There have been many reports of long security lines on high-season weekends. How long before your flight should you arrive at the airport? During high season on a weekend it is best to arrive 3 hours before your flight.
Why 3 hours? I'll break down the process:
1) Checking luggage can take 30 minutes or more. You visit an airline kiosk and your tag is printed behind the gate. The agent weighs your bag and puts the tag on your luggage. You then need to take your luggage through the security line.
2) The security line is your next stop and can take 30 minutes, even 90 minutes on a heavy travel day. You go to immigration, customs if you have items that need to be inspected, and then the baggage drop off. Having your passport speeds the immigration process slightly. Why do you need to go through customs and immigration? The USVIs have a porous border and many illegal aliens have been landed here - immigration check. It is also a free port and no duty is paid, so you may owe duty if you go over the allowable limits - customs.
3) TSA takes 30-60 minutes. This is the security checkpoint that you are accustomed to in the 50 states.
Add it up - worst case is three hours through the security line. Using a Red Cap porter will speed up the process.
Early morning flight? You’ll need to stay on St. Thomas the night before. The airport does not open until 6AM. The airport is less busy, so it should not be a problem.
Can it be faster? It is for me. Pre-COVID I traveled through STT airport twice a month and it never took more than 30 minutes to get through the security line. Pro tips:
1) Carry-on only - Takes no time.
2) Global Entry - Takes 10 minutes. You bypass the security line and go to the center line that has a closed retractable belt stanchion; it may not be marked. Go inside the small area and the next available CBP agent will call "Global Entry" and you head to that station.
Global Entry is a CBP trusted traveler program. You sign up, pay $100, schedule an interview, bring passport and government issued photo id, they take your fingerprints, and do a background check. Once you have your Global Entry card you have a trusted traveler id number that you enter into your airline profile that automatically gives you TSA Pre-Check. My credit card reimburses Global Entry fees.https://www.cbp.gov/travel/trusted-traveler-programs/global-entry
3) TSA Pre-Check - Takes 15 minutes..
The longest it has ever taken me to get to my gate on the busiest travel day? Less than 30 minutes. If you travel often enough then Global Entry is worth the effort.