How early should I arrive at the airport for a flight? Mathematician Jordan Ellenberg thinks he's cracked the formula

'If you've never missed a flight, you're not doing it right', he says

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The Independent Travel

Conventional wisdom tells us that we should get to the airport with bags of time to spare to avoid the horror of missing a flight but an academic claims arriving early is a waste of time.

Jordan Ellenberg, an American maths professor, claims to have figured out the formulas behind the chaos of everyday life, from winning the lottery to dating.

He summarises his theory on air travel as: “If you’ve never missed a flight, you’re not doing it right."

Cautious travellers spend hours drifting around airport lounges and duty-free when they could follow his calculation of an optimum time to check in that cuts wasted time but keeps the chances of missing a flight low, he claims.

Speaking to The Sunday Times, he said the figure “depends on how you personally feel about the relative merits of missing planes and wasting time”.

A professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, Dr Ellenberg has published his theories in a book called How Not To Be Wrong: The Hidden Maths of Everyday Life.


It's always worth leaving time for the inevitable queues. Or is it?

According to his parents, both statisticians, he was a child prodigy and taught himself to read at just two years old by watching Sesame Street.

As well as the surprising airport advice, he also claims to have found a negative correlation between attractiveness and agreeability in prospective partners i.e. the less attractive someone is, the nicer they are likely to be.

For anyone who is still happy spending those valuable minutes sipping coffee watching the departures board, Heathrow Airport has its own advice.

For a long-haul flight, passengers should aim to arrive three hours before departure, get there two hours before for European flights and leave around one-and-half hours for UK and Ireland, the website says.

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