Do You Often Arrive Late to the Airport? Turns Out, It Might Be Your Personality

published Jun 2, 2019
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Imagine it’s 2:30 p.m. on a Friday and your flight is at 5 p.m. It usually takes about an hour to get to the airport, but it just dawned on you that you’re going to hit rush hour traffic. You get into your Uber and the GPS ETA says 4:10. Is your initial reaction a.) hands are getting clammy, anxiety is at an all-time high, you regret not leaving earlier; OR b.) you feel adrenaline pulsing through your veins and the pressure is exhilarating. If you’re feeling the latter, we’ve got news for you: you’re not alone.

Earlier this week, The Atlantic published a story that breaks down two groups of air travelers: those who arrive early at the airport and those who arrive barely on time or late. It’s not a foreign idea that people purposefully arrive 3 hours early to get through security, settle down in their gate, and are ready in a moment’s notice to board. On the contrary, it’s easy to think that those who arrive late don’t do it intentionally—but according to the article, the seemingly stressful situation is entirely purposeful for some.

Psychologist Jeffrey Conte says this divide could be explained by personality and whether you’re a Type A or Type B. Since Type A people are known to be more assertive and intolerant, they might try harder to be on time, while laid-back Type B personalities wouldn’t feel as much pressure. Of course, Conte stresses that other factors might come into play, too (like upbringing, whether you have children, etc.), but ultimately mentions that the relationship between personality traits and tardiness is “consistent.”

Regardless of the difference in personality approaches to getting to the airport, psychiatrist Jonny Gerkin says that they both exist as a way of approaching the negative parts in life. In other words, for some, arriving late to the airport might be the best way to cope with the anxiety that air travel naturally brings.  

“They distract and procrastinate, and next thing you know, they can’t do what they need to do to get there on time,” Gerkin said. “It’s not quite self-harm, but it’s in the same arena. It changes your feeling state and gets you out of that place that’s uncomfortable and into this place of excitement.” 

After the article went live, people took to Twitter to express their thoughts:

I totally sympathize with lessening the time on a cramped airplane. Who wouldn’t?

Also extremely valid. Knowing what you prefer is a wonderful, helpful thing.

And then, we have the straight-up jokesters. Nice attempt to lightening the mood, though!

As a procrastinator that works best under pressure, I understand the rush late arrivers feel. The more I push the envelope and wait until the last minute, the less time I have to ponder about what could go wrong, which forces me to act instead of think.

When I asked our real estate editor Liz Steelman for her thoughts, she mentioned a former therapist opened her eyes to the idea that people have varying control over time management. Steelman is not a morning person and frequently runs late. When she brought this issue up in session, her therapist asked if she had ever overslept and missed a flight. “Of course not,” she answered. It dawned on her that if she really wanted to be a morning person, she could, as she clearly thinks about time cautiously.

“I think there are people who simply think about time differently, maybe more flippantly, than I do, and that’s why they are a late airport person,” Steelman told me. “Perhaps they also run late in the mornings, like I do—but they really don’t have a choice, whereas I am just being lazy. Do I understand not getting to the airport with ample time to spare? Absolutely not. But they probably don’t understand the paralyzing fear of missing a flight like I do.”

Are you team early or team late to the airport? Tell us in the comments.