5 Reasons Why I Arrive Insanely Early At Airports

Take my airport arrival survey.

March 13, 2016

A quick survey.  Your (domestic) flight is scheduled for 11:00 a.m.  How early do you arrive at the airport?

a.  10:30 a.m.

b.  10:00 a.m.

c.  9:30 a.m.

d.  9:00 a.m.

e.  8:30 a.m.

If you answered “e” - 8:30 a.m. - you are not alone. 8:30 a.m. was my answer as well.

As I write this post I am sitting in the Austin–Bergstrom International Airport - making my way from #SXSWedu to the more sane environs of Hanover NH.  My flight leaves at noon. The current local time is 8:55am. 

In my defense, President Obama is landing at the airport at about the time that I am scheduled to depart - so getting to the airport early seemed prudent.

My desire to arrive at the airport insanely early has flummoxed my family and frustrated my co-workers. My wife has been known to tack on a fictional hour in her communications about when our flight actually departs.

Why am I an early airport arriver?

Reason 1 - My Risk Portfolio:

My airport strategy is all about risk minimization.

It was not until I read Adam Grant’s amazing book Originals that I learned about the idea of a risk portfolio. It turns out that people who take big risks in one domain of life (such as work risks or intellectual risks) tend to balance their risk portfolio by playing it safe in other domains.  I like to think that I’m comfortable making big bets at work. And certainly exposing my half-baked ideas each day on IHE is a risk.

An early airport arrival strategy enables me to balance the other risks in my life.  If I can take away the worry of the airport process (I don’t worry about the actual flying) then I can spend more time worrying about the future of higher education and the intersection of learning and technology.

Reason 2 - Getting To the Airport:

Arriving early to the airport means leaving early to get to the airport.

We underestimate all the things that can go wrong in the commute to the airport.  Why do we think that we will not be stuck in a traffic jam on the morning of our flight?  Ground transportation delays are a normal part of early 21st century American life.  Who wants to be stuck in a car, on a bus, or on a train at the time when your flight is scheduled to board?

Reason 3 - Security Screening:

On this last trip to Texas I took the time to apply for TSA Pre-Check. If all goes well, within 30 days I’ll be zipping through the TSA Pre-Check security line with my shoes on and my laptop in my backpack.

The reasons that I have not gone through the TSA-Pre application process in the past speaks loudly to the power of defaults, as well my tendency to take early departing and late arriving fights.

Once I’m all TSA Pre-Checked, will my desire to arrive so early to the airport also fade?  Probably not.  The security screening process is inherently stressful. The more you fly, the less stressful airport security screening gets, but it is still a challenging process.

Taking time out of the equation of navigating airport security make the whole process, at least for me, mostly benign.  If I’m not worried about getting to my gate then I’m not worried about the lines, the delays, and the pat downs.

Reason 4 - Productivity:

I might arrive insanely early to the airport, but I’m insanely productive once I’m through security.

It is the time waiting for my flight to board that I get the most focused work done.

Think about it.  At the airport we have all that we need to get important work done.  We have our laptops.  We have WiFi.  (Or tethering in a pinch).  

Most of all we don’t have any distractions.  No meetings.  No phone calls.  Nowhere else to be but at the gate when they call our our flight.

Reason 5 - Audiobooks and Walking:

If I’m not working at the airport, I’m walking.  There is little in life that makes me more happy than strolling across an airport with an audiobook playing in my ears.

Airports are a great place to get some light exercise in (walking) while reading.  Nobody will try to talk to me.  I can enjoy my walk and audiobook in peace.

What was your answer to my airport arrival survey?

What is your airport arrival strategy?

Why are you an early (or a late) airport arriver?



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