I recently was inspired by my wife (who often inspires me).
Unfortunately, this inspiration took place during a frantic phone call as she was stuck on the highway, 20 minutes before her plane’s scheduled departure. This flight was the only one that would have enabled her to make it in time for a business meeting.
“What do I do?” she asked.
“Call the airline,” I responded.
“What are they going to do for me?”
“Forget it — call your company’s travel agent and make sure they cancel the ticket. You are not going to make your flight. Ask them what your options are.”
Based on the fact that the door to her plane would be closing in 10 minutes and that she still was about 15 minutes away from the airport, she had but one option — to turn around and head home.
I was shocked to have heard from her, considering that she had left the house at 6:30 a.m. for an 8:50 a.m. flight. I always allow 75 minutes for a drive to the airport (45 minutes without traffic). It turns out that a truck had lost its load of sheet metal, and debris had been scattered all over the Interstate. That left her just short of the airport after about two hours of driving.
I asked if she had consulted one of many navigational apps on her smartphone or had listened to the traffic report on the radio. She responded that she hadn’t. I gently reminded her that she had plenty of options to reroute herself and to make her flight.
There is no excuse for her, or for anyone else, to miss a flight. Just follow a simple regimen for your airport travel.
How early is early?
It’s never too early to leave for the airport. My maximum drive time of 75 minutes to the airport may not be enough if there’s a catastrophic accident that disrupts traffic. But there are ways to reroute yourself, which I will get into shortly. The airlines suggest to get to the airport about two hours before your domestic flight or three hours before your international one. That doesn’t mean it will take 90 minutes to go through security and get you to the gate in time to board. It means they want you to allow plenty of time to get there and not have to rush through check-in and security. What was the longest it ever took you to get to the airport? Use that as your permanent drive time.
But what if I get to the airport too early?
There are plenty of ways to spend your extra time at the airport.
- Get pampered. Spoil yourself, or just relax at one of many XpresSpas around the country.
- Have a snooze. Book yourself a short stay at an airport Minute Suite.
- Get in your workout. Tripping.com lists the world’s best airport gyms, and airportgyms.com offers an interactive map of gyms in or near airports.
- Shop around. Airports are becoming among the best places to shop. Top retail brands constantly are opening satellite locations that cater to people with lots of time on their hands. And Condé Nast Traveler recently reported that airport retailers are attempting to cater to travelers who don’t want to stray far from their gates. Many airports guarantee that their stores will not price their items higher than non-airport locations.
Of course, you can just avoid the airport altogether. I recently traveled from Ottawa to Toronto, and, while most of my colleagues were flying, I opted for Business Class on a VIA Rail train. The advantages were many — no airport security, full use of electronics (especially Wi-Fi) throughout my journey (during which I wrote some of this article), and embarkation and debarkation downtown. I also enjoyed viewing the beautiful Canadian countryside.
In Business Class, I enjoyed a hot meal, open bar and a relaxing work station for less than the price of an airline ticket. While the flight would have lasted about an hour and the train ride took about four and a half hours, I avoided leaving earlier for the airport (saving about 20 minutes), airport security (another 10-15 minutes), baggage claim (another 15 minutes or so), and a trip downtown at my destination (about 30 minutes). When you calculate the added time of my train trip, the difference isn’t as extreme as you might have thought. And there was much less chance of me missing my train than missing my flight.
You can do something similar in the States by taking Amtrak between cities, avoiding all of the hassles listed above and arriving at your destination more refreshed than if you had journeyed at 35,000 feet above sea level.
But what if you’re on the road to the airport and the unexpected happens? Assume nothing! Even though I’ve allotted 75 minutes for my usual 45 minutes on the road, I always consult the traffic reports on my local news radio station and plug my airport destination into my navigation app.
While Google Maps and Apple Maps are ubiquitous, depending on your phone’s operating system, I also consult the Waze app. The advantage of Waze (which also is owned by Google) is that it combines mapmaking and navigation with social media to create an interactive route for your journey. Users can submit everything from pothole locations to police sightings, and, of course, traffic reports. And if there’s an overturned truck keeping you from making it to the airport, each of the aforementioned apps will reroute you around the trouble.
While some of these procedures may seem redundant, what’s a little more work when it comes to making sure you get to the airport on time?
I wish you many problem-free trips to the airport.