Math Professor Calculates the Best Time to Arrive at the Airport

If you have ever missed a flight before – especially for a trip that you had been desperately looking forward to – you know the horrible sinking feeling of knowing that the plane left the tarmac without you. However, getting to the airport too early has its drawbacks, too – as great as some airports are, they aren’t the most fun places to hang around in.

Thankfully, math professor Jordan Ellenberg from the University of Wisconsin-Madison may have cracked the code on the best time to arrive to the airport. According to Ellenberg, the best time to arrive is as late as possible – with just enough extra minutes on the clock to get through security and make it to your plane. Although you might not see this advice on some travel blogs, the math suggests that you are far better off cutting it close.

Is Missing Your Flight Necessary a Bad Thing?
Ellenberg recently penned the book “How Not to Be Wrong – The Hidden Maths of Everyday Life,” and the perfect time to hit the arrival gate is one of the many subjects he touches on. While most people concur that missing a flight is quite possibly one of the most frustrating things ever in terms of travel, Ellenberg suggests that maybe it’s not so bad after all.

The relative annoyance of missing your plane, Ellenberg explained in The Sunday Times, “depends on how you personally feel about the relative merits of missing planes and wasting time.” He went on to say that “in the course of a lifetime you literally never miss a flight, then you may not have the best strategy.”

Ellenberg splits up fragments of time into relative “units” – so, the hour or so you spend bored waiting on your flight in the terminal is considered wasted time just like your missing flight. The only difference is, if you do indeed arrive too late to the airport, it’s because you were likely doing something worthwhile or productive.

So, it appears that missing your flight all depends on your specific travel perspective. If you actually enjoying catching up on the news or doing a bit of duty-free shopping, then maybe arriving early at the airport isn’t so bad. However, some might consider wasted time away from home or work a nuisance when stuck at the airport for several hours.