Early to airport

I believe the world is divided into two types of people, those who like to get to an airport early and those who prefer to get there just in time. Let us call these folks ETA (Early to Airport) and JITA (Just in Time to Airport).

I am an extreme case of ETA. As my wife says, we are the people airlines are waiting for before opening their counters. I can be found at the airport two hours before the flight, or may be earlier if it is an international flight. I spend this time reading, having a cup of coffee, or just observing life go by. Not surprisingly, I have not missed a single flight among more than thousand I have taken.

JITAs prefer to get to the airport just in time. In an extreme case, they believe that even an extra minute spent at the airport is time wasted. They are the ones found running to the gate, as it is about to close. Not surprisingly they are quite stressed out and occasionally miss their flights.

I cannot understand why anyone would do that. What exactly would they have done with the time saved by not going to the airport early? Have an extra cup of coffee? Check emails? Couldn’t they have done that at the airport? I understand that if you are on business trip, a meeting can run late, and you need to scramble. However, that is generally not the case why a JITA gets to the airport with barely a minute to spare.

So, in my humble opinion, there is no firm benefit in reaching an airport late, but, if you miss your flight as a consequence, there is a significant downside. You inconvenience not just yourself but also others. Once, an extreme JITA person, a relative of mine, managed to miss not one but two flights to get to our daughter’s wedding. Not only did she miss the wedding, but also created a challenge for us because we were relying on her rental car to provide rides to some of our guests.

Of course, to each his own, you would say. That is a good advice if we are on our own. It is a whole another story if we are not heading to the airport from our home but from someone else’s; one filled with JITAs.

“You mean you want to start for the airport now?” That is how the conversation begins. Others are enrolled in the campaign to stop us from making that grave mistake. “How could you waste that extra 30 minutes at the airport?” The tone is one of a macho man shaming a wimp. Real men don’t get to the airport any earlier than they have to. Everyone has a laugh at our expense.

One cousin of mine, a fellow ETA, was literally scolded by a bunch of other cousins when he wanted to depart for the airport in Mumbai earlier than what they thought would be appropriate. I had to intervene, and allow him go. The next day he thanked me because he encountered heavy traffic on the way, not at all unusual in Mumbai, and the line at the airport was very long. He barely made it to the flight.

That is a bad situation, but it can be worse. If you are driving to the airport you can still depart when you want, even after being harangued by the JITAs. However, if a JITA is going to take you to the airport, things can get very tricky. Now you are completely dependent on him or her in deciding when to leave.

I experienced that in Quito, when our innkeeper was giving us ride to the airport for a flight to Galapagos. I had read in TripAdvisor that you need to be early at the airport because there are special permits you need to get in order to visit Galapagos and the lines for that are very long. People have missed their flights because of this requirement.

Our innkeeper would not listen to my plea to depart early. He insisted that for domestic flights one does not need to reach any earlier than 90 minutes. That extra 30 minutes I was requesting was an annoyance. He finally relented but was not too happy. Yes, the process to check in passengers for Galapagos was excruciatingly slow and I was thankful that we reached early.

OK, I have made my case.

Fellow ETAs, rejoice, there are people like you around, and, to the JTAs of the world, please cut us some slack. Don’t make us butt of your jokes or torture us. We are not wimps as you make us out to be and there is a rationale behind what we do. And someday, we may be the ones with the last laugh.

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I am a retired management consultant who enjoys reading and writing on a variety of subjects. I am fascinated by people, places and physics.

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Ashok B. Boghani

I am a retired management consultant who enjoys reading and writing on a variety of subjects. I am fascinated by people, places and physics.