Of all my dad-like traits, getting to the airport two hours before every flight is perhaps the daddest of them all.
When I was a kid, the two hour thing was non-negotiable. We lived a solid hour from the Philadelphia airport—a drive that could take twice as long if there was an accident on the turnpike—and my parents were wrangling two children and their bags. Getting to the gate early gave everyone a chance to sit down and catch their breath for a second, plus it guaranteed we wouldn’t have a Home Alone situation on our hands.
To this day, I shoot to arrive pretty much exactly two hours early. Sometimes I cut it closer (if the flight is at 5:30 a.m. or I’m accommodating the person giving me a ride to the airport), and sometimes I give myself a little more time (if I’m checking a bicycle bag, or unsure how an ongoing pandemic will impact wait times).
But then I saw people on Twitter discussing the following in my timeline yesterday:
Having already noted that this is a habit born in my youth, I had to wonder: Am I the weird one? How much time should an adult leave themselves at the airport?
To me, having a two-hour airport window feels uncontroversial. MSP is huge; you never know how long the lines to check a bag or get through the shoes-and-laptop search will be. Sometimes it takes a good 15 minutes or more to navigate to your gate even after getting through security. I don’t have “TSA PreCheck®” nor do I really understand how it works—my folks have it, and they seem to get approved for it sometimes but not always—so lines are nonnegotiable. And I can’t imagine anything more embarrassing than pushing to the front of the line, through crowds of people who arrived with time to spare, forcing them to accommodate me because I was late.
A brief pre-poll poll of the members of Team Racket confirmed we’re of the same mind: Leaving two hours for yourself at the airport is a. not that big of a deal and b. simply the sensible thing to do. Waiting in the airport isn’t that bad; it can even be kind of pleasant having forced reading time or a built-in hour where all there is to do is catch up on work. You can’t beat the airport for people-watching, and it’s a great excuse to get a Bloody Mary at 2 p.m. on a Wednesday.
However, it’s possible that as a self-selecting group of local writers with our own built-in biases and childhood traumas, we’re all the weird ones here. Journalists are deadline-obsessed and rather anxious by nature, after all. Plus we love a Bloody Mary.
So, we want to leave it to you, the readers of Racket: What is the correct amount of time to leave yourself at the airport before a flight? Please vote in our very important poll here, and “sound off” in the comments below.