their boarding pass, which eliminates the stress of not knowing which part of the airport to wait in. But across Europe, gates are sometimes announced just before passengers are expected to board.

This was confirmed in a TikTok video posted by user @travelmomsquad. The clip shows the gates at Paris Charles de Gaulle Airport (the most stressful airport in Europe, by the way), along with the text, "When you can't relax till you know you're at the right gate but you're in Europe and gate assignments don't show up [until] right before the flight." Commenters shared similar experiences at London Heathrow Airport, Amsterdam Airport Schiphol, Spain's Malaga Airport, and others.

Why gate numbers are hidden at airports

If you're used to knowing your gate number well in advance, you might wonder if something went wrong when a European airport doesn't reveal your gate until the last minute. However, at some airports, the delay is simply the standard practice. For instance, Copenhagen Airport says on its website that gates within Europe aren't shown until 45 to 60 minutes before departure, which often means not knowing where to go until it's already close to boarding time.

Another reason for the stress-inducing practice is that gates in some European airports are operated by the airport itself, rather than belonging to a designated airline. In other words, just because a carrier used gates A10 and B1 before doesn't mean they're limited to only those spots. Moreover, some airports, such as Heathrow, are known to use shuttle buses to transport passengers to their planes, which are parked away from the terminals. Where the buses pick up from can easily change, which may also explain why gates aren't announced earlier.

Finally, some speculate that airports wait to reveal gate numbers as a sneaky way of tricking you into spending more money. The longer you linger near the shops and restaurants before going to your assigned gate, the more likely you may be to buy snacks or souvenirs.

How to find your gate number at a European airport

Not all European airports conceal gate numbers until the last minute — and even those that do, don't do so for all flights. When flying through a European hub, check your boarding pass just in case, as your gate may already be conveniently printed. If it isn't, or if you don't have a paper boarding pass, download your airline's app, which may announce the gate number before the airport. In some cases, a quick Google search will also reveal your gate ahead of other sources.

If you can't find your gate but still have time to spare, take a breath after passing through security and give yourself a chance to relax. Sure, it can be stressful not knowing where to go for your flight, but remind yourself that this is the norm throughout Europe — and most people still make it in time for boarding. Choose a central place to wait, keep an eye on the terminal screens, and trust that you won't miss your flight.

If your boarding time is approaching and you still haven't received an update, ask an airport staff member for help. They may be able to point you in the right direction and offer other important updates about your journey.