Mathematician calculates the best time to arrive at the airport

Updated: 

Mathematician Jordan Ellenberg has calculated the best time to arrive at the airport for a flight


When is the best time to arrive at an airport for a flight? Should you leave extra early and pass two or three hours hanging around in Duty Free? Or set off late and risk a stressful rush to the airport with the chance of missing your flight?

The latter, according to an American mathematician, who claims to have discovered the optimal time to arrive at an airport.

Maths professor Jordan Ellenberg says that arriving late or even missing your flight is not actually a bad thing.

He even claims in his new book, How not to be Wrong - The Hidden Maths of Everyday Life, that "if you've never missed a flight, you're not doing it right".

According to Ellenberg, every hour a passenger spends in the airport rather than in the comfort of their own home counts as a "negative unit".

So he figures that the perfect time to arrive at the airport is with no time to spare, in order to minimise wasted time (negative units) and ensure passengers will only have a one or two percent chance of missing their plane.

Arriving late means passengers avoid clocking up too many wasted hours over the course of a lifetime.

However, Professor Ellenberg advises that the optimal time to arrive at the airport 'depends on how you personally feel about the relative merits of missing planes and wasting time,' reports the Sunday Times.

He continues: "If in the course of a lifetime you literally never miss a flight, then you may not have the best strategy."

In his book, Ellenberg also applies his counterintuitive maths to other everyday problems – including dating, why tall parents have shorter children, what is the best way to get rich by playing the lottery and why women might struggle to find their perfect man, reports the Daily Mail.

Ellenberg, who is based at the University of Wisconsin-Madison in America, was a child prodigy who taught himself to read at the age of two by watching Sesame Street, according to the Telegraph.

Funniest late airport arrival excuses

Funniest late airport arrival excuses



Related stories

Embarrassing airport security incidents: Which is the worst?

What to do at the airport: weird things to try

Malaga airport is the most confusing for British travellers

Funniest late airport arrival excuses revealed