There are Two Types of Airport People
May 29, 2019 2:36 PM   Subscribe

“He’s just like, ‘Why would you be late when you could be early?’” Cushing says of her boyfriend. “And I’m just like, ‘Why would you be early when you could be late?’” Amanda Mull of The Atlantic examines why some people are always late to the airport.
posted by sallybrown (207 comments total) 24 users marked this as a favorite
 
am now seriously considering recreational lateness as a hobby
posted by prize bull octorok at 2:40 PM on May 29 [12 favorites]


After a post 9/11 experience at LAX where being three hours early had me barely make my flight, I became a believer in being early to the airport.
posted by NoxAeternum at 2:40 PM on May 29 [33 favorites]


I have friend who makes it a point to be as late as possible ( without missing check in ). He thinks they'll rush him through and call his name before the plane leaves anyway so why bother showing up 45 mins early for check in and all that. So he times it to just before the plane is about to close the doors more or less. Yeah I know, sounds insane to me too.
posted by Liquidwolf at 2:43 PM on May 29 [3 favorites]


As an extreme early arriver, the smugness I feel reading this
Covucci was eventually freed from the revolving door, but check-in for his flight had already closed. To add insult to injury, he was late on that particular day because he was trying to prove a point to his mom. She insists on arriving hours early.
Can you get high on smugness? That’s what I am.
posted by sallybrown at 2:43 PM on May 29 [142 favorites]


argh, no, I can’t stand it. The airport is a civil-twilight world in which laws may be suspended and unknown to us. The one thing you can have on your side is time. Besides, people don’t expect a lot from you when you’re in transit. I appreciate this. It gives me time to read trash on my Kindle and eat things I shouldn’t.
posted by Countess Elena at 2:46 PM on May 29 [106 favorites]


Security being such a crap-shoot, I can’t see how anyone can arrive late and still make their flight, at least not without running around like a scalded cat.
posted by Thorzdad at 2:46 PM on May 29 [5 favorites]


The important question is if the two categories somehow correlate to Askers and Guessers.

I’ll take my response off the air.
posted by RolandOfEld at 2:51 PM on May 29 [14 favorites]


I'm ready to leave for flights I haven't even booked yet.
posted by firstdrop at 2:52 PM on May 29 [94 favorites]


I make it a point to ensure that I miss the occasional flight or train. Long distance flights where the next available plane is likely to be hours later I won't miss but a short flight where the next flight is soon are fair game.

If I never missed any, I'd feel that I was building in too much buffer time.
posted by atrazine at 2:53 PM on May 29 [5 favorites]


Our family is from India and there's this kind of known thing in our culture called IST (Indian Standard Time). With most Indian families and with our social circles (at least in our experience), a family might tell you to show up for dinner at 8 p.m. It's normally to show up around 9 or 10 p.m. Dinner will be served around 11 p.m. or 12 midnight. This is all normal. I hate this because it just feels wrong.

Our family is a bit of a black sheep when it comes to this type of IST living, we show up early to every thing. And it's so ingrained into the core of who I am. Whether it's the airport or a coffee hangout, I have to be early, I cannot tolerate being late and I'd rather stand around being bored than risk being late.
posted by Fizz at 2:53 PM on May 29 [20 favorites]


I have a friend who says "If you've never missed a flight you are spending too much time in airports" but actually if you do miss your flight you end up having to way more time in the airport. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
posted by aubilenon at 2:55 PM on May 29 [73 favorites]


With a couple notable exceptions, the earlier you get to an airport, the more time you spend captured in an economic zone where prices are inflated and exploitative. I would not be surprised if security theatre and other delays are silently encouraged by airports, as part of the overall design of regulatory capture.
posted by They sucked his brains out! at 2:55 PM on May 29 [26 favorites]


Also, the idea of missing a flight makes me want to scream. I worry so much about missing flights because of the expense both in time and in money. I only have a handful of days to take off and I mostly live paycheck to paycheck, so the money spent on a flight needs to be used and not wasted. This is why I'd rather be 4 hours early at the airport.
posted by Fizz at 2:56 PM on May 29 [46 favorites]


Literally the only reason I show up at the start of boarding now is so that I can snag space in an overhead bin (if the airlines don't want everyone to shove their stuff up there, maybe don't rip us off with bag fees). I resent every minute spent waiting. My ideal is to have time to buy a snack and show up just as people are starting to line up.

I absolutely hate it when people insist on getting there a full 2 hours before the flight leaves. I can think of few places that even come close to being as boring and suffocating as an airport. Why am I giving myself extra time to be bored, when I'll have hours to be bored on the flight? "Oh, just hang out and read," you might say. Nope, can't focus. Take a walk? It's an airport, and strolls past Hudson News don't do much for me.

I'm also the kind of person who will intentionally drive out of my way to avoid being stuck in traffic, even if it ends up taking longer. I think it's something about feeling trapped.
posted by shapes that haunt the dusk at 2:56 PM on May 29 [22 favorites]


As an 'early' being with someone that's a 'compulsive last moment' (and use moment rather than minute) until you realize it's just always going to be that way it's, ah, stressful. But in retrospect it actually works really well, lines are shorter often, no nervous waiting around, sometimes a better seat. Until it doesn't, and well that's always the wicked airlines fault(sorry editorializing snark).

Ha, killer rate out of jfk, drive from boston... early... (well no) going along fine... snow storm... almost loose a wiper blade but pull off on some ramp in the bowls of the bronx... oh wow check in at the curb just at cut off, have wheelchair help (do that if anywhere in the need range) nice young girl helper gets through security while driving away getting lost in airport roads... get the call... forgot laptop in car... nice girl gets back to the curb and gets it on the plane... easy peasy... how can that work??? stop off for a valium...
posted by sammyo at 2:57 PM on May 29


I am not a late airport person but my mother is an obsessively early person, and I eventually decided that the fifteen minutes I could convince her to delay didn't affect me much but really upset her, so when we travel together I get a lot of airport time. But I have an ereader so it all works out and I can't run out of books.
posted by jeather at 2:58 PM on May 29 [6 favorites]


I guess it is an adrenaline rush. There aren't many safe outlets for that now? I dunno.

But the reason you show up early to a flight is that sometimes you need all of that time. An hour or two ahead of boarding is not really "early" it's just "the amount of time it takes to do everything you need to do."
posted by bleep at 2:58 PM on May 29 [2 favorites]


Missing flights is expensive, super inconvenient and generally way more horrible than waiting an extra 30 minutes listening to music or reading on your phone. I can't imagine wanting to do that for fun.

Maybe it's different if you know the airline will put you on the next one without much fuss (do airlines still do this? If you miss a budget flight in Europe it's basically a few hundred pounds extra minimum), but otherwise it seems like an extraordinary act of self sabotage. Maybe I'm just cheap?
posted by leo_r at 2:59 PM on May 29 [22 favorites]


SO the late thing totally works if you are departing from a small regional airport that you are extremely familiar with. You can whisk through in five minutes, curb to boarding if your airport is small. If you are leaving from Atlanta, you need time.

Use that time to shop for a new Rolex or Prada bag.
posted by Keith Talent at 2:59 PM on May 29 [6 favorites]


And note: I am perpetually broke, very frugal, and deeply anxious about the tiniest of expenses. So it's not an economic privilege thing, at least not in my case. I'm terrified of the idea of having to rebook a flight. I don't think I've actually missed a flight in many years, but I also don't do the thing the article talks about and intentionally have to run for my gate -- if I'm running for my gate, I'm later than I feel comfortable with.
posted by shapes that haunt the dusk at 3:01 PM on May 29 [6 favorites]


I have never intentionally cut it close on arriving for a flight until I moved to KC. We have the tiniest damned little airport and there's a security line for every five gates. If you have TSA Pre, you can be through security and at your gate in less than 15 minutes.

Also, there is NOTHING at the airport. Like, there's one Starbucks and a bar. And two restrooms. Imagine my dismay when I show up two hours early like normal and have to sit there for no reason and nothing to do for the entire time. It was so early that the Starbucks wasn't even open and the bar was shuttered.

The next time I fly, I decided to cut it a little closer, only an hour. Of course, I got the slowest Lyft driver on the planet and we hit traffic. I actually got to TSA Pre 10 minutes before my boarding time. I still got through to my gate before boarding started. It was absurd.

Now, when I have to fly out of my home airport, I get there 45 minutes to an hour early. I'm still bored out of my mind by the time the plane boards, but I don't feel like I'm wasting decades there for no reason. I still show up 2 1/2 to 3 hours early at any other airport.
posted by teleri025 at 3:02 PM on May 29 [5 favorites]


The one compelling reason to be early is to partake in airport food and booze, which has been scientifically proven to not count towards your daily caloric intake.
posted by grumpybear69 at 3:02 PM on May 29 [58 favorites]


Ever since I discovered the "alternative security checkpoint" at my home airport, I can time it like a Last Minute Person, but arrive at my gate like an Early Person. It's great.
posted by soren_lorensen at 3:04 PM on May 29 [3 favorites]


I actually relish the reading time that I get when I arrive early. it doubles down on the relaxation of knowing i'm not stressing in traffic or in tsa line.

I'm not a business traveler though. I'd bet most of the folks who play the game of being late aren't ultimately responsible for added costs and don't give a shit if they delay the hundred or so other folks when they waltz on just before the doors are closing.
posted by OHenryPacey at 3:06 PM on May 29 [18 favorites]


I actually love hanging out in airports, since I'm a field recordist and there is so much interesting sound, plus I love staring out at the action on the tarmac ... but on the general matter of timeliness I have to defer to Mr. Billy Porter. (Apply the appropriate time conversion for your local airport.)
posted by mykescipark at 3:06 PM on May 29 [8 favorites]


I'm usually about an hour earlier than I have to be. I don't hate being in airports, honestly. It's a good reason to post up at a bar or a cafe and try to focus on work or writing. I also like the atmosphere of airport bars, especially in nicer locations (like BWI or Denver). It's expensive, but novel for a once-in-a-while thing. That's also added to the fact that I absolutely hate being late.
posted by codacorolla at 3:09 PM on May 29 [2 favorites]


The excellent popular-math book How Not to Be Wrong by MeFi's own Jordan Ellenberg has a relevant chapter titled "Miss More Planes!". Its basic thesis is that typically the disutility of some thing (e.g. missing a plane) is offset by the disutility of the preventative measure (e.g. sitting around for hours in an airport waiting for your plane) in some quantifiable way so that the maximum-expected-utility gamble probably involves occasionally missing a plane as a tradeoff against hours and hours spent to ensure you never miss a plane.

I definitely am on the conservative end of this tradeoff (I have an e-reader, crochet, and headphones. If I find myself with 3 hours to kill, I can do it in an airport only marginally less comfortably than elsewhere), but the underlying argument (you can expend too much effort on preventing an undesirable effect and end up worse off) is applicable to all sorts of situations (I particularly deploy this argument in the context of policing social services with drug tests, antifraud measures, etc.).
posted by jackbishop at 3:09 PM on May 29 [7 favorites]


Our family is from India and there's this kind of known thing in our culture called IST (Indian Standard Time)

Without intending to single you out, Fizz, I've seen a similar thing said about "$EthnicGroup Time" to denote a laid-back flexible approach to set times for a number of different groups - with the corresponding connotation that only certain other uptight groups are sticklers about being on time. The whole thing makes me feel a little uncomfortable no matter who it's coming from or referring to.
posted by Greg_Ace at 3:09 PM on May 29 [7 favorites]


That said, I feel that travel is nerve-frazzling enough without adding last-minute rushing around to it, and I personally prefer the peace of mind that being 30-60 minutes early brings. I always take a book with me anyway, so I've lost nothing really.
posted by Greg_Ace at 3:11 PM on May 29 [7 favorites]


I am an Early Person, mostly to save myself stress, though I have secretly wondered just why people need to show up 2-3 hours early at all. It's never taken me more than 45 minutes to get from the curb to my gate. Until I flew internationally and had to get my boarding pass and check my bags at the check in desk, and okay, now I get it. Now, partly things took so long because the airport was huge and I was wrangling slow-walking relatives, but we arrived at the airport with two and a half hours to spare, and finally got to our gate as the flight was boarding. And this involved only one longish line at the check in, all the other security and customs lines weren't too bad.
posted by yasaman at 3:12 PM on May 29 [1 favorite]


I've seen a similar thing said about "$EthnicGroup Time" to denote a laid-back flexible approach to set times for a number of different groups - with the corresponding connotation that only certain other uptight groups are sticklers about being on time.

Truth, I've heard other "$EthnicGroup" say similar things about themselves. And it's something my dad loves to say, if only to make himself feel better for always being on time. I'm not sure where it started out, this just always pops into my brain whenever someone talks about being late or being on time.
posted by Fizz at 3:14 PM on May 29 [2 favorites]


My family is from Pakistan and we have PST, Pakistan Standard Time, which is the original thing that IST is an offshoot of (it came about a day later). My spouse is from Japan, a country known for punctuality. So taking the two together you might think that I'd be the late one and my spouse the early one but that would be giving in to lazy stereotypes. We both try to be early but only I succeed at it because my spouse sucks at anything involving a deadline or time limit. I don't think we've ever been close to missing a flight but that's because the point that I have enough of last-minute unnecessary things and force us out the door still gives us enough time to get to the airport.
posted by any portmanteau in a storm at 3:14 PM on May 29 [1 favorite]


Joseph frequently travels with his roommate, and they sometimes also take separate cars, hours apart, for the same flight.

I should start doing that with Mr Corpse. I am a Very Early For The Flight person, and he is very much not. But I have never missed a flight, and he has, so neener neener.

Decades ago I had a flight out of SeaTac at some ridiculous time, so the friend who was giving me a ride to the airport and I decided to go the night before and just hang out. This was before airports got into security theater beyond the minimum, so we were able to explore freely. We went to the airport's police station, the meditation lounge, the display of confiscated weird items, all sorts of interesting spots. He died a few years ago and my memories of that night are some of my fondest of him.
posted by The corpse in the library at 3:16 PM on May 29 [51 favorites]


I am an Early Person, mostly to save myself stress, though I have secretly wondered just why people need to show up 2-3 hours early at all. It's never taken me more than 45 minutes to get from the curb to my gate.

As someone who does this, it's sort of the similar approach to late arrivers in the FPP, but inverted: I love the feeling of being able to relax and have a ton of time with no pressure when I'm past security. Not having to rush or be conscious of time, or to be able to leisurely get a drink or two, or to sit and read a book before the flight are all nice countermeasures to flying, which I generally dislike at best, and hate at worst.
posted by codacorolla at 3:16 PM on May 29 [20 favorites]


I have a friend who says "If you've never missed a flight you are spending too much time in airports" but actually if you do miss your flight you end up having to way more time in the airport. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

And your friend clearly flies more often than I do - because one missed flight could mean more time waiting that I have cumulatively in the past 10 years or so.

I agree with others above that people who are late are probably travelling for work and not bearing the cost - or at least don't care about the cost. The only time I or my SO have ever come close to missing a flight was when he forgot his passport at my house two hours away from the airport - a friend drove me to the rescue. We're now SUPER careful about checking for tickets and passports. Anything else, that can be replaced.
posted by jb at 3:22 PM on May 29 [2 favorites]


I'm also the kind of person who will intentionally drive out of my way to avoid being stuck in traffic, even if it ends up taking longer. I think it's something about feeling trapped.

I have been known to walk to the next train station simply to avoid a long wait for the next train. I also choose car routes so I can just keep moving. We should form a club.

I have sprinted through more than one airport. Never missed a plane though.
posted by deadwax at 3:26 PM on May 29 [7 favorites]


Hmmm, interesting responses. There was a two or three year span of my life where I did a lot of traveling for work, and it generally meant being away from home usually for an average of 3 days, but often quite longer.

There was no way I was missing a flight if it meant that it would take longer to get home and see my family. On the flip side - getting in late to my destination might mean I only get 6 hours of sleep in a strange hotel before I have to get up an deal with reality. So not knowing anything about the live-tweeting NYT reporter from the article, I do wonder what his obligations are. I mean, I might be an adrenaline seeking late-arriver too, if my tickets were covered by company and/or I had no real obligations waiting for me on the other side.

People generally label me as "laid-back", I guess. But after all the traveling I have done in the past, I am officially and forever on the early arrival bandwagon. I guess my question is, are there really valuable things you are doing at home that you can't just do in the airport? I don't ever pay the bloated prices for food in the terminal (unless I can expense it ;) I just bring a sandwich or something. I've got my laptop and wifi, I have podcasts, I have my phone & camera, I have books.

I dunno, if I'm looking to elevate my heart rate I'll just go for a brisk walk in the woods for a few miles.
posted by jeremias at 3:26 PM on May 29 [7 favorites]


That said, I feel that travel is nerve-frazzling enough without adding last-minute rushing around to it, and I personally prefer the peace of mind that being 30-60 minutes early brings. I always take a book with me anyway, so I've lost nothing really.

Yeah, when I'm committed to flying, I've loaded up on things I'm Really Looking Forward to Reading, so I'm happy to have the half hour or hour sitting by the gate waiting and not being all panicked.

Those baseline differences in outlook can make the virtues of both earliness and lateness impossible to explain to people in the opposite camp. Joseph and Cushing say they’re able to compromise, so the thrill they experience from lateness isn’t a deal breaker in their friendships or relationships.

I'm more concerned with the people who, when they get to the gate, have to frantically dig around in their suitcase (which is too goddamned big to be a legit carry-on) for their passport, which should be IN THEIR HANDS OR A READILY ACCESSIBLE POCKET at that very moment.

/rant
posted by mandolin conspiracy at 3:28 PM on May 29 [16 favorites]


Having a toddler, we’re solidly in the 3 hours early club. Little boy loves walking up and down the concourse and looking out the windows nearly as much as I like being able to feed, clean, and change him in a well-equipped bathroom and keeping him awake means he goes to sleep as soon as we board.
posted by adamsc at 3:29 PM on May 29 [8 favorites]


so that the maximum-expected-utility gamble probably involves occasionally missing a plane as a tradeoff against hours and hours spent to ensure you never miss a plane.

This assumes that you can eat the lost utility on a case-by-case basis. American airlines are unusual in being willing to put you on the next plane more or less for free. Miss that YVR-JFK redeye, not only are you spending the night in the airport, you're coughing up another $600 for the privilege.
posted by praemunire at 3:33 PM on May 29 [6 favorites]


I used to be totally an "hour before flight for domestic is fine" flyer, and then I married a person who considers two hours to be the BARE minimum, and then we need to leave the house extra early for traffic, so.... now that we have to drive about 2 hours to "the big airport" we end up just going the night before and getting a hotel if the flight is anywhere near the morning :)

And honestly I've adapted to it now that I think of it as extra holiday time! We lean into getting travel treats at Target, and I let myself actually buy books or magazines if I want them, instead of the library. Our usual airports even have pretty decent sit-down restaurants if you have time for a meal - so much better than getting a $10 sandwich.
posted by nakedmolerats at 3:34 PM on May 29 [7 favorites]


I have learned that this is a good thing to share early in a relationship/planning travel with friends.

"I am an Early. Not being Early makes me feel stressed. Starting a vacation feeling stressed puts me in a bad mood. Even if we make the flight, I will continue to be in a bad mood because I felt stressed. If we miss a flight because of being Late, I will be very unhappy. I don't want to be in a bad mood or unhappy when I am traveling with you. Therefore I will plan to be at the airport (this amount of time) before the flight. If that doesn't work for you, let's talk about how to do separate transportation."

It's much better to say that at the start of trip planning instead of realizing the Early/Late difference 90 minutes before takeoff when the other person is still in front of their suitcase asking which pairs of shoes to bring.
posted by ITravelMontana at 3:35 PM on May 29 [36 favorites]


the only time i've ever missed a flight in my life is when i arrived on time for it and had to immediately, as in seconds after i paid for the cab i realized it, turn around and go home because i forgot the screws to hold my enormous dog's enormous traveling crate together. leaving earlier would not have made a difference, i would've had to leave 4h before the flight in order to be able to make the trip a second time at rush hour and that will never in life happen for any reason.

also i refuse to board the plane until the last second because why breathe recycled farts any longer than i have to.
posted by poffin boffin at 3:37 PM on May 29 [4 favorites]


I'm more concerned with the people who, when they get to the gate, have to frantically dig around in their suitcase (which is too goddamned big to be a legit carry-on) for their passport, which should be IN THEIR HANDS OR A READILY ACCESSIBLE POCKET at that very moment.

The “what have you been doing this whole time” people, who also wait until they get to the front of the line at the deli to think about what they want to order.
posted by sallybrown at 3:40 PM on May 29 [12 favorites]


I mean, it's selfish entitlement, isn't it? You know a plane will wait a little bit for people who have arrived "unavoidably late", because most people will be on-time, so it doesn't make that much difference to the schedule.

Of course, if everyone - or even, slightly more people than already do - arrived late, everything would be completely fucked, flights would never arrive on time and no-one would get anywhere at anything approaching the scheduled time. Timetabling is a massively complex and hugely fragile problem, and and a small change causes massive disruption. But most people don't turn up late, so mostly things hang together.

So, y'know, carry on being selfish and entitled, but also know that everyone held on that plane for longer than they needed to be because you couldn't be bothered showing up at the time it said on your booking hates you with the burning heat of a thousand suns.
posted by parm at 3:42 PM on May 29 [32 favorites]


also tbh if you make your flight then you weren't "late" for it, you were on time, everyone else was early.
posted by poffin boffin at 3:42 PM on May 29 [4 favorites]


What's confusing about airport travel is, what time is "on time"? Because clearly getting there on the time that's on the ticket is "late," but uhhhh so what time is correct? This is the shit I google. I feel like there must be some mailbox somewhere crammed with a ton of memos that I've missed in my life, because I have missed the memo on a lot of shit and none more than on this punctuality business.

I've missed planes. Only once have I had to pay to change my flight, and that was a $50 fee. Otherwise, the airline will just bump me free of charge. I don't set out TRYING to miss planes, but like I said, timeliness is not my strong suit.

When I last flew, back in February, my friend and I had a layover of maybe three hours or more, so we went and got lunch. Three hours later, we're still eating and chatting and drinking champagne and then it's like OH SHIT OUR FLIGHT! We ran to the gate, and when we got there, the agent was just finishing calling our names on the PA and preparing to close the doors. We squeezed in at the literal last second.

Oh actually, on the flight back from that trip, we had another connection and went and grabbed dinner. We're sitting there in this sports bar trying to eat and had a full view of the garbage can out in one of the hallways. Suddenly this girl rushes up to the garbage can, but doesn't make it in time and vomits EVERYWHERE. She's got it in her hair, on her clothes, on this blanket she was carrying, on the floor, eventually she got the garbage can open and it was all over and in there, too. And then her mom showed up and started berating her, and then the girl was throwing up again and...guys, it was like watching a short film. An extremely unappetizing one. Oh yeah and then the custodians showed up. First the one custodian, and then he went and got some of his coworkers, and then they all stood around looking at the mess, and finally they called up their manager, who was the one woman in this group, and she ended up cleaning all of it up while the men watched her. Which was also like a weird short film in itself.

So my point is, make sure to spend some extra time in airports, because they can be a good place to people watch. hahahaha yeah, not really. I don't think I've ever in my life left an airport feeling more love in my heart for mankind than I have felt going in, I have to say.
posted by rue72 at 3:43 PM on May 29 [12 favorites]


This has got to be an anxiety thing, right? Like, people who are capable of feeling anxiety could never do that thing where they intentionally show up so late that the gate agent is calling their name and all the poor bastards stuck waiting for them and hoping beyond hope that they make their connection with the 30 minute layover are staring daggers as they casually stroll down the aisle and vainly attempt to find a place for their three giant carry-ons until finally one of the flight attendants says, "Excuse me, I'll find a place for that for you, sir" because while it would be gratifying to strangle that asshole on the spot the air marshal would legally have to stop them.
posted by tobascodagama at 3:49 PM on May 29 [14 favorites]


I mean, it's selfish entitlement, isn't it? You know a plane will wait a little bit for people who have arrived "unavoidably late", because most people will be on-time, so it doesn't make that much difference to the schedule.

I am a consultant and have worked for a couple of airlines. The above is not exactly true. The only time they hold the plane is if there are people who have checked luggage. They do that for security. They don't want people to put luggage on a plane and then not get on it. It's scary.

But if you check in, go through security with out checking luggage, and then aren't there when the plane is scheduled to leave? Fuck you, that plane is gone. Business travelers know this. I've been burned before. But also, business travelers are going to be a little early because they don't check bags and want to get them on the plane with us, not in the belly. And we're going to be the first ones on the plane too because we have status.

Also, the stuff about the small airports is true. There was a time when I was working for an airline where they gave me an employee badge. This allowed me to skip most of the security lines and go right to the front, just like pilots and flight attendants.

I could no-shit get from the front door of my house to the door of the plan in 14 minutes. It was glorious.
posted by nushustu at 3:49 PM on May 29 [17 favorites]


I missed a flight once. It's one of those things that, like running out of gas in your car, or shitting yourself, you live in fear of, but it never seems to actually happen. Until it happens.
posted by thelonius at 3:51 PM on May 29 [20 favorites]


The only time they hold the plane is if there are people who have checked luggage.

yeah, i've only seen the plane held for like, parents whose kids have just had a bathroom emergency within sight of the boarding area, or, once, disturbingly, the pilot, who, though i know very little about commercial air travel, i feel certain should have been there already, doing??? piloty things??
posted by poffin boffin at 3:53 PM on May 29 [7 favorites]


I mostly travel alone when I travel and am obsessively early everywhere (due both to upbringing and to anxiety). I find the time when I have reached the airport, gotten through security, and to my gate extremely soothing. I have arrived where I am supposed to be, am now anonymously tucked into a larger crowd, and am beholden to no one but myself. I have headphones, my book, and my knitting. I will be told when to board the plane and will not in any way be responsible for it reaching its destination. It is the time during travel when I am least anxious and is, thus, a particular species of wonderful.

This is better at train stations, of course, as train travel is better than air travel in most ways, but the number of places I can efficiently get to by train is, alas, limited.
posted by darchildre at 3:55 PM on May 29 [38 favorites]


They sucked his brains out!: "With a couple notable exceptions, the earlier you get to an airport, the more time you spend captured in an economic zone where prices are inflated and exploitative. I would not be surprised if security theatre and other delays are silently encouraged by airports, as part of the overall design of regulatory capture."

Our airport has issues but at least the county mandates that prices in the stores can't be more than outside prices.
posted by octothorpe at 3:56 PM on May 29 [7 favorites]


I’m fat. I am also racked with anxiety in general. So I am always very early to the airport so that I don’t have to run or hustle and risk getting sweaty, because I live in fear of not being tolerated by my seat mate unless I can counteract my fat with being clean and dry and nicely put together. *shrug emoji*
posted by angeline at 3:57 PM on May 29 [14 favorites]


I mean, clearly these people don't have a home airport with an amazing used bookstore with wall-to-ceiling bookshelves that stretches deep into the building like some mysterious cavern of knowledge and whimsy. I feel so sorry for them.

My flight next month is leaving before they open, so I guess I'm only going to be 2 hours early instead of 3.
posted by brook horse at 3:58 PM on May 29 [3 favorites]


My kid, who inherited a certain inattention to detail from me and who also lives in LA some distance from the airport, arrives early. So naturally, he fell asleep at the gate and missed his flight. Apple/tree.
posted by sjswitzer at 4:06 PM on May 29 [10 favorites]


I get to airports early. So early that I once arrived at JFK at 5pm on a Monday, realized my flight was leaving from Newark, and took an Uber to Newark and made checkin with about ten minutes to spare.
posted by the agents of KAOS at 4:08 PM on May 29 [24 favorites]


That said, I feel that travel is nerve-frazzling enough without adding last-minute rushing around to it, and I personally prefer the peace of mind that being 30-60 minutes early brings. I always take a book with me anyway, so I've lost nothing really.

Traveling always puts me right on the edge of panic anyway and being late just melts my brain. The only times I've been close to missing a flight were when the connecting flight was late; I can't imagine inflicting that stress on yourself on purpose.
posted by octothorpe at 4:09 PM on May 29 [11 favorites]


disturbingly, the pilot, who, though i know very little about commercial air travel, i feel certain should have been there already, doing??? piloty things??

One of the many reasons I should never have watched the Denzel Washington movie Flight.
posted by sallybrown at 4:12 PM on May 29 [3 favorites]


I like people watching and the frantically late are always entertaining to see. So keep it up late arrivers, for my sake at least.
posted by peeedro at 4:13 PM on May 29 [7 favorites]


Ive always been early out of anxiety and all it got me was more time trapped in the dismal purgatory of airports. Willing to give intentional lateness a try.
posted by rodlymight at 4:14 PM on May 29 [3 favorites]


I like the headline link alongside the linked article: Why Does Air Travel Make People Grumpy?

it_is_a_mystery.png
posted by salt grass at 4:14 PM on May 29 [5 favorites]


I've had to miss a few flights, not from personal lateness (I am one of those anxious early arrival people), but from other kinds of unavoidable events, and it has been uniformly terrible. I am sure it is different on a route where there are flights every couple of hours, but my experience has been more along the line of finding out that the next flight is tomorrow afternoon, so my choice is paying for a hotel ($$$) or sleeping on the airport floor.

Hence, I arrive early, since I can at least control that one part of the process and can chill out and people watch once I am through security.
posted by Dip Flash at 4:15 PM on May 29 [4 favorites]


I missed a flight once. It's one of those things that, like running out of gas in your car, or shitting yourself, you live in fear of, but it never seems to actually happen. Until it happens.

The only flight I’ve missed was when I was lost getting to the airport (pre-gps), was running out of gas, and desperately had to find a restroom. I was in an utter panic as to what to prioritize. So your comment was really on the nose, is what I’m saying.
posted by greermahoney at 4:18 PM on May 29 [19 favorites]


An hour or two ahead of boarding is not really "early" it's just "the amount of time it takes to do everything you need to do."

I fly very infrequently, but 90~ish minutes early is what I usually go for, and I think part of the reason for this is I dragged to airports psychotically early as a kid and there was never a time where it paid off, it was always just "what if" insurance. My mom, my mom's husband, and my grandparents always liked to show up like 5 hours before a flight, because in their head, every pre-flight activity was budgeted for an hour (or more), regardless of whether or not that much time was a realistic estimate.

"Let's see, the flight's at 9:21 AM, so we want to be at the gate by 8:00, which means we want to be going through security by 7:00, which means we should be in the check-in line at 6:00, which means we have to be parking in long term parking at 5:00. So clearly, we should leave the house by 4:00, be ready to go by 3:00. You want breakfast right? I'll serve it at 2:00 AM, so we should probably all start our showers at 1 AM. I'll be sure to wake everyone up at midnight so we don't miss our flight."
posted by 23skidoo at 4:19 PM on May 29 [26 favorites]


I sincerely don't understand those of you all enthusiastic about having "reading time" at an airport and therefore like getting there early. I mean, I haven't missed a flight in years (except for weather reasons totally beyond my control) and I'm not a dasher-through-the-airport, but I've definitely cut it a little close because if my choices are 1) sit & read in an uncomfortable plastic chair-ish thing next to strangers after shuffling through a security line or 2) sit & read at home on my couch in my underwear smoking and eating doritos . . . . it's a no-brainer which is the better "reading time" situation.
posted by soundguy99 at 4:22 PM on May 29 [9 favorites]


How often are Late people missing flights? 1% of the time? 5% of the time? While I understand that there are people who would find even a .001% risk of missing a plane to be psychologically unacceptable, it might be helpful to have some sort of sense of what the scope of the risk here actually is. I suspect it's lower than the Early people think, but, then, I'm more of a Late person in general. That said, the only time I've missed a plane or even had it actually be close it's because of confusion about which airline I was supposed to be on, and it turned out that if I had made it on the plane, I would have ended up trapped in a snowstorm in Pittsburgh and it would have taken significantly longer to arrive at my destination than I actually did.

It's also not a huge shock to see that a fair portion of the divide here (although obviously not all) is between people who are neutral to positive on spending time waiting in the airport and people who passively or actively hate it. I tend to budget my time such that I don't have to wait in airports, because they really bum me out and spending 2 additional hours in one at the start of a trip would probably have an effect on me similar to what some of the Early people have said about how they'd feel if they had to sprint through the concourse to catch their flight.
posted by Copronymus at 4:25 PM on May 29 [5 favorites]


I kinda don't understand the idea of arriving just on time since in my experience the time it takes to get to the airport is quite unpredictable. I try to arrive early and usually do, but frequently enough traffic is bad and I just barely make it... or sometimes don't.

Whether missing a flight is a big deal or not totally depends on the airline, the route and your status. If it's only a couple of hours to the next flight and there's no surcharge, then ok. But as noted upthread, that is not always the case.

Due to some misunderstandings about the RER, I arrived at CDG technically on time but late enough that overbookings got me shut out. I got on the next flight a few hours later and was offered a choice between a free round-trip flight back to Paris or something like 200 Euro. (Sadly, I took the Euro since I didn't expect to be back for a while.) Anyway, just for counterpoint, missing a flight isn't always terrible!
posted by sjswitzer at 4:31 PM on May 29 [4 favorites]


I am Late for Everything (tm), but I am not late for flying if I can in any way help it.

Late at the airport puts a lot of stress on a lot of people, in a place that is emotionally fraught even before the TSA made it suck even more.

These people are assholes.
posted by notsnot at 4:33 PM on May 29 [7 favorites]


My partner is chronically late for things like the airport and it stresses me way, way the hell out. I'm a 90 minute person, but I live in LA which means I'm leaving about 60 minutes before that - so I'm out the door no later than 2.5 hours before my flight.

I'm perfectly happy to grab a beer and read. perfectly.
posted by drewbage1847 at 4:34 PM on May 29 [5 favorites]


Both of these sound like weird extremes to me.
Like, the airport/TSA is saying "Be there 2 hours before boarding, 3 for international", I mostly aim to be there an hour before boarding, and that gives me plenty of time to get through security without begging them to hold the door open.
But at the same time, I'm not doing as above, where it's "9am flight, must be there by 8, so let's be up at 6am".

That said, I've seen photos of the security line stretching all the way back into the parking structure, so maybe I've just gotten lucky every time at not facing some TSA artificial labor shortage hellscape?
posted by CrystalDave at 4:41 PM on May 29 [4 favorites]


The one compelling reason to be early is to partake in airport food and booze, which has been scientifically proven to not count towards your daily caloric intake.

Within the confines of a terminal it is also socially acceptable to have a martini at eight o'clock in the morning. With eggs.
posted by linux at 4:42 PM on May 29 [40 favorites]


How often are Late people missing flights? 1% of the time? 5% of the time? While I understand that there are people who would find even a .001% risk of missing a plane to be psychologically unacceptable, it might be helpful to have some sort of sense of what the scope of the risk here actually is.

Honestly, I don't know, because when I've missed flights it's been such a non event that I don't actually remember when or how many times it's happened.

How a missed flight generally goes is: I get to the airport and go to check in. The agent says check in is closed. I'm like, "darn it." The agent says she'll put me on the next one. Prints my boarding pass. I go have a beer or whatever and then get on the next flight.

That said, I'm usually flying on my own, from hub to hub, with zero to one checked bag, no accommodations, and the cheapest possible ticket.
posted by rue72 at 4:42 PM on May 29 [3 favorites]


I'm always early because my anxiety and stress levels are already crazy-high when I have to fly and I literally cannot deal with one more goddamn thing without melting down. I have no idea what happens if one misses their flight. Having to learn what happens and make decisions on the fly would put me right over the edge. Plus, I am very claustrophobic and will have carefully chosen my aisle seat well in advance, and I'm afraid that booking a new flight at the last minute will have me shoved into a window seat with an asshole in front of me who likes to recline.

Not to mention I can't afford to play fast and loose with a few hundred bucks. That's literally the rest of my trip's entire budget, a good deal of the time.

Besides, I actually rather like hanging out in a big airport. It's like a Mall of Bullshit. Bookstore, newsstand, gift shops, convenience store... an impulse shopper's dream! Plus fast food, candy, popcorn, chips. My inner ten-year-old is content for hours.
posted by Serene Empress Dork at 4:44 PM on May 29 [17 favorites]


I mean, it's selfish entitlement, isn't it? You know a plane will wait a little bit for people who have arrived "unavoidably late", because most people will be on-time, so it doesn't make that much difference to the schedule.

And here's the thing. The late arrivals try to jump to the front of the check in line, the security line, etc. This causes other people to get backed up. I feel like late arrivers are making things worse for everyone else. They think their time is more valuable than others'.
posted by Literaryhero at 4:51 PM on May 29 [33 favorites]


Besides, I actually rather like hanging out in a big airport. It's like a Mall of Bullshit. Bookstore, newsstand, gift shops, convenience store... an impulse shopper's dream! Plus fast food, candy, popcorn, chips. My inner ten-year-old is content for hours.

It's also a liminal space, where you are between your departure point and your destination, and this promotes a sensation or illusion of freedom and possibility. You could screw the regional sales conference, and buy a ticket to Oslo! There is the credit card, right there. Probably you will settle for a Cinnabon instead. But you COULD .
posted by thelonius at 4:52 PM on May 29 [57 favorites]


I guess am an Early Person, with habits formed by a decade of travelling a great deal for work (as a corollary, the overprices sandwiches and beverages were not a big deal when I was travelling with a company credit card).

The lede of the story, with its:
It’s not hard to spot people about to miss a flight. They’re weaving between on-time travelers at a speed somewhere between a power walk and a sprint, or they’re elbow-dancing their way to the front of the TSA line to plead their case for immediate screening.
... triggered a twinge of anxiety in me, with a sudden vivid sense-memory of the very few times I have had to rush in an airport. I think this weekend five years ago I had to fly from Ottawa, ON to Regina, SK, with a change of planes in Winnipeg, MB. The first flight was delayed for whatever reason, so by the time I touched down at Winnipeg, my flight to Regina was already boarding; by the time I was off the flight and had set foot in YWG, they were already calling my name over the PA system. My arrival gate and departure gates were about as far apart as can be (gates 2 and 12, IIRC), so I had to hotfoot it down the entire concourse, slowed slightly by helping another passenger.

Sitting across from me on the first flight was a woman travelling with a very young baby. I learned that she too was travelling to Regina for a conference (she was an engineer) and this was the first trip for her young son, who was thirty-five days old that day. She had all the accessories one needs for an infant on top of all the stuff one drags around on a week-long trip, so I volunteered to help her transport all her gear to our waiting plane.

She and her son were in the row ahead of me on the second flight. As an aside, the kid was very well-behaved, with a bare minimum of fussing. At the Regina airport I help get them and their gear to a taxi and then bade them adieu. As we parted ways, maybe nine hours after I had first seen them in the departures lounger back at YOW, it occurred to me I had been travelling with that kid for a full 1% of his life.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 4:53 PM on May 29 [20 favorites]


People watching-wise an airport is, to me at least, equal to the playoffs in any other serious sport. I’m an early person and am frugal enough not to fall prey to the shops and whatnot so it works out.
posted by RolandOfEld at 4:54 PM on May 29 [4 favorites]


Besides, I actually rather like hanging out in a big airport. It's like a Mall of Bullshit. Bookstore, newsstand, gift shops, convenience store...

An actual social media status update I once sent while waiting in the airport in Edmonton:
Number of retail outlets in this airport with the word "news" in their name: 4

Number that sell newspapers: 0

Irony level: Elevated
posted by ricochet biscuit at 4:56 PM on May 29 [11 favorites]


Traveling always puts me right on the edge of panic anyway and being late just melts my brain.

Seriously no trigger for my anxiety is more reliable. Being late in general really spikes my stress levels, but running late for a flight, it pushes me over from slightly bug-eyed, jaw-clenched silence to sweats, shaky hands, full fight-or-flight (heh).

My poor wife, I think it took her a while to see my abject misery or fiery irritation had nothing to do with her when we went to get a plane. Having two young children means you need to be even earlier, cause they are guaranteed to take five times longer than you think to do anything - even when you've already thought "I'll give them ten minutes to get their shoes on, no one could possibly take ten minutes to get a pair of shoes on" - Kids: "Hold my beer. Actually, I'll hold it while wandering around aimlessly for 12 minutes. Also I'm wearing a different pair of pants on each leg. And I've broken my headphones, and I can't find my teddy bear which I was literally just holding."
posted by smoke at 4:58 PM on May 29 [18 favorites]


my favourite airport parents are the "fuck it we're leaving" parents who are carrying a disheveled child apiece under their arms and the children are shoeless and still in pajamas

i was always the little kid who insisted on wearing my florida clothes to the airport in snowy nyc december, grumpily forced to wear my mom's puffy coat over it so i looked like a weird walking parka
posted by poffin boffin at 5:03 PM on May 29 [28 favorites]


The most frequent flight my family does is Toronto - Osaka, which means switching planes in either Vancouver or Tokyo Haneda. When booking the flight there's always one option giving less than an hour to make the switch and one that has a 2-3 hour wait. We always pick the one with the longer wait because as much as we want to get to our destination earlier why deal with the stress of worrying you'll miss your connection?
posted by any portmanteau in a storm at 5:08 PM on May 29 [7 favorites]


I'm an Early, because being early allows me to spend more time in the delightful Portland airport which has a Powells bookstore, microbrews, excellent food and even a cinema. Truly one of the most comfortable airports in the country!
posted by monotreme at 5:11 PM on May 29 [2 favorites]


Umm, missing your flight doesn't cost anything but time in my experience, so I'm not sure what money has to do with it. And no, arriving at the last minute isn't delaying anyone else already on the flight. With rare exceptions, the plane is going to leave at the same exact time regardless of who is or is not aboard. I've missed far more flights due to a flight closing early or an enroute flight delay than I have due to late arrival at the airport.

My SO did miss one once when she didn't get to the airport until 10 minutes before departure. 15-20 was doable on the regular, to the point the check in folks were prepared for her every time she showed up on the manifest, but 10 was not quite enough.
posted by wierdo at 5:16 PM on May 29 [7 favorites]


Being late to basically anything spikes my anxiety something wild. (Okay, being less than 10 minutes early.) Obviously I am an Early Person, and I guess it helps that I'm pretty good at shutting out the world and just getting buried in a book and/or window shopping and enjoying being in a liminal space. Maybe I get lucky location-wise, too? SeaTac is a delight to fly in and out of, truly, and has a Shake Shack and neat things to look at, and that's about all I need in the world. I used to fly out of LHR a lot too, and that's basically a giant fancy mall. I also drank a lot more at the time, and there were plenty of places to get a quiet pint.

(PHL, which I also fly into/out of a lot, is literally the worst airport I have ever been to in my life and I have been to some weird-ass airports in my time. And even then I'd rather be early; all the stress is at security and there's nothing like the euphoria of settling in one of their admittedly very comfy chairs, knowing that it is several months before I have to see my mother again.)

Also, after flying once with my cat, absolutely no flight or time in the airport could be that stressful ever again. It's kind of a serene joy, to travel without worrying about a giant drugged love of my life in a carry-on. Anyone who travels with children has my undying admiration at all times.
posted by kalimac at 5:35 PM on May 29 [8 favorites]


Umm, missing your flight doesn't cost anything but time in my experience, so I'm not sure what money has to do with it.

It really depends on the airline. I missed an Easyjet flight from London to Dublin 20 years ago because the bus stop I was waiting at to go to Gatwick or Stansted (can’t remember which one) was discontinued despite still showing as a bus stop and they charged me £50 to get on another flight, which as I recall was like 250% more than the cost of the ticket.

I don’t know what they do now—probably take a lung.
posted by Automocar at 5:40 PM on May 29 [12 favorites]


missing your flight doesn't cost anything but time in my experience, so I'm not sure what money has to do with it.

Except for those times when missing a flight means you miss checking into your hotel until the next day, and you can't get a refund of the night you missed, or when the rental car place is closed when your next flight arrives (not all airports have 24-hour car rental desks, as me how I know), or when a desk agent decides to be the worst human being on the planet and doesn't book you on the next flight for free when you explain (very, very nicely, I might add) that you're late because the four-car accident you ended up behind occurred about a thousand feet from the fucking airport exit but there's no fucking shoulder right there before the exit so you were literally trapped.

Reading all of the "I don't care if I'm late" stories above made me so anxious I actually had to go do something else before I commented. My airport arrival anxiety is the reason that my chronically late husband and son can get themselves ready on time (my time) for a flight. I think it was the time I burst into tears and hyperventilated because I could tell we were not going to leave the house on time.

And no, it's not fun being me, why do you ask?
posted by cooker girl at 5:42 PM on May 29 [31 favorites]


I sincerely don't understand those of you all enthusiastic about having "reading time" at an airport and therefore like getting there early.

I wouldn't say I like being there early, but I like not upsetting my traveling partners more than I like the extra thirty minutes at home. Yes of course I would prefer to read on my couch, but I don't mind reading at the airport.
posted by jeather at 5:48 PM on May 29 [6 favorites]


The last flight I was on left around 8:00 am, and we had a random TSA can't check in online thing, and we had to go through security and US customs which can either be very fast or very not. I don't really see how leaving the house at 6 instead of 5:30 would have really made my day much better.
posted by jeather at 5:53 PM on May 29 [3 favorites]


There are people who...actually enjoy working themselves into a state of high anxiety? Well, if nothing else, I find articles like this useful to remind me that there are people whose habits and personalities are just utterly, completely behind my ken. I would rather be dragged over carpet tacks repeatedly than deliberately cut it close at the airport.
posted by holborne at 6:01 PM on May 29 [5 favorites]


I guess I’m in the middle. I fly occasionally for biz and mostly out of ORD. I live approx. 40 min. away, so rather than arrive two hours in advance, I have a car pick me up at home two hours before my scheduled take off time, and I’ve never missed a flight. I’m usually at the gate anywhere from 15-30 min. before boarding. Security can be a bit of a hassle, but it’s never been catastrophic.

Actually, I have missed one flight, but it was at Sky Harbor in Phoenix when a police chase following a has station robbery resulted in the perp ditching his car on one of the terminal parking decks and the cops shit the whole place down while they searched for him. Not my fault.
posted by hwestiii at 6:18 PM on May 29 [1 favorite]


I look forward to retirement, when I can take the train, walk, or drive vs. participating in the Testicle Squeezing Administration's training programs. Apparently "liminal" means something like "hideously depersonalized and filled with futility, packed with borderline-criminal hucksters." Which would be a mouthful, I guess, so "liminal" it is.
posted by Gilgamesh's Chauffeur at 6:28 PM on May 29 [4 favorites]


the cops shit the whole place down while they searched for him.

I’m... surprised this did not make the news.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 6:30 PM on May 29 [21 favorites]


I live about a mile from my airport, so in the era when I parked at the airport, I often noted that it took longer to walk from my parking space to the front door of the airport than to drive from my house to the airport. There are only five gates, and you can get from any one to any other in about a 5-second walk. There's never been more than two people ahead of me at security. I still arrange to arrive at least 90-minutes ahead of boarding.

Why? Because you never know what might happen. Once, between leaving my house and arriving to check in my baggage, my flight got canceled. Because I was there early, I got rebooked on a flight leaving (via a different connecting city) 20 minutes before my original flight was set to take off. Instead of losing 7 hours waiting for the next flight to my original layover destination and risking missing the last flight of the night to my final destination (and having to pay for a hotel room I couldn't use), I ended up with a 20-minute-longer layover in a more pleasant layover airport.

I'd rather spend an extra hour, calmly at my gate, knowing there's no way I can miss my flight, than half-paying attention to some random extra task before leaving the house or the office. Professionally, I help people who want to be on time but have difficulties conquering habits that serve as obstacles. I could not possibly travel with people who intentionally arrive at the last possible moment; the level of anxiety I experienced just reading the article is minimal compared to what I'd feel if my traveling companion pulled this.
posted by The Wrong Kind of Cheese at 6:35 PM on May 29 [10 favorites]


It’s not that late people don’t find the airport as stressful as early people do, in other words, but that their coping mechanisms indicate a fundamentally different approach to the negative parts of life.

I dunno, based on how people in this thread are talking about travel anxiety, I think maybe late people (or at least this one particular late person, meaning me) don't find the airport as stressful as early people?

Honestly, I don't find flying or the airport particularly stressful. You're just one more face in a huge crowd of people shuffling slowly from one place to another. It's not that serious. I'm much more stressed sitting at work, where my boss is prowling around. Or at my parents' house waiting to hear what will come out of their mouths next. The airport is just some big boring waiting room with stale air, and same with planes.
posted by rue72 at 6:36 PM on May 29 [6 favorites]


I’m not a chronically early person in basically everything else, but I’ll definitely plan to arrive at the airport about 3 hours before my flight is scheduled to leave. First, check-in and security is highly unpredictable (I had a flight that took two hours to CHECK IN because United is a pile of shit masquerading as an airline, I barely made it to the gate in time), and second, I paid hundreds of dollars for my ticket and I have big plans for when I arrive at my destination. I damn well want to make sure I get on the plane. Maybe I would care less if it were someone else’s money, but I can’t afford to travel very frequently, so when I do, yeah, you bet your ass I’m not like, “Gee, I’m about to go on this trip I’ve been planning for two years, but I’d rather spend an extra hour watching YouTube right now instead of getting ready to leave.”

Are airports boring? Sure, but so are planes, especially if you’re taking the redeye. I have my gadgets, I use the time to get snacks to bring on the plane, pee, and check that my documents are all to hand, and after that I’m basically doing the same thing that I’d be doing during the flight. As a rule, I’m happy to wait as long as the books hold out.
posted by Autumnheart at 6:36 PM on May 29 [7 favorites]


rue72, I'm with you. Airports make sense; TSA Pre reduces the unpredictability of wait time a lot, and I enjoy a good sprint.

I consider my timing best if I arrive in time when they're boarding first class, because then my peon self has time to pee and refill my water bottle. I have also arrived with five minutes to spare -- that's probably the nearest I've shaved it.
posted by batter_my_heart at 6:46 PM on May 29 [1 favorite]


I like to leave for the airport with enough time to make my flight even if ~3 separate things go wrong. Usually nothing goes wrong, or one thing goes very slightly wrong in a way that takes ten minutes to fix, and I show up at my gate before the rest of the early-airport people. This is great, because I can snag a seat with an electrical outlet & sit there doing all of the same procrastinating I would have been doing at home.

A few months ago, this happened: I'd intended to fly into a city two time zones to the east, stay at a hotel near the airport, and fly back out of that city the next morning. The hotel part went fine. At some point in the past, though, I'd turned off automatic time zone updating on my cell phone, and the clock in my hotel room happened to be unplugged, and... basically I left for the airport TWO HOURS LATER THAN THE TIME I THOUGHT IT WAS.

EARLY AIRPORT PERSON NIGHTMARE FUEL

Despite vague but ominous texts from my co-travelers & the check-in person saying she'd put a "late arrival" tag on my bag, I didn't put it together until I happened to glance at a wall clock, at which point I lost my entire shit & booked it. Literally don't remember how I got through security, or onto the plane.

I did make it onto the plane, though. That wasn't enough to convert me from early-airportism, but I sure do think about it sometimes.
posted by taquito sunrise at 6:48 PM on May 29 [11 favorites]


Umm, missing your flight doesn't cost anything but time in my experience, so I'm not sure what money has to do with it.

Know how I know you don't fly non-U.S. domestic carriers?
posted by praemunire at 6:57 PM on May 29 [16 favorites]




or 2) sit & read at home on my couch in my underwear smoking and eating doritos

This made me wonder how many of the deliberately late people are smokers. Airports got less excruciating when I quit.
posted by Tuba Toothpaste at 7:01 PM on May 29 [8 favorites]


I'm an early to airports person, but mostly because I never have as many entertainments and distractions with me as I do when I'm flying. Like, if I have to wait for an extra hour I'm likely to have a bunch of movies and podcasts on my phone, at least one book, and my Switch. Unexpectedly having to kill an hour in midtown manhattan, on the other hand, is pure hell.
posted by Ragged Richard at 7:01 PM on May 29 [1 favorite]


I sincerely don't understand those of you all enthusiastic about having "reading time" at an airport and therefore like getting there early. I mean, I haven't missed a flight in years (except for weather reasons totally beyond my control) and I'm not a dasher-through-the-airport, but I've definitely cut it a little close because if my choices are 1) sit & read in an uncomfortable plastic chair-ish thing next to strangers after shuffling through a security line or 2) sit & read at home on my couch in my underwear smoking and eating doritos . . . . it's a no-brainer which is the better "reading time" situation.

This is definitely where the anxiety comes in. If I have a flight in a few hours that I've already packed for, I'm incapable of relaxing until I'm at the airport. I just get into this awful cycle of checking the time every three minutes. That said, even as an Early Person, it's hard to imagine intentionally getting to the airport more than 90 minutes early. I only do that if I've drastically overestimated traffic. But I'm horrified at the thought of intentionally giving myself less than an hour...
posted by grandiloquiet at 7:01 PM on May 29 [10 favorites]


Once, I got to the airport with plenty of time to spare, grabbed a chair at the gate, which was actually two gates sharing the same seating area, and put in my headphones. An hour later, I looked up when I saw people getting in line, picked up my stuff, and noticed that the destination was...not where I was going. Turns out that I’d been paying attention to the wrong gate and had missed my flight, plus all the announcements because I had headphones on. Fortunately the gate employees didn’t give me too hard a time and booked me on the next flight, which had plenty of seats, but I still felt exquisitely dumb.

I think the mix-up was because one flight was arriving from my destination and one was departing to it, or something like that, and I didn’t check my gate number closely enough. Now I make double-plus sure of my gate, and no more headphones until I’m on board!
posted by Autumnheart at 7:04 PM on May 29 [6 favorites]


Missing a flight and "just getting the next one" sometimes means a wait of 8-12 hours, sometimes 24, depending upon where you're going, whether it's a domestic flight between small airports, or a big international flight. I often don't have the luxury of arriving 2 days before I need to be there, so yeah, being late costs a lot in terms of missing half of the meetings that I was making the trip for in the first place.
posted by pykrete jungle at 7:17 PM on May 29 [11 favorites]


it's hard to imagine intentionally getting to the airport more than 90 minutes early

You never have to go to the US from a Canadian airport I gather.
posted by jeather at 7:20 PM on May 29 [7 favorites]


ricochet biscuit: Man who caused Phoenix Sky Harbor lockdown in 2014 gets 10½ years.

Great, but your typo suggested something much more dramatic.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 7:26 PM on May 29 [6 favorites]


I fly a fair bit. And I'm neither an early person, nor a cut-it-close person. I paid TSA their bribe fee for Global Entry and handed over my fingerprints, shoe size, retinal scan, whatever, to spare myself trouble at the border - but mostly for the privilege of not having to talk to Immigration while jetlagged, and that gets me PreCheck, which is a bit faster at almost every airport.

My other rule is to never check a bag if I can avoid it - and I don't recall having checked one in the last 5 years, not even for week-long international trips. That (plus status with my airline) helps a *lot* with tight connections and the flexibility to be re-routed.

When I'm flying out of our tiny Ithaca airport, I know I need only 30 minutes, *except* if I'm flying out on the 6 AM flight to Philadelphia. That's because there are 6 AM flights to Detroit and to Newark as well - that's the single busiest time at the airport, and there are people routinely lined up at security waiting to get through as the flights close, because they thought they could get through in 30 minutes.

Our family is from India and there's this kind of known thing in our culture called IST (Indian Standard Time).

Indian Stretchable Time, I'm sure you meant to say. So I flew once on IndiGo airlines last year - I thought I'd left a perfectly adequate amount of time to board and it turned out that I'd cut it very close indeed, because IndiGo treats the printed departure time on the boarding pass as the wheels-up time from the runway, and they were not screwing around! I think India's come a very long way from the "IST" of my youth.
posted by RedOrGreen at 7:32 PM on May 29 [4 favorites]


Within the confines of a terminal it is also socially acceptable to have a martini at eight o'clock in the morning. With eggs.

It's five o'clock somewhere. And since you're at the airport you might be going there, and you're already living on the time of your destination to make the jet lag easier.

(Okay, you're not, but Judgy McJudgeface over there doesn't know that.)
posted by madcaptenor at 7:36 PM on May 29 [4 favorites]


mean, it's selfish entitlement, isn't it? You know a plane will wait a little bit for people who have arrived "unavoidably late", because most people will be on-time, so it doesn't make that much difference to the schedule.

Flights... wait for people? I don't think you should have told me this information!

(I see from the subsequent comments that my lifelong assumption that they don't is probably still more correct than not.)

I'm not a real skin-of-the-teether but I am a "chill, it's [midsize airport], not JFK." I don't fly a ton but haven't been wrong on that count to date. I just don't want to get up early.
posted by atoxyl at 7:37 PM on May 29 [2 favorites]


There Are Two Types of Airport People

Personal experience tells me there are at least three. The early vs. late classification doesn't cover people who get off their connecting flight after they've already boarded, with no money and no clue at all as to how to go about organizing a replacement, wander randomly around the airport in an increasingly delusional state all night, and end up arrested after getting naked at an abandoned boarding gate the next morning.

I didn't see a huge amount of Singapore, but what there was was interesting.
posted by flabdablet at 7:48 PM on May 29 [6 favorites]


Flights... wait for people? I don't think you should have told me this information!

I used to work for an airline (in the US). The only scenario where they will hold a flight beyond its scheduled departure is if there is a group of people who are en route on a connecting inbound flight that is running a few minutes late. There's no float or flex time to accommodate random stragglers. The airline and it's employees are hyper-focused on on-time departures, late flights have huge domino effects.

The plane also cannot push back more than a few minutes (10 or less) early even if everyone is on board. And even if they do manage that its very unlikely at a medium or larger airport that they can take off before the scheduled time because of congestion.

That job pushed me from an Early to more or less a Late because the stakes aren't actually that high in most cases. If you;re going from a small airport with limited options or a long trip that only runs once a day it maybe makes sense to be on the safer side.
posted by uleekunkel at 8:07 PM on May 29 [5 favorites]


I get there early. And I hate every minute of it.

I'm very anxious about missing a flight. I'm also very anxious about being trapped in airports - I'm easily overwhelmed by sounds, so in an environment with competing cell phone conversations in combination with announcements, that I can't walk away from ... well, I'm just pleased with myself for not melting down in public (yet). I have no idea how anyone could relax and actually read something in an airport. If there are shops, I'll wander around and check out the shops. Traveling with a friend helps, but that's rare.

Some airports are less awful than others. If I can get a decent meal and a glass of wine within shouting distance of my gate, it's close enough to bearable.
posted by bunderful at 8:32 PM on May 29 [1 favorite]


The Onion's Dad Suggests Arriving At Airport 14 Hours Early is quite possibly the most laser-targeted piece of relatable content that I've ever seen on the internet.

That being said, I've only ever missed one flight. It was a day when everything that could have gone wrong went wrong -- I woke up a bit late; I hit traffic on the way to the airport; my phone's charger went on the fritz, didn't charge my phone overnight, and my phone died halfway to the airport; my "on-airport" rental car had an off-airport return because of some construction, and I got lost looking for it. The free shuttle bus arrived late, etc.

I watched the door to my gate pulled closed just as I was getting out of TSA. I run up to the gate visibly exhausted. The gate agent just smiles at me and says "Mr. Schmod, I'm guessing?"

"I'm so, so, so sorry"

"[chuckles] Let me guess. First time missing a flight?"

"Y-- yeah"

"The computer says you didn't check any bags. Our next flight to DCA isn't for a few hours, but we have a flight to Baltimore that boards in 10 minutes. How do you feel about going to Baltimore today?"

"Wait? Really. I'll absolutely take that."

"I thought you'd say that" and he hands me a boarding pass that he'd already printed.

Southwest earned a lifelong customer that day. I can't even remotely imagine another airline doing that for a passenger without some kind of status.

Oh, and I darn near almost missed another flight at CDG. I had a broken leg, and holy crap, that airport is BIG, and forces you to walk all the heck over the place, especially if you arrive via the RER.
posted by schmod at 8:36 PM on May 29 [10 favorites]


Early. But how early depends on which airport, which airline, when I'm flying, and where I'm headed. Busy airport in a city with bad traffic in a busy travel period (around holidays, especially), during rush hour, on a smaller airline with fewer seats per plane and fewer planes per destination, going to an out-of-the-way airport or with connecting flights? I want 2 1/2 hours grace period. If everything goes smoothly, I will happily read a book, listen to music, watch people and chill. If it's a smaller airport, redeye, no traffic, and I know there are other flights with seats available? An hour early seems plenty.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 8:37 PM on May 29 [1 favorite]


I am an Early married to an Early, so we get along just fine. I have a friend who is an Early married to a Late and it causes them both much misery. If I'm Early I can have a few Bloody Marys in the airport bar because I know it will be several hours before I need to drive anywhere.
posted by Daily Alice at 8:46 PM on May 29 [1 favorite]


Oh, flying. I am a jumble of nerves whenever I have to fly somewhere. I'm an early arrival type, definitely. Living in the NYC metro area means traffic anxiety (unless I'm flying out of White Plains), then parking anxiety, then finding the smoking area, usually on the other side of the terminal from where I need to be. Suck down 2-3 cigarettes and head in for security anxiety. Then to the bar. Suck down a couple cocktails to take the edge off. Takeoffs terrify me - I always end up thinking about that horrific crash from 1979 in Chicago where that random photographer in the parking lot happened to catch the plane ON IT'S SIDE plunging down to the ground shortly after takeoff. I'm usually okay once we level off but those takeoffs... I envy those people who are asleep before pushback from the gate. If I can, I try to find a view of the runway so I can obsessively examine all of the takeoffs to reassure myself that defying the laws of gravity is perfectly normal.

Aside from all of that fun, I don't fly much because I rarely have the money to go anywhere, so if I miss a flight, it means more $$ out of my pocket to rebook and more missed time out of work, so.

A weird habit I have is watching YT videos of plane takeoffs and landings, both from planespotters and from folks sticking their phone up against the window during takeoff. I can while away an afternoon watching those videos. Each time I watch one it reassures me that the law of averages states that I won't die in a fiery fall (or so I tell myself).

Yeah, the idea of running through an airport to catch a flight that I probably don't want to be on anyway is nightmare fuel for me. Because of all of this, I prefer to travel alone. And my friends/family prefer for me to travel alone, lol.
posted by sundrop at 8:47 PM on May 29 [3 favorites]


I don't just hate being in a hurry, I actually enjoy being leisurely. I pad every step of the day backwards. Boards at T, so be there by T-2 - eh, make it 3, 45 min to drive so say 1 hr 15, etc. Usually one of those worst case things actually comes true, and I'm still early. I already planned to be traveling all day anyway, so it's not like I'm missing something.

But I LIKE it. I don't look at my watch, I let people in front of me in traffic, I wait my turn and smile and be friendly with counter staff, TSA, and the coffee shop and basically just be relaxed and happy.

Sometimes I let myself enjoy watching the frantic late people imagining how shit a life it must be to have to be that concerned about being delayed a few minutes. I'm also this way driving to work in the morning.
posted by ctmf at 8:49 PM on May 29 [19 favorites]


I only once came close to missing a flight, having seriously underestimated how long it took to get to BWI from downtown DC. But it was annoying and stressful, so I'm happy to get there early and chill out with my computer or tablet. I'm not really giving up any opportunity cost.
posted by tavella at 9:00 PM on May 29


Early to check-in, late to board is the way to go.
posted by Burhanistan at 9:00 PM on May 29 [11 favorites]


Some airports are less awful than others

I wanted to move to the Pittsburgh airport
posted by thelonius at 9:14 PM on May 29 [1 favorite]


Narita isn't a terrible place to spend a few hours either.
posted by ctmf at 9:35 PM on May 29 [2 favorites]


Early person here. Missing a flight is like missing the Hogwarts Train for me. Why risk a delay to your magical adventure? I'm only a muggle. I don't have a flying Ford Anglia as a backup plan.

Nthing the people watching. It's like walking through Diagon Alley. You're likely to see some interesting people. Just be careful when you go through Gringotts Wizarding Bank. Goblins (the TSA) take security very seriously.
posted by mundo at 9:47 PM on May 29 [4 favorites]


My husband had a few years where he had to fly once a week, and he had that timing DOWN. There was basically no wiggle room in his timetable at all - it was like, get to the airport, park in this certain row, Precheck line ten minutes, roll up to the gate as they're closing the doors level precision. Even before that he was a late airport guy, but now it's like, pathological.

This has made him VERY annoying when we travel with kids as he's like "why be early???" and I usually don't bother to argue because hell if I want to, but the answer is 100% "BECAUSE THEIR LEGS ARE NOT VERY LONG AND THEY ARE EASILY DISTRACTED" and we both know this as a hard & immutable fact yet somehow we always end up at a fast-walk at some point in our air travel panting and carrying the youngest as we tensely wonder if we're going to make it.

Luckily since they are still young enough to need a metric goddamn ton of luggage regardless of where we're heading or how long we'll be gone, we always have to check bags. So as long as we get that bag checked we know the plane won't take off without us.

Meanwhile this Onion story may have been written by someone who overheard my dad. I've had a lot to unlearn in this marriage, tell you what. When I'm traveling alone I don't get there dad-early or husband-late...I think I'm pretty reasonable.
posted by potrzebie at 10:16 PM on May 29 [4 favorites]


I am so confused by this thread. Is nobody ever just... "on time"? I guess what I'm saying is that you're all kind of nuts.
posted by forbiddencabinet at 10:23 PM on May 29 [5 favorites]


As a former frequent business traveller, I prefer to not miss flights. I had meetings lined up, I was going to another place for a REASON and missing my flight would defeat that. In fact, I would usually book a flight for the night before too, in case the plane was delayed and cancelled, a trick I picked up from a friend who was a high powered lawyer, in courts where judges would require you to do that so as not to affect the court schedule. If your meeting is important enough that you have to travel to be there in person, why would you risk screwing it up?

I came to really enjoy chilling at an airport, because I am a manager and at an airport, nobody expects to be able to communicate with me or can bust up and interrupt me. An airport is an oasis of calm from my point of view compared to being a manager in an open plan office.
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 10:26 PM on May 29 [10 favorites]


I pretty much fly only once a year, internationally and near Christmas, and it's an 11-hour flight + layover + 2-hour flight just to get home. There is absolutely no way I'm going to chance anything about the day that I leave. I take the same flight every year, so my schedule is now roughly fixed: wake up 7-8 am, last-minute packing of whatever is left, triple checking passport to make sure it hasn't disappeared from my bag, get to airport by 12-12:30. Have lunch. Window shop and read. Maybe get a massage. Flight at 4:30 pm.

It's a whole-day event and I'm glad I plan for it. Coming home the opposite way requires waking up at 4 am for a 6:30 flight right after New Years fireworks, but I've learned to plan for that, too.

In opposite-land, my long-distance partner leaves packing until the morning-of. help.
posted by lesser weasel at 10:50 PM on May 29 [2 favorites]


I’m on a plane as I write this.

My ideal airport journey is one where I never sit down until I’m in my seat.

For flights with checked bags and passport checks it’s not reasonable. But when it’s the 6:15 sky bus to San Jose or Seattle from the Portland airport? Yeah I’m leaving my house at 5:30, get to the airport 10 minutes later, get through security (clear & tsa pre) it’s 5:45 at the gate and they’re boarding.

The flight is 32 minutes to Seattle, i don’t want to spend more time in the airport than in the air.
posted by mrzarquon at 11:05 PM on May 29 [6 favorites]


Also, and I know domestically they're a steaming pile of hello, but flying with Delta internationally and using their phone app has helped me so much in the past few years. Gate change notifications! Bag tracking! Boarding announcements and delays!

I no longer puke before my flight due to travel anxiety. I can actually relax. Keeping things in my control as much as possible (read: budgeting extra hours) has really helped me mellow out in airports and keep calm.

Like when my international flight is 90 minutes delayed and my layover requires passport control and rechecking my bags and making my gate in just over two hours.
posted by lesser weasel at 11:48 PM on May 29 [2 favorites]


Yeah, seriously, I think Bay Area to Seattle has more frequent service than Redmond, WA, USA <> Seattle after 8:30 pm on a weeknight, and that's my most frequent trip.

Not having to drive to / park at an airport helps a lot too. It seems that the more you can reduce the steps between you and the gate, the better.

Does anyone take Delta up on their 45 minute connections? Their connections seem to be either 45 minutes or 3 hours and 15 minutes, and on this recent trip (the first in a while where I didn't have a direct flight), I opted for the 3 hours ad 15 minutes, but I wonder if I should have preferred the heady panic of the 45 minute ones,
posted by batter_my_heart at 12:16 AM on May 30


I flew in 2016 for the first time since 1999, elected to take an early flight to LA from Seattle so I'd have plenty of time to get to my destination after I landed, got to the airport on time via shuttle, got on the plane...and we sat on the tarmac for two hours while they fiddled with an engine. The hour-later flight left before we did, and the two-hours-later flight almost did.

I could have gotten up at six instead of four ayem.

I'll try a flight again in 2033, if I'm still alive and planes are still flying. Maybe it'll be a better experience.
posted by maxwelton at 12:23 AM on May 30 [2 favorites]


I was thinking about the times I've had to wait for transit, and in general, I think I'm much more willing to wait for a bus or a train. Airports are just these uniquely horrible places to me. What looks to you like poor planning on my part may in fact be a concerted effort to spend as little time as possible in the airport.

Think about it this way: because there's this security theater at the entrance, you're basically trapped once you go in. I mean, you can't come and go freely, that's for sure. The food inside is typically wildly overpriced and gross (as yes, the $10 partially microwaved egg sandwich pairs nicely with the $4 bottle of water). There is frequently absolutely nothing to do if you aren't someone who can focus and read with hundreds of people streaming past you, talking, etc etc. There's what, a store selling the same small selection of magazines and snacks? If it's a really big terminal, maybe there's a store selling noise-cancelling earbuds, or a duty-free store. Basically, you're trapped in this crowded, boring place where everyone is trying to gouge you. It's the worst.

It's especially bad if it's an airport you're not familiar with. Are you about to be trapped in a tiny little terminal with no food whatsoever? Good luck, cause you're not leaving until you get on the plane!

I'm not saying bus terminals are exactly picturesque, and train stations can be just as crowded and overpriced (or weird -- I was frequently in Penn Station in NY as a kid, and I definitely saw some weird shit there). But you can leave, and that makes all the difference. It makes all the difference for me just to be able to step outside when I want or need to. Plus, they're frequently in city centers, so there's stuff around them. Airports are in the middle of nowhere.

Point is, I'll minimize my wait for a bus or train as much as possible, too, but airports are their own special hell. You can ask "what difference does a half hour make?" Oh, a lot, believe me.
posted by shapes that haunt the dusk at 12:26 AM on May 30 [3 favorites]


I'm also the kind of person who will intentionally drive out of my way to avoid being stuck in traffic, even if it ends up taking longer. I think it's something about feeling trapped.

I'd rather drive 8 hours than take a 3 hour flight.
posted by markbrendanawitzmissesus at 1:02 AM on May 30 [3 favorites]


I am an Early (although not a 14 hour early) married to an Early for just about everything travel related so we generally work out fine. Partially this is because I am frequently at the mercy of Southern Fail (who doesn't enjoy spending who knows how much time at a dead standstill just outside Gatwick airport - its own circle of hell as it is - because The Wrong Kind of Leaves are on the line etc etc [insert favourite British Train Failure Excuse here]) or trying to get to Heathrow from the South East Coast as a non-driver.) and also because I have arrived on time and still ended being in the check-in and security queue when my flight was meant to board because of ~~ airport reasons~~.

Also because on the rare occasions that I do fly, there is no way in hell that UK airlines will bump you to another plane without extracting two internal organs and your firstborn first. Hell, travelling back up to Yorkshire this last weekend, my first train was delayed due to someone crashing into a rail bridge and we made our booked seats/ticket only valid for train from London to Yorkshire with minutes to spare, instead of a nice 30 minute gap to get from arrival station/buy a magazine/stroll to platform. They probably would have let us on the next train but 2.5 hours of being wedged in a vestibule by the toilets is not really how I prefer to travel for the price we pay.
posted by halcyonday at 1:39 AM on May 30 [1 favorite]


I missed a plane
And I liked it
posted by chavenet at 2:04 AM on May 30 [4 favorites]


That any airlines let you miss your flight with no financial penalty is mind blowing to me. How is this still a thing?

My husband and I are Earlies. Despite this we missed a flight it was RyanAir so of course we had to eat the cost and ended up buying a EasyJet flight. And it was such a stupid reason. Because we are Earlies I thought we had time for me to do a quick manicure. It took longer than I thought it would and we were shaving it close for boarding. But this is not why we missed the flight.

We read the boarding gate completely wrong and ended up in a totally incorrect terminal. Because of airport security we had to basically get escorted BACK OUT OF THE AIRPORT and do security and check in all over again. Night. Mare.

Now we have a crosscheck system for reading our gate numbers. “B27?” “B27 confirmed!”

We’re still Earlies but I won’t get a manicure again. Just magazines, Haribo, and WiFi thanks.
posted by like_neon at 2:22 AM on May 30 [3 favorites]


I am so confused by this thread. Is nobody ever just... "on time"?

When I read this I bucket you as a Late.
posted by like_neon at 2:26 AM on May 30 [26 favorites]


From the article: "But the willfully tardy are not simply trying to annoy their friends and family." vs. "“I know I can pick at him,” Joseph says. “I’m like, ‘Oh, I think I’m just gonna go to sleep now and pack tomorrow.’ You can see the anxiety growing in him, physically.”"

We can all agree that guy's an asshole, right?
posted by lucidium at 2:42 AM on May 30 [13 favorites]


I've seen a similar thing said about "$EthnicGroup Time" to denote a laid-back flexible approach to set times for a number of different groups - with the corresponding connotation that only certain other uptight groups are sticklers about being on time.

I'm not sure that this is always used with the implication that being habitually late is a bad thing. I have heard South Americans talk about "hora inglesa" in a pejorative sense: a reference to those who are so uptight that they wastefully (and somewhat rudely) arrive for appointments on time. We might think about the Mayans who were meticulous enough to work out a calendar with interlocking blocks up up to 5,000 years - but who paid no attention to time increments shorter than a day. The day was when you would be planting your corn, going to a market or whatever - and its parts were too nitty-gritty to worry about. That logic still applies to most human events - and the need to sync everybody up on a minute by minute basis was driven by the arrival of mass transit devices like planes.

Those cultures which are looser in the view punctuality, also often have a healthier view about pinning our hopes and plans too much on a future event. From time to time, horses will go lame, thunder storms will fell trees over the road, we will take a wrong turn by accident and flights will be missed.
posted by rongorongo at 3:34 AM on May 30 [2 favorites]


I came to really enjoy chilling at an airport, because I am a manager and at an airport, nobody expects to be able to communicate with me or can bust up and interrupt me. An airport is an oasis of calm from my point of view compared to being a manager in an open plan office.

This is a part of what I meant by "liminal space" - normal expectations of your availability seem to be suspended, at least to some degree.

In fact, I would usually book a flight for the night before too, in case the plane was delayed and cancelled, a trick I picked up from a friend who was a high powered lawyer, in courts where judges would require you to do that so as not to affect the court schedule.

Wait, so you'd book 2 flights? Or just one, the night before the day you have to be somewhere?
posted by thelonius at 3:37 AM on May 30


This might be too simplistic but I'd bet that the early/late airport dichotomy tracks with people's response to the question "I expect things in my life to go basically fine, most of the time."

Like, I'm fully aware that I have time anxiety because my mom has time anxiety & when she's anxious everyone in her vicinity is miserable, so we her kids developed meta-anxiety about triggering her anxiety.

Missing a flight is a mild inconvenience I could totally handle, whereas -- this is gonna sound hyperbolic but it isn't -- I live in mortal terror of ever again getting a faceful of the full-blast panic hose from a hypervigilant screaming woman who is running through the airport nearly clocking pedestrians with her roller bag, & I'm still anxious about this even when she's not actually there.

I figure her anxiety & need to control her environment stems from her dad dying unexpectedly when she was a kid. So really it's not about "how bad would it actually be to miss a flight," it's about "how bad are you prepared for things to get, just out of nowhere, and what do you need to do to feel like you're mitigating that enough?" (or something idk it's like 4 AM)
posted by taquito sunrise at 3:46 AM on May 30 [8 favorites]


So all of the Late people just fly for shits and giggles to places where there's a flight every half an hour or so, and getting bumped into the next flight doesn't mean you miss your connecting flight / hotel check-in / work meeting or whatever, right?

Last week I was flying home from Tel Aviv and got to the terminal with just an hour to spare - luckily we breezed through security and got to the gate about ten minutes before boarding. Next flight to Athens would have been about 8 hours later - at five the following morning which would have been Not Fun even if they did have tickets. Also the luggage ended up in Tiblisi, but I don't know if dropping it off last minute had any effect or it was just standard airline incompetence.
posted by each day we work at 3:53 AM on May 30 [4 favorites]


I tend to get to the airport early because I tend to get to things early anyway. It's a habit I've been slowly breaking myself of, but I just tend to start to get restless as I get closer to the time to leave so I just end up leaving early. But I'm not the "get there six hours ahead of time" sort -- just 90-120 minutes, maybe. I do like to have time to trek to my gate, get through security, grab a snack and sit for a bit before getting on my plane. I'm a stressy traveler anyway (I make a list -- at least mentally -- of what could go wrong then how to solve it every time I travel. I also make actual physical lists of everything I need to pack and double-check it) so having a bit to just sit and not worry helps me tremendously.

but you do you, I guess.

Anyway, I knew my boyfriend and I were compatible when I saw we agreed at the appropriate time to get to the airport.
posted by darksong at 4:44 AM on May 30 [4 favorites]


I leave for the airport early because unpredictable traffic round where I live means it can take anywhere between 35 and 90 minutes to drive to the airport. And then many times it's taken an hour to get through check-in and security, so I'm used to spending time in the bar with a book.

Mrs.43rd, on the other hand, is a "last remaining passenger" type, and regards getting to the gate a second earlier than necessary an unforgivable waste of her precious allotted life span. This leads to a certain amount of friction.

My being v early did pay off last year, though, when the CBP at Montreal decided to have a 90-minute talk with me before letting me through to get my flight to NY. Not recommended as a way of spending time at the airport, though...
posted by 43rdAnd9th at 5:05 AM on May 30 [1 favorite]


I'm on team early. I expect traffic holdups (within certain parameters) on my way to the airport. I expect a crowd of
some size when it comes to the security line. I expect the flight may be at the farthest gate in the farthest terminal.
I adjust accordingly, so sometimes I am waiting 45 minutes before boarding starts, but even if traffic is particularly bad, and the lines at security are particularly large, I am at the gate before boarding starts. Which makes it all the more aggravating when flights are delayed or cancelled. Airline delays and cancellations added 31 hours to a trip very recently (more than half of which were spent in the airport).
posted by coppertop at 5:05 AM on May 30 [1 favorite]


I'm a Team Early in a relationship with a Team Late. We are both non-neurotypical in differing ways and it is genuinely difficult and deeply stressful for either of us to fully accommodate the other's preferred travelling style. Neither of us is Wrong (though obviously I think I'm just a little more Right), but it's unfortunately just the way it is. Mostly we leave at a reasonable medium between our preferred leaving times, and no one's totally happy, but also no one's totally miserable. But when I travel alone and can arrive early enough to fully relax into my comforting little airport rituals that soothe my travel anxiety, it's such a relief. I can only assume he feels the same as he races through the airport without me and slides into his seat two minutes before the doors close.

We've missed two flights together that I recall. One was back in the dark ages of ~2002 and honestly I have no recollection anymore what happened. I just remember that they couldn't rebook us until many hours later so we went home and took a nap before returning to the airport. The other was a few years ago when I decided to try just going with the flow and leaving at his preferred time to see what that was like and if it would really be as bad as I was imagining it would be. First the cab didn't come, so we ended up driving ourselves leaving fifteen minutes later than planned. Then there was a traffic jam en route to the airport. Then parking was unusually full and we had to park way out in the long-long-long-long term lot and take a shuttle to the terminal instead of just parking near and walking. It was a parody of how I imagine his life is when he travels alone, and I'm not sure I have ever fully recovered, even once we were rebooked on a later flight and catching our breath at the gate. He swears to me it's not usually like that but I'm not sure I'm convinced.
posted by Stacey at 5:44 AM on May 30 [5 favorites]


I too sometimes enjoy being in an airport for a few hours.

If I'm alone, I like to watch parents playing with their kids or siblings playing with each other or large groups of students. I like trying to guess the reason for someone's trip. As someone who is anxious and goal-oriented to a fault, I feel no pressure to do anything productive. I'm usually at the beginning or end of a trip, so my head will be buzzing with feelings, and I like to lose myself journaling, sketching, or maybe reading a nice book.

If I'm with friends, it feels super intimate to me because I have almost exclusively flown alone or with family when I was very young. So it feels like we're reaching a new level of friendship. I love finding out what my friends pack, how they keep themselves from being bored, where and if they grab a bite to eat. Maybe we'll play cards or chat shit about strangers or have a deep conversation.

I also feel like airports make regular people uncomfortable, whereas as a trans person and immigrant I'm uncomfortable all the time in normal spaces like grocery stores or the post office. So it somehow feels like a leveling thing.
posted by yaymukund at 6:06 AM on May 30 [7 favorites]


I try not to be compulsively early, but you have to allow extra time. Especially because when something does go wrong the airline employees act like it's their first day on the job.

Also, I deeply resent feeling like a sucker when the latecomers are waved through the TSA line ahead of me.

Finally, there's a world of difference between taking the first flight out of PVD every Monday versus an international flight to an already-too-brief vacation. And wouldn't you know it? I approach those situations with completely different attitudes.
posted by whuppy at 6:09 AM on May 30


Team Early. The context that American airlines (small a) will just put you on the flight free or near-free was eye-opening; as far as I know, that does not happen here in Europe, though I never missed a flight to actually try it and I hope I never will.
posted by KTamas at 6:11 AM on May 30 [1 favorite]


I'm an early person, quite sure this is anxiety driven! But, everyone who says that if you miss a flight, the airline (U.S.) will just bump you to the next one...does that really work? I flew for work last week, and for all my flights, the number of people waiting for a seat assignment far exceeded the number of seats open. That's my nightmare, that I will miss a flight and will be sitting around, waiting, without knowing when I'll get on another one. Am I just overly concerned about that?
posted by TheFantasticNumberFour at 6:15 AM on May 30 [2 favorites]


I'm generally really early for everything because I deeply enjoy waiting.
posted by srboisvert at 6:27 AM on May 30 [2 favorites]


I am team So Early that I once accidentally showed up at O'Hare instead of Midway and had plenty of time to realize my mistake and take a (very expensive) cab to the correct airport and board my flight.
posted by merriment at 6:39 AM on May 30 [7 favorites]


I love flying, take several flights a year and am team right on time: I like to arrive when first class starts boarding, enough to have a bit of a sit, or pee or fill up your waterbottle , but not long enough you get antsy. My SO needs to be at airports with 2hrs to spare. I'm alright with it if we've arranged it so that we've got a lounge to hang out in (free drinks! snacks!), but I hate paying out of pocket for expensive (generally mediocre) beer and food at airports, and honestly I hate that liminal time where you're just waiting, where you can't sink into your book or music because you still need to pay attention to what's going on around you.

I have missed flights; but always due to things outside my control--weather and/or customs related. I'm lucky to not be generally anxious, and honestly things generally turn out ok.
posted by larthegreat at 6:43 AM on May 30 [1 favorite]


Some airport lounges are comfortable and have unlimited free food and drink. It’s not quite possible to offset the ticket expense upgrade , and it is frowned upon to get to the lounge too early before your flight to try to eat and drink your body weight. But it’s BA so, y’know, we’ll worth a go to find their, and your, limits.
posted by eyeofthetiger at 6:44 AM on May 30 [3 favorites]


>The Onion's Dad Suggests Arriving At Airport 14 Hours Early is quite possibly the most laser-targeted piece of relatable content that I've ever seen on the internet.
posted by schmod at 11:36 PM on May 29


Ok but I seriously once got to an airport 18 hours early, on purpose. I was in a strange country and nervous about finding my way to and negotiating the airport alone, so when my friends who had much earlier flights were getting ready to head there, I just rode along and went with it. Then, of course, the airline couldn't check my luggage anywhere near that early (I think it's like, 2 hours ahead that they'll take it?), so my luggage and I sat in Ben Gurion for the better part of a day. It wasn't my favorite day ever, but I had my laptop and I had wifi (and I had company for part of the time), so it also wasn't the worst. When I did get to check my luggage, both it and I got a very thorough search, which I guess in retrospect made sense because who the fuck with any sanity or good intentions sits in the airport with their luggage for 3/4 of a day?

Needless to say, I'm constitutionally an Early, though not usually an 18-hours-early. More like "arrive at airport 2-3 hours before flight" (and still be anxious in the security line). I tend to do the thing someone described above where it's like "ok need to be at gate 40 minutes early which means security 2 hours early which means arrive 2.5 hours early which means leave 3.5 hours early which means be up 6 hours early". My husband, a former super-heavy business traveler, is a Late, but he's mostly adapted to Early life because watching me spin in anxious circles for hours ahead of time at home is apparently Not Fun. I do my best to bend slightly toward his Late tendencies, and we usually end up negotiating to leave about a half hour to forty-five minutes after I'd prefer and an hour or two before he'd prefer. And then I settle in at the gate with a book while he fidgets impatiently for an hour or two. My husband is a very good and tolerant person, clearly. But he still insists on packing the morning we leave. *shakes fist*
posted by Hold your seahorses at 6:51 AM on May 30 [2 favorites]


Team Early. I really enjoyed watching police get called onto a plane to remove a business executive who had dashed by the gate attendants trying to close the the walkway door and bragged loudly about it as he entered the plane. Unfortunately his subordinate, who happened to be sitting beside me on the plane getting increasingly nervous as she wondered where her boss was, now had to get off - and that meant pulling checked luggage out of the plane. Yes, the plane was an hour late to leave, but the schadenfreude was worth it.
posted by sabraonthehill at 6:56 AM on May 30 [6 favorites]


I missed my flight to New Orleans for the tenth anniversary Mefi meetup vacation! I was actually NEAR the gate on time, but didn't realize they close the door and stop boarding like 15 minutes before the flight actually leaves, so i got there like 14 minutes before the departure time, and they wouldn't let me on. So then I just hung around the airport for like another eight hours until I could get on a standby flight, and was late to a big mefi dinner that night, finally showing up to the restaurant laden with luggage and covered in sweat as a result of confusion about how the modern world works. Which is actually a pretty representative look for me! So that's all right then
posted by Greg Nog at 6:57 AM on May 30 [6 favorites]


But, everyone who says that if you miss a flight, the airline (U.S.) will just bump you to the next one...does that really work?

Yes. I've had a few times where I've had delays cause me to get my flight schedule all screwed up, and the desk clerks made sure to get me to my destination as quickly as possible (which in some cases did mean an overnight stay.)
posted by NoxAeternum at 7:00 AM on May 30


I'm always fairly Early to airports, because I'm a weirdo who likes airports...I love how false all the stores and restaurants are (they're just so shallow and miniaturized!), I love watching people going places, and I love the planes taking off and landing.

What I didn't love was going to Toronto on the regular from Boston Logan, because the Air Canada terminal, while super-fast to get into (never really a long security line) has about 15 chairs, a stand that sells muffins, and....that's it. It's not in any way a place I like to spend any time.

Now that I have a new job, I don't have to visit Canada anymore (alas...I love Canada), so hopefully any trips from now on will take me through more interesting airports.
posted by xingcat at 7:12 AM on May 30 [2 favorites]


I'm an early, my wife's a late.

For everybody who's saying "they'll put you on a different flight" - I've missed two flights in my life, both Atlanta to Philadelphia. In the first one, on Delta, I ended up on the next flight an hour later (airline error - they forgot to call my boarding group, the last one). In the second one, on American, I was legitimately late and they did their best putting me on standby but after six hours or so hanging around the airport we gave up. This was due to roadwork-caused traffic - now I check before I go to the airport, even early on a Saturday morning when I shouldn't have to.

There was an early sign that my wife's a late - one day early in our relationship she had, IIRC, a 6 AM flight out of SFO. The first BART train to the airport got there at 5:30 and she insisted on taking BART instead of letting me give her a ride. She missed the flight. (It's possible she didn't really want to make that flight.)
posted by madcaptenor at 7:30 AM on May 30 [1 favorite]


I have always felt that many people, in all life situations, have become addicted to stress as motivation to get things done. Those would be the "late" people in this dichotomy. You know the type: everything is a big deal (because they are always late). Even if they aren't late, they make it late somehow. "OMG, this paper/report/meeting/task/flight/whatever is coming up soon!
I'm not ready, I have to hurry, what if I miss it!" etc. I think Psych types call that catastrophising or something; life is a constant catastrophe.

Anecdote: back when I traveled a lot, I was on a connecting flight from Europe to NY to Dallas to OKC. I was immersed in a book at the time. In Dallas, there was one of those single desks for dual gates to OKC and Chicago.

I checked in and sat down to read my book. The flight was called and as usual everyone jumped up to crowd the entry and stand in line (I always wondered why--it's assigned seats). Since I'm not a stressy type, I waited a bit then had my ticket checked at the gate and walked down the tunnel to my seat.

The plane took off, I continued to read my book, then kinda snapped out of it when the captain came on and started talking about the weather in Chicago. Chicago? I'm going to OKC! Push the stewardess button and ask, "why is he talking about the weather in Chicago?" Yep...it's gonna be an even longer day....

It's boring to be on time and early for things, but it can be just as problematic.
posted by CrowGoat at 7:31 AM on May 30 [2 favorites]


I travel pretty regularly for work, on someone else's dime, and even got rebooked for free on the same day the one time I missed a flight, and I am STILL on Team Early. I scrounge lounge passes when I can, which has been a game-changer, and I LOVE the "whoops! in transit! can't get on that millionth conference call!" excuse that being in an airport gives me. It's usually less a choice between spending another half hour at home instead of the airport, than a choice between spending another half hour working instead of being at the airport. I will take my mediocre airport wine and book, thankyouverymuch.
posted by bowtiesarecool at 7:37 AM on May 30 [1 favorite]


That being said, I've only ever missed one flight. It was a day when everything that could have gone wrong went wrong

That's what happened to me the one time I missed a flight. First the subway broke down so I ran outside and hailed a cab. On the highway, the cab had to pull over because the latch on the hood was broken and the hood was about to pop up onto the windshield. The cabbie fixed that and we finally got to the airport. The line to check in was crazy long. Then the line at immigration was crazy long but someone took pity on me and whisked me to the front. I got to my gate and the gate had been changed. I had to take a shuttle to a different part of the airport and I just missed the shuttle. I stood there watching it drive away, realizing that despite my best efforts, I wasn't going to make the flight.

But it all worked out. The airline got me on the next flight free of charge. Then I had about three hours to decompress. I went to the bar, bought a cheeseburger and a gin and tonic and sat there watching The Simpsons. A nice way to relax and get myself together after my mad dash.

My wife is a flight attendant. She is always early and she has taught me to always be early, too. Once her parents asked her what time they should arrive at the airport for a flight and she told them. 'That's too early,' they said. They went a few hours later than my wife told them and sure enough, they missed their flight.
posted by Fuzzy Monster at 7:50 AM on May 30 [1 favorite]


This might be too simplistic but I'd bet that the early/late airport dichotomy tracks with people's response to the question "I expect things in my life to go basically fine, most of the time."

Maybe, although what "basically fine" means is kind of the question. Does "basically fine" mean without a hitch, or does it mean all's well that end's well? I figure that plenty of wild stuff is likely to come up, who can predict anything, but I'll still get to the end of the journey eventually. I don't really look for things to go without a hitch, just to be deal-able. I don't think that's a personality thing really, although maybe some kind of cultural thing (no idea what culture, but it seems like a learned attitude rather than an innate one hahaha).

Anyhow, leaving for a trip is easy, it's coming back from trips that can be difficult. I'm familiar with how to get to the airport from my house, how long things will usually take, what's available at the airport itself...but on my way back from somewhere, I'm pretty clueless. If I remember right, the last time I missed a plane was last summer, when I was coming back to the US from Mexico. I had booked the shuttle from the hotel to the airport before I'd even left on the trip, but it turned out that the shuttle trip was a lot longer than expected, and I wound up missing check-in for my flight from Los Cabos to Mexico City. They bumped me to the next one, so I had a couple hours in the airport to get brunch and stuff. Not a big deal, and free. The summer before, I ran into trouble trying to get home from Chicago; I missed the check-in at O'Hare because it took me longer than I expected to get a Lyft and then the drive itself took a long time. In that case, too, they just bumped me onto the next flight and it meant a couple hours of waiting and no extra cost. There are some airports or airlines that I expect will be especially time-consuming to deal with, either because they seem intimidating (Kolkata) or because that's just how they operate (Aegean Air), and those I will arrive at super early and expect to just spend the whole day waiting around in one form or another. But sometimes stuff comes up that's hard to predict, and my ability to estimate time is uniquely horrible anyway, so basically...shit happens!

But yeah, in my experience if you miss your flight, everyone will try hard to get you onto another one ASAP. Nobody wants you wondering aimlessly through the airport forever, airlines exist to get you out of there! And I guess because of people buying tickets for tight connections that then get missed and things like that, agents seem really practiced at dealing with having to shuffle people around a little. I've never worked that side of the counter, though, so maybe they're furious and freaking out and just have a really good ability to never let anyone see them sweat!
posted by rue72 at 7:58 AM on May 30


The one time I was "late" for a flight, they emailed me and texted me while I was on my way to the airport two hours before takeoff time to tell me I'd been rescheduled to the plane leaving... in ten minutes. (the very nice young lady at the front counter that I spoke to about this, doing my best not to become That Asshole In Line saw that there had been a twelve-hour delay in sending me the alert for no good reason and that it was not my fault. It was also the last flight in the day to that particular destination, so I ended up having to change a lot of my plans, but thankfully the hotel understood and adjusted my reservation, so I wasn't completely screwed. And then the next morning at Jesus Goddamn Christ O'Clock In The Morning, the very nice young lady had bumped me to first class as the result of the fuckery. One of the few bright spots ever at LaGuardia.)

Then there was the time I planned to be a bit early, and ended up being four hours early, because there was absolutely no traffic. Trying to get from the Port Authority to JFK by the airport buses (because I didn't want to deal with the subway)... well...

Who the hell in NYC expect there to be no traffic at all on the LIE? I figured it would be an hour to cross to the Midtown Tunnel, another hour and a half on the LIE, boom, at JFK. I was surprised.

Anyway, I like to get to the airport early, and Mrs. Mephron wants to be early everywhere (seriously, she gets nervous if she's less than a half-hour early for the dentist), so that's kind of a thing for us.
posted by mephron at 8:00 AM on May 30


Team early. The last time I flew with my child, the TSA people decided that my son’s liquid medication failed the explosives test, so they had to confer at length amongst themselves. Then they decided to hand-inspect our luggage and pat me down, and my 4-year-old started crying because he wanted to take his shoes off and get patted down, too. When the TSA agent said she couldn’t touch him because he was too young, he sobbed until I made him stand on the foot-outline mat and patted him down myself. I had many feelings about America that day.

That said, I am team show up whenever for the perpetually late afternoon downtown express bus routes and sometimes end up sprinting several blocks to catch up to the bus at the next stop. While the adrenaline rush is interesting in that it keeps me running longer than I thought was possible, when I spend the next 10 minutes on the bus trying to calm down my asthmatic lungs I rarely feel like it was worth it.
posted by Maarika at 8:02 AM on May 30 [9 favorites]


> I've only ever missed one flight. It was a day when everything that could have gone wrong went wrong

I said I was on team "On Time" - the one time I've missed a flight in recent memory is because I was too early. I was skipping the conference dinner to fly west from Albuquerque to LA, then take a red eye back east, and traffic was so light and security so empty that I got to the gate an hour in advance. (I'd budgeted for 30 minutes in security, and it took 30 seconds.)

So I went gift shopping for my partner - picked out some very pretty earrings - and missed the critical announcement that they were offloading passengers because it was too hot to fly a full plane load. (Either the air got too thin or the runway got too soft - I forget.) When I got back to the gate, they couldn't let me on, even with my status and with my seat empty on board, because they'd already let too many people on and they were consulting about whether or not they needed to unload passengers. The one time where not having checked luggage was a bad thing!

But well - they gave me a hotel, I went back to my conference dinner, I flew home the next morning via Dallas instead, and got home 6 hours later than I'd expected (but with a decent night's sleep). I'm not sure if I count that as a net loss.
posted by RedOrGreen at 8:03 AM on May 30


> the TSA agent said she couldn’t touch him because he was too young

The flaws of security theater.

Meanwhile, at Ben Gurion, not even the lord can help you if the friendly, chatty pre-screeners decide that you're a tiny bit suspicious. That's the only place I've ever been asked what my name means, and then, what my brother's name means. They clearly didn't care about the answer, just the depth of my cover story...
posted by RedOrGreen at 8:06 AM on May 30 [2 favorites]


I always hear about the "oh they'll just put you on the next flight" thing. But for the last ten years I have never been on a flight that was not overbooked. So how are they going to find room for me on the other, also overbooked, flights?
posted by Karmakaze at 8:06 AM on May 30 [5 favorites]


I switched myself from Late to Early a decade or so ago, even though I'm a procrastinator in all other things, because I realized that I hate the stress of rushing, and this particular instance of stress was relatively easy to fix. It doesn't hurt that JetBlue at JFK has an outdoor lounge that nobody else seems to like, so if I'm an hour early I can sit out in the weather almost alone (and my dog can pee, if he's with me).

I think the last time I missed a plane, it was because I took a taxi to the wrong airport! When we were almost to LaGuardia, I realized my mistake. The taxi driver did a valiant job of rushing me to JFK, but I was a few minutes too late. The airline put me on the same flight the next day and charged me $50 or something.
posted by moonmilk at 8:08 AM on May 30


> how are they going to find room for me on the other, also overbooked, flights

They're probably only overbooked because high-status frequent fliers are being rebooked into those flights. Yeah, it's a terribly class-ist system, but most airlines try harder for their loyal customers... If you're a rare flier, the experience is significantly worse.
posted by RedOrGreen at 8:11 AM on May 30


So how are they going to find room for me on the other, also overbooked, flights?

Badly.

Back in 2004 I was on a flight from LAX to Newark, and despite what I had picked when buying, I got reassigned to a middle seat. Well, I'm a large person, so when they asked for people to volunteer to be bumped for a voucher, I leapt at the chance.

On the next plane, I got an aisle seat, and then someone complained about sitting next to a big person, and the gate agent supervisor came on the plane, and told me that I had to deboard and buy a second seat on the next available flight or they'd have me escorted from the airport and my ticket cancelled. (Then she tried to charge me the cost of my ENTIRE flight for half of it, and I basically told her to where to go and what to do when she got there, and she agreed to half that cost... and then refused to take my voucher, saying it wasn't valid and I needed to pay cash. I suspect some shenanigans.) . That next flight? 9 PM. My first flight was noon and the one I just got yanked off of was 3 PM.

I went to the Continental lounge, bought a day pass with the voucher (I had no more money available to me), found a place to sit, got a drink, made some phone calls on their free phone, and attempted to destress. (It did not go well).

I got on the 9 PM plane, found my seat with my two passes, and then someone came up and said I was in their seat. It turns out that the gate agent supervisor hadn't even gotten that part right. But I got my two seats, because dammit, I paid for those seats. And when I got home, I wrote an actual physical letter going through my woes and snail-mailed it to the CEO's office, signature confirmation requested. I later got a phone call which restored my voucher, gave me some miles, four upgrade certificates to first class and a written apology, but that was still a horrible travel situation.
posted by mephron at 8:16 AM on May 30 [7 favorites]


There are Two Types of Airport People

Well, not really, no.

1) Late-on-purpose devil-may-care adrenaline junkies. Sometimes with significant entitlement.
2) Chronically late people who intended to be earlier and are miserable in their panic.
3) People whose preferred airport arrival time is later than your preferred arrival time but still within a reasonably prudent range even if their math makes you nervous. Try to be less zero-sum-game fighty, please.

Not really covered in this article:
4) People whose preferred arrival time is earlier than your preferred arrival time but still within a reasonably prudent range even if their caution makes you fidgety. Try to be less zero-sum-game fighty, please.
5) People whose preferred arrival time is so outrageously early that they're a mirror version of Type 1. Also with the entitlement.
posted by desuetude at 8:42 AM on May 30 [5 favorites]


but actually if you do miss your flight you end up having to way more time in the airport.
Okay, yes, of course that's true in the vast majority of instances, but this one time: I booked a flight at five in the morning like a complete idiot. Of course I got there in not-enough time to get through security and I missed it. The next flight was hours and hours hence, so. I went home. And I took off all my bullshit and got in bed and went to sleep for two or three glorious, blissful hours. It was so amazing. If you live close to the airport, try booking a stupid-early flight at least once, just in case you miss it. Best sleep of my life, merely because I was supposed to be but was not in an airport or on a fuckin plane.
posted by Don Pepino at 8:49 AM on May 30 [1 favorite]


I could not possibly travel with people who intentionally arrive at the last possible moment; the level of anxiety I experienced just reading the article is minimal compared to what I'd feel if my traveling companion pulled this.

Roger that. In fact, I had a friend (note past tense) who did this whenever we traveled together, and it's a substantial part of the reason we're no longer friends. He knew how anxious he was making me when we always wound up running at a full gallop to the train and leaping on just as the doors were closing, and refused to budge one inch. To me, it was just a huge marker of disrespect.
posted by holborne at 9:01 AM on May 30 [7 favorites]


If you're a rare flier, the experience is significantly worse.

For what it's worth, not in my experience. I always buy the cheapest tickets possible and fly maybe 1-2 times a year nowadays, so I'm not anybody's loyal customer. But I haven't had issues. I think part of the trick is, if you're late for one flight, then you're probably early for the next one, which usually means you've got first dibs on check-in and/or the wait list. The other things that I've generally got going on that I think probably help are that I'm usually flying alone (so only need a single free seat) and traveling fairly light, with maybe one checked bag at most and no pet.

I also am beginning to suspect that people are maybe especially nice to me because damn, I have not been bum rushed off of a flight before -- how horrible!

One time, I was on a plane that was overbooked and they'd assigned both myself and another woman the same seat, though. I got onto the plane after she did and found her already sitting in "our" seat. The flight attendants said that I'd checked in first, so my name was the one assigned to the seat in their lists, and she should be the one to move. The woman said that they were being prejudiced (I'm white, she wasn't) and basically had a tantrum and refused to get up. Who knows what was really going on! I just stood there and let things play out, lol. So then the flight attendants found some random seat for me. That kind of sucked because they didn't have enough food on board, and since I was in some random maybe-supposed-to-be-empty seat, I was given the "extra" meal, which was the vegan option, aka a bunch of plain, steamed mixed veg. I was so hungry. That airline was Virgin, I think. I don't fly them anymore because they've run out of food at other times, too. I will put up with a lot, but running out of food is just mind-blowing to me -- and worrying. I'm not even a big eater, but damn, if they're skimping that much, do they even have enough fuel? What else is going on there?

The one time I almost got tossed from a plane was actually when I was traveling with my cat. My cat carrier looks a lot like a duffel bag, and my cat is very quiet and still when we're flying, so people are always trying to help me by grabbing her carrier to put it in the overhead bin and stuff, and I always have to be like, "Stop! My cat is in there!" So I was boarding this one flight and had that happen, and then as soon as I said that I had a cat with me, the woman next to me started having a meltdown about how either she or her daughter are allergic to cats. She was literally yelling, so the flight attendants just yanked me out of there. Well then I'm being marched down the aisle and they're asking people if they'll let me sit next to them. Everyone is like "NO, I HATE CATS!" Which I thought was obnoxious, considering they weren't going to even see or hear this cat, let alone have to interact with her in any way. Allergies, I understand, but just general dislike? Come on. Finally this one dude took pity on me and let me sit next to him. But for a minute there it looked like nobody was willing to have me near them and so I'd have to get tossed. That actually was stressful, because while I'm OK waiting around, my cat refuses to drink, eat or poop while in her carrier -- and these were cross-continent flights, so even in a best-case scenario she was going to have to be in her carrier for 12-14 hours at a stretch, and I was worried about having to force her to go longer than that without relief. In general, I get stressed flying with my cat, not because she's doing anything in particular (she's actually very, very quiet and unobtrusive while flying, I guess because she's so terrified) but because *she* is so stressed out. I'm like, I don't want to give this kitty a heart attack or something, just trying to schlep her around the US, poor thing! I get worried about her, and then I'm just sitting there worried. But that doesn't make me want to get to the airport earlier by any means, since that means more time in the carrier for her.
posted by rue72 at 9:02 AM on May 30 [1 favorite]


I like to be early if it's daytime. I don't fly often because of the expense, and I have a very strong memory of the huge storm gathering outside in Atlanta the last time I flew; it was nice to watch the clouds through an enormous window while I sat in the air conditioned airport.

The people were interesting, too. I watched as a dad explained to his young daughter that she could see the sheet of rain falling from the clouds in the distance if she looked. A family welcomed a young French-speaking friend who had just landed and was going to stay with them. It was good to see people in their own little worlds, helping and teaching each other. A lot of the "happiness" I see at home is at least 95% performative-- people talking about the private or charter schools their children attend, discussing their "properties", never their homes, or "the girl" who cleans their condos. Not that people in the airport are somehow more virtuous or authentic than others, just that I'm glad I had lots of time on my hands to appreciate the people and things that happened to be around me at that time.

I also bought a titanic gelato with a bunch of different flavors when my flight got delayed. It was as tall as my forearm. Yeah!

Summary: TLO has never traveled for business in her life and is of the opinion that time at the airport is for the taking.
posted by the liquid oxygen at 9:17 AM on May 30 [3 favorites]


I'd be curious to know if this correlates to relative economic privilege (my hypothesis is yes). For me, flying is a privilege, and it's still an exciting event rather than something to endure. Hanging out in an airport is fun because it means I'm going somewhere, and I would faaaar prefer killing some time in a microcosm to the stress of rushing around last minute.
posted by sugarbomb at 9:20 AM on May 30 [8 favorites]


I wanted to turn up just before the thread closes to comments...
posted by dudleian at 9:37 AM on May 30 [10 favorites]


Too late! We'll see about scheduling you for the next thread.
posted by Greg_Ace at 9:55 AM on May 30 [6 favorites]


Meanwhile, at Ben Gurion, not even the lord can help you if the friendly, chatty pre-screeners decide that you're a tiny bit suspicious.

A touring musician's reaction to being interrogated there. He was a little shaken up by it, it looks like.
posted by thelonius at 10:01 AM on May 30


I am so confused by this thread. Is nobody ever just... "on time"? I guess what I'm saying is that you're all kind of nuts.

The impression I have from this thread is that anything other than arriving at the airport with more than 3 hours to go before the flight boards is Late, so I'm guessing whatever your concept of "on time" is, it would be considered Late.
posted by Copronymus at 10:20 AM on May 30 [1 favorite]


Team Early for All The Things here - especially for any kind of travel. I used to be on Team Late all the time, until I acknowledged that I'm a really weird mix of planner, laser-focused goals-oriented traveler but also wanderer and procrastinator.

It's kind of a weird combo that can get me in trouble, like, oh, losing an entire Greyhound bus and all of my luggage even though I was standing just 20 feet away from it deep in thought.

I have learned that I absolutely hate and loath with the burning hatred of a billion supernovas the entire concept or need of being in a hurry. I do dumb shit like leave my phone somewhere, run out of time to do an errand, forget to eat breakfast or even entirely forget to bring the important thing I needed to bring to the thing which was the whole reason I was going anywhere in the first place.

So I plan ahead to be early so I don't have to hurry. I would much rather wait XX amount of time and be early and have a nice moment to breathe than wait XXX or even XXXX amount of time for the next bus/train/plane.

I also fully embrace and know that being able to wait or have a moment of free time to just be quiet or think about things isn't a negative thing at all, it's an asset. And frankly, often a luxury! I've come up with many productive or useful ideas or thoughts in these moments, and carry around pen and a notebook to capture them, or take notes on my phone.

When I was on Team Late for the earlier part of my life I wasted a lot of time - more importantly other people's time - than was healthy or functional. Not only did I annoy the people who loved me and wanted to see me, but I also missed out on a lot of things.

I'd show up late to Christmas dinner with my brother and his family and be confused at why there wasn't any food left or why everyone was annoyed with me. It wasn't just because I was late, it's because they actually wanted to see me, have dinner and hang out, and showing up late and disheveled from running between buses is just unpleasant for everyone.

Now? Now I don't care if it's a city bus. I'm going to be some appropriate percentage of time early. Around here getting to a bus may take a brisk 30 minute walk. Depending on weather or even distractions there could be as much as 15 minutes of variable time walking that distance.

I don't fly much so intercity travel is often a mix of public transit, intercity bus or rail and/or being at the right place or time to get a ride. These time tables get bonkers as a regular function and are not regulated nearly as precisely as air travel. I have done cross country bus trips and a 36 hour booked trip can really be 72 hours.

Because I get to wait patiently for almost everything, and because I am a planner I don't even like to travel locally without a decent assortment of support and comfort gear. Snacks, water, extra layers, music, a book. Gloves, scarf, even rain pants or a trash bag to use as a poncho. In my rural neck of the woods in winter I will often carry a backpacker's stove and small, compact mess kit, extra water and even a water filter, along with an assortment of tea, instant cocoa or even some noodles or hot food.

I have been stranded at rural transfer points without amenities or food of any kind, and have even come close to being stuck at an inter-agency transfer station overnight in really shitty weather. I have definitely sat myself down and made myself a cup of hot tea or coffee in the middle of nowhere just waiting for a bus, and it's glorious.

Or, you know, at least just on time. My doctor appointments all say check in 15 minutes early. Nah, I sign in about a minute before my appointment. My doctor and nurse both love me because they know I'm going to be there right on time, every time, and our visits are now quick and easy. I wait maybe a minute in the lobby, 3-5 in the exam room and we're done in record time.

Today? I actually like to wear a plain old moderately vintage digital watch and I like it a lot. It seems to actually be a lot more useful than a phone for managing time - especially travel - because it does one thing, doesn't distract you with communications or internet, never needs charging or much management at all and it's really easy to use and look at. I remember when I first started carrying around a pager or phone and thinking "well, I guess I don't need this boring dumb old thing on my wrist any more!" and never looking back, and now I'm like "yay, I don't have to stop whatever I'm doing and dig my dumb phone out of my pocket and get distracted by a text or something just to know what time it is!"

Being on Team Early and valuing the time of the people around me helps me feel like I have my shit mostly together.
posted by loquacious at 10:24 AM on May 30 [1 favorite]


I am so confused by this thread. Is nobody ever just... "on time"? I guess what I'm saying is that you're all kind of nuts.

"on time" to me is when i show up at my gate and the flight has just started boarding. that's it, that's the whole thing.
posted by poffin boffin at 10:47 AM on May 30 [6 favorites]


I am so confused by this thread. Is nobody ever just... "on time"?

When I read this I bucket you as a Late.


It really depends on the airport though and your local travel options. I check in online and my boarding pass is on my phone 24hrs before departure. I live in Zurich and Zurich airport is a well oiled machine. As is public transport to get there. So I walk out of my front door to catch the local train that takes two stops to the airport and the station is under the airport building. It literally takes me 18 mins to get from home to the departure hall, 20 if I have a lot of luggage and want to take the lift to the platform instead of the stairs. If I travel for business I never check luggage and there is a good chance it’s within Schengen so I just have to walk through security (where I am upset if the electronic signs inform me queues are six mins instead of the normal less than 3 mins). And I walk to the gate and then I get to spend 15 mins of my life I could have used for other things waiting for them to start boarding. So I normally leave the house without putting on makeup and do that while I wait. Because my direct train only runs every 30 mins I normally have to arrive at the airport an hr before departure. If I had it my way 45 mins before would do me. If I miss the train an Uber can also get me there in 15 mins. There are other public transport connections that require me to change trains but I’d still make the flight. And I have tested this timeline dozens of times. So I now refuse to even contemplate arriving any earlier than that even for private travel, which is more likely to involve connections and long haul legs, checked luggage and passport control.

I have family in the UK and even though they live 80 miles north east of London I always fly into Heathrow when I visit. Other airports would be closer but I refuse to fly Ryanair or easyJet and City Airport would require driving on very congested roads, some surface roads and is just as unpredictable so not doing that either. Now unfortunately driving in and around London is a complete crap shot. The drive has taken me anywhere from 1 hr 45 mins (late at night) to 5 hrs. So I always leave at least six hrs before departure and I always pick up my car from the rental place in the airport as opposed to the off site ones and I always prepay fuel so I don’t have to fill it up before I return it. And all that is before I get to Heathrow and sit at my gate and they decide to cancel my flight (normally due to the weather and ensuing chaos at such a busy airport) and I get to spend a night in one of the delightful airport hotels. But such is life.

For the record, I have never missed a flight where I actually got to the airport. I have decided that I wasn’t going to make a flight and just rebooked or decided to take the train instead. And yes, there were costs associated with that but it happened twice in the last 10 years.
posted by koahiatamadl at 10:56 AM on May 30 [2 favorites]


I am Team Early To All Things. Like others, I like waiting and doing things leisurely. When someone is struggling to do something for me, I tell them I never go anywhere in a hurry so that they can relax.

I also like Airport Crap and genuinely enjoy my time there since I don't go places that often.
posted by Ms. Moonlight at 11:08 AM on May 30


I'm Team Moderately Early. I want a comfortable margin. If I don't have time to use the bathroom, buy some gum, and maybe grab a snack, I'm cutting it too close. But if I have time for a full-service sit-down meal, I'm probably too early. I'll almost always err on the side of early, though - and often do, since I'm often riding a once-an-hour bus to the airport - because that time cushion is a big stress relief and also sometimes a huge help when something unexpected happens.

However, there are exceptions. Airports that suck so much that I'd willingly play the late game so I don't have to spend one more minute with them. I'm looking at you, Las Vegas, with all your stupid loud slot machines. And, weirdly, Wichita. I spent hours in the Wichita airport once with an Extreme Early. Terrible mistake. Never again.
posted by mandanza at 11:30 AM on May 30


And all that is before I get to Heathrow and sit at my gate and they decide to cancel my flight (normally due to the weather and ensuing chaos at such a busy airport) and I get to spend a night in one of the delightful airport hotels.

On a recent trip I connected through Heathrow. My inbound flight was late and I missed the connection, so I got to overnight there. What I learned is that there is a whole industry around missed connections: a system of bus shuttles and a network of hotels whose whole purpose is to deal with people who've missed connections. I don't know how many hotels and shuttles there are in total, but based on the number of bus transfer stops and how many shuttles I saw, I would venture there are at least several dozen hotels for this alone.

Since the overnight stay was on the airline, you'd think they'd want to minimize this cost and not schedule such tight layovers. I suppose they've optimized this in some obscure way that isn't at all obvious to me; it's quite a mystery. Anyway, I don't think I'll be connecting through Heathrow in the future. If I do, I'll be sure of a sufficient layover.
posted by sjswitzer at 11:56 AM on May 30 [1 favorite]


If you're early you won't miss the flight. If you're late you might. This is not rocket science. Plus it makes life worse for already stressed airport staff. It's not all about you.
posted by GallonOfAlan at 12:02 PM on May 30 [5 favorites]


> I'd rather drive 8 hours than take a 3 hour flight.

Well, you'll get about a third of the way to your destination, anyway.
posted by Stewriffic at 12:14 PM on May 30 [1 favorite]


Wait, so you'd book 2 flights? Or just one, the night before the day you have to be somewhere?

Sorry, that was ambiguous. The "too" was for emphasis. One flight, the night before I have to be somewhere, even if apparently an early morning flight would leave plenty of time.
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 12:54 PM on May 30 [1 favorite]


I too enjoy judging people at the airport, I mean people-watching.

I have no patience whatsoever for the people who are perpetually late and just expected to be skipped to the front of line. It's incredibly disrespectful to everyone else. May they be forever trapped in jammed revolving doors watching their flights take off without them.

Airports are a happy place for me, full of possibility. I love being early. But I also splurge on lounges and such, especially when traveling internationally. I'd much rather arrive an hour or two earlier than I really need to and chill out in the lounge, doing whatever screwing around on the internet I would have been doing at home, but while watching planes take off.

I've never missed a flight for reasons that are my fault, though I occasionally cut it close at familiar airports. By "cut it close", I mean arriving only a little before boarding starts. (I have missed connections due to my first flight arriving late, like after the connecting flight already took off.)

I really hope I never need to fly with my cat, as she hates being taken outside and cries/wails the entire 2-3 miles car ride to the vet for annual checkups and vaccines.

I am not at all chill about being bumped to the next flight, even if it is free, because I carefully choose my seats so that I'll be as comfortable as I can. I have taken flights before that run only once a week. If you miss that, there goes your tropical vacation.

Someone asked about the 45min connections on Delta above. I take these fairly frequently, but I have learned that the specific airport matters a lot. Somehow whenever I do it through MSP, it's like a 1 mile sprint from one end of the airport to the other. In LAX, the arriving gate and connecting gate will often be literally right next to each other. That said, I only take them if it wouldn't be a huge deal to be delayed a bit, though I don't think I've ever missed a connection on Delta. (On United, I have a track record something like: 7 of 8 flights were delayed an hour or more. Usually from their hubs, WTF. I don't fly United anymore if anyone else has a halfway sensible routing.)
posted by ktkt at 1:13 PM on May 30 [2 favorites]


I like airports.

So much so that I don't mind getting there 90-120m early.

And I have PreCheck so I like gliding right through, and then just watching the flows of people, the movement of the planes outside, the way each airport's design sorta dates itself, the choices the builders made to try and make those places not suck as much...

I don't like missing flights. The one time I missed a flight, it was because our connector was delayed. And I had to sleep on uncomfortable benches.

No, I'd rather be there early. And have, if I have a connection, a minimum of 90-120m layover, no longer than 180m.
posted by anem0ne at 1:56 PM on May 30


I don’t think it can be anxiety alone that causes Early, because I am a semi-reformed Late who is a pile of anxiety tied together with neuroses.

The reason I’m semi reformed has nothing to do with missing flights (although I have missed a few, it’s a very tiny percentage of all the times I’ve flown). It’s got everything to do with having excellent noise cancelling headphones, which make me able to work or relax at the airport without wanting to stab the TV, loudspeaker, or other source of noise. So, ending up with an hour at the airport to wait is now fine.

I don’t think I will ever be an Early though, simply because there is too much going on. Last time I departed my home airport it was less than 8 hours after I flew in, and I had three meetings in between. There really wasn’t time to show up several hours early.
posted by nat at 2:13 PM on May 30


Somehow whenever I do it through MSP, it's like a 1 mile sprint from one end of the airport to the other.

Pretty sure this is written into the MSP rules. All connecting flights must come in at A14 and go out at F16 or vice versa, with a maximum 30 minute layover. TBH, I'm not sure what they do with the rest of the gates. I think they're just for show.
posted by Preserver at 3:05 PM on May 30 [10 favorites]


If you're early you won't miss the flight.

If you're early, you can still miss flights, it just won't be your fault.
posted by 23skidoo at 4:53 PM on May 30 [2 favorites]


There are Two Types of Airport People

Every unhappy airport person is unhappy in their own way.
posted by thelonius at 5:48 PM on May 30 [5 favorites]


I have made the mistake of showing up at an airport at 6AM for a noon flight and being told, "I'm sorry, sir, we can't take checked bags more than four hours before our flight."

I have shown up for other flights early enough that my checked bag got on an earlier flight than mine and arrived at the destination before I left, and was locked up in the safekeeping locker when I finally got there.

The one time that I assumed I didn't have to show up that early, small delays kept piling up, and I had to run to the gate from security.

Most other times, traveling on my own, I would get to the airport 2 or more hours early, goof around, walk through the airport, and nap, and not have any problems. But I can usually tune people out through reading or music-listening. And I usually am comfortable enough in the chairs they've got. So I recognize that I am blessed in those ways.

Traveling with my suffering spouse, though, gets us to the airport a lot closer to arrival time, since airport seating wrecks her back, and actual air travel upsets her stomach.

Most relaxed airport - Harrisburg Pennsylvania. I flew through there eight or nine times in the early 2000s, on trips to visit my mom in south central PA, and it was usually mostly empty. Which is probably why the flights cost as much as they did. It only had a couple of stores, but one of them was a "local Pennsylvania crafts and snacks" store.

I switched to flying into BWI and driving up to south central PA. The flights were cheaper and thus the airport was more congested.
posted by Mutant Lobsters from Riverhead at 5:51 PM on May 30


Many years ago I read a middle-grade book on the British commando service during WW2. In it a torpedo boat captain was quoted as saying (in reference to picking up a team of raiders off the French coast) "An English PT boat is never late nor early, arriving exactly on time." I somehow took this to heart, and am always early, just to make sure I'm on time. Cutting anything too close, time-wise, makes me uncomfortable. My wife of 37 years is finally understanding this.

This article was anxiety-inducing.
posted by lhauser at 8:09 PM on May 30 [1 favorite]


Perpetually early person here. Traveling with me is a chore for everyone else, because literally everything; from the countable moments of time, to every human being and their devices, that lies between "Where I Am Right Now" and "Where I Am Trying To Be At The End Of All This" is an obstacle to be removed. I don't mind sitting for three hours at the airport if that's the obstacle, but I can't possibly sit for two of those hours at my own home, because that is further away from the end.

I actually hate traveling.
posted by Xyanthilous P. Harrierstick at 9:00 PM on May 30 [1 favorite]


I’m an Early person because airport line lengths seem extremely unpredictable. I’ve waltzed right through in 10 minutes, but I’ve also had it literally take 2 full hours. I don’t know how to predict it reliably.

Also, there was the time a massive pre-dawn fiery wreck completely closed down the highway in front of the airport, snarling traffic everywhere around. Because I’d planned to get there about 90 minutes early, the traffic made me right on time and I just barely made my flight. Half the plane did not.

I have learned that apparently no one in Orange County, CA is a true Early. I traveled there for work, then flew home. My coworkers there told me to get to the airport 30 minutes before the flight. I thought they were being over-optimistic. So I booked an airport ride to get to the airport 90 minutes early, and mentioned to the driver what time my flight was. He immediately asked if I was sure I didn’t actually mean to go to LAX, because I was so early to get to John Wayne. When I did arrive, even TSA remarked on how early I was. Apparently it is just Not Done to get to John Wayne Airport more than 30 minutes before your flight.
posted by snowmentality at 9:24 AM on May 31 [1 favorite]


My family never had much disposable money for things like holiday flights when I was young, but I went to school with a lot of wealthier kids. So I always imagined aeroplane tickets in a sort of outdated way: as eye-wateringly expensive luxuries that one did not trifle with. I didn't know anything about flying later flights on standby, or any of the other aspects of that. I assumed that to miss a flight was to set your very income on fire for no purpose. It was a pointless donation to the airline, in my mind.

So yeah, I know a little better now, but I'm still an Early guy. This came in really handy when flying on Thanksgiving 2001.
posted by rum-soaked space hobo at 10:28 AM on May 31 [6 favorites]


I think the mix-up was because one flight was arriving from my destination and one was departing to it, or something like that, and I didn’t check my gate number closely enough.
I think the problem was they changed the gate, possibly at the last minute. I have actually had two unscheduled stealth gate changes in a row at MSP, each of course located the maximum distance from each other. I firmly believe there is some Truman Show thing going on at airports where the more people they can put through the mangle the higher the status of the person running the scheduling...
posted by Gilgamesh's Chauffeur at 7:48 AM on June 1


I'm usually team early, although a few times on return trips and once on a departure I have pushed towards being a bit late. The departure was the most recent. We normally don't have to arrive very early at all for our local airport, as it has 2 freaking gates. But that time we arrived just as they were starting to board my flight, as it took longer to get toddler and boyfriend out the door. Normally this would not have been an issue, but this time there was a huge line of old people for security due to a special charter that was going to Vegas. So I became one of those people, and jumped the line with my 20 month old, only to find out my flight was cancelled due to mechanical issues. Oops. I usually like the Delta app, but it didn't do very well pushing updates for their codeshare small airport flights.
posted by weathergal at 3:52 PM on June 1


Meanwhile, at Ben Gurion, not even the lord can help you if the friendly, chatty pre-screeners decide that you're a tiny bit suspicious. That's the only place I've ever been asked what my name means, and then, what my brother's name means. They clearly didn't care about the answer, just the depth of my cover story...

As I have related before, a security screener at Ben-Gurion once asked me how I had first heard about Israel. My inner compulsion was to say, "Dude, it is on the maps."
posted by ricochet biscuit at 3:47 PM on June 3 [3 favorites]


"Dude, it is in The Psalms."
posted by rum-soaked space hobo at 6:01 AM on June 4 [1 favorite]


I've always been an Early but I'm getting more reasonable with age. I like air travel because I can sit and read for hours with no one expecting me to do anything else. Often it's a choice between sit and read at home, while compulsively checking the time every 5 minutes, or sit and read once I know I'm safely through security and the only thing to make sure of is that I don't doze off and miss my flight. The worst is when I have to get up early to start the journey to the airport--I will wake up every 30 minutes starting several hours before my alarm is to go off, and also dream about getting to the airport or not getting to the airport or being unable to fit everything in my suitcase or whatever. Literally my most common recurring anxiety dream, whether I have upcoming travel or not, is trying to pack for something, and uncovering more and more caches of things I forgot to squeeze in and running out of space and time. What?

Now I've been through a few more travel hiccups and (caveat for being an American normally on US domestic flights) the worst case scenarios are actually not that bad and I'm not sure why I stress so much. I've missed flights due to connections being late and it's a pain, but I'm privileged to be a salaried employee who can fudge my work hours a little if travel delays get in the way. I'm also much less stressed if it's a thing that's out of my control and all I can do is sit there and figure I'll deal with it when I land (I love liminal spaces). I also have a Type-Z significant other who is okay with Reasonably Early and not Stupidly Early who calms me down.

However, I've learned over the last couple years that all bets are off at SEA-TAC at Thanksgiving. Security lines that stretch around the entire building? Good thing our flight isn't for two hours. I am also applying for Global Entry as inspired by this thread right now. More privilege in being able to throw money at the problem; more time for me to sit at the gate with a cup of tea and a book on my future trips!
posted by j.r at 11:56 AM on June 7


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