Why I Go to the Airport Early. Really Early.

updated Dec 17, 2019
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(Image credit: Ekaterina Pokrovsky)

Until recently, maybe a year ago, I was never someone who went to the airport early. I have never missed a flight (at least through any fault of my own; I cannot be held accountable for the weather in Atlanta), but I have come close — very, very close. My reasoning for not getting to the airport early was simple: I disliked spending time at the airport.

Who were these people, I wondered, who arrived hours before their flight? What did they do?

Well, now I am one of them. Here is why I have joined the ranks of the early birds.

Perhaps I am just getting too old to be sprinting from the security checkpoint to the gate to find the attendants just about ready to close the door in my face. Perhaps I know that I have made this very close call one too many times and that I am overdue for the airplane gods to make this flight the one that I miss. Perhaps I have just decided that the stress of will-I-or-won’t-I is just not worth it.

These things are all, undeniably, true. But the reason I arrive early is less practical and definitely more embarrassing. The reason I arrive early is that I like spending time at the airport.

I know I just said I disliked it, but things change. And if you are asking yourself: Does anyone actually like spending time at the airport? Yes. I do. I really, really do!

Let me start by talking about CiboExpress.

You didn’t think I was going to go there, did you? This little airport shop brings me all sorts of joy. I’m not even sure I can properly express why I love it so much. I think part of it is that I do not buy a lot of snacks or sweets or packaged goods in my day-to-day life, and CiboExpress is a treasure trove of tasty and well-designed treats.

Many of them are local, too. The Terminal C location at Laguardia Airport has an entire section dedicated to New York finds, edible and non-edible. You can get bread from Balthazar! Or plates from Fish’s Eddy!

There’s also a water-bottle filling station, which is making me rethink my water bottle policy; fruit, individually wrapped for easy transportation; and a salad bar that I haven’t tried, but doesn’t look sad at all.

Between the marketplace and the affiliated non-food shops (they also have Flight001 bag tags, Marvis toothpaste, and individual face masks), I could easily spend an entire hour at CiboExpress. This is not an exaggeration and often, by the time I am done with my consumerism, it is time to board the plane.

If it is not, I go to the airport lounge.

Even a bad airport lounge is a good airport lounge.

Let me back up by saying that I get into the lounge with my credit card not because I am fancy and fly first class (I am not; I don’t, unless I get miraculously upgraded). It’s an investment I decided to make a few years ago and I would 100 percent do it again. (In fact, I do, every time I pay my hefty annual fee.)

There are some really nice lounges — I want to say the Delta lounge at JFK has an outdoor space where you can watch the planes take off or get a tan or whatever — but even a bad lounge is pretty great.

The airport lounge is a calm space in the midst of chaos. It is a place with water (sometimes with cucumbers!) and snacks and free WiFi. There is sometimes free booze. There is almost always a chair or a bar stool or a couch to collapse onto with all of your bags. The bathrooms are clean!

If there isn’t an airport lounge, there is almost always an airport bar.

Some airports do not have a lounge — and that is still okay because there is almost always a bar. Airport bars can be really nice (there are fancy wine bars, these days!), and they can be a little sad. I say embrace whatever kind of bar it is. If there are Enomatic pours of unknown wines, go ahead and try them. If it is a sports bar, have a beer.

I do not often drink beer, but drinking a beer and eating potato chips or bar nuts or french fries feels like a great thing to do when I’m at the airport. I even find myself wondering, Why do I not do this more often?

A caveat: Some airports are still the worst and, in those instances, I will arrive just at the minute I have to be there and not a minute earlier.

Do you go to the airport super early, too? Do you love CiboExpress?