By Bert Stratton | Wall Street Journal
It’s great sport to arrive at the airport at the last minute. Nothing tops the adrenaline rush of sprinting to the gate. But I’m not that fast anymore, and I’ve retired from the sport. The exception is Cleveland, where I live, which has a medium-size airport. There I can sometimes get away with an hour. But as a general principle, I’m now an hour-and-a-half-early-to-the-airport guy.
I messed up last month at a family bat mitzvah in Colorado. At the final group event—the Sunday brunch—we did the obligatory chit-chat: “When are you leaving? How are you getting to the airport?” Ben, 28, boasted that he arrived to the bat mitzvah on a flight from Los Angeles International Airport, where he waltzed through security only 20 minutes prior to boarding. Impressive. My son Ted, 41, was impressed, too. An experienced and speedy traveler, Ted has many airlines’ credit cards, plus the Priority Pass card, which he often uses for free airport food. Ted knows all the travel airport angles.
Feeling competitive after hearing Ben and Ted boast, I decided to arrive at the airport only an hour early for my trip home to Ohio. Dumb. The Denver airport is no Cleveland: At 52 square miles, it’s the largest airport in the U.S. Why didn’t Ted remind me of that? My most ignominious moment was at TSA PreCheck. I couldn’t pull up my electronic boarding pass on my Apple Wallet app. It isn’t that easy; I have a lot of old boarding passes in there. A young woman in line helped me.
Then two crew members cut in front of me in the security line. That was legit. But one flight attendant had a ton of stuff in his carry-on bag and got searched. You’d think an airline worker would know how to pack. I had an iPad in my carry-on, which is usually permissible in PreCheck, but not in this particular Denver line. I got to hold a placard that said I didn’t have to take my shoes off. That was my only perk.
I hopped a shuttle train. I ran on a moving sidewalk. I jogged past a tapas bar and cookie shop. I arrived at the gate just as the attendant announced the doors were closing. I said, “I’m too old for this kind of sprinting.” He smiled and held the door open. Lesson learned. I’m back to 1½ hours.