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The Perfect Time To Arrive At The Airport, According To Math

06/03/2014 08:00 am ET | Updated Jun 05, 2014

Few feelings can top the horror of missing your flight. But arriving at the airport too early -- and lingering for eons at the Duty Free shop -- is equally painful. What's a frequent flier to do?

The best time to arrive at the airport is as late as feasibly possible, with just enough time to make it to your plane, says mathematician Jordan Ellenberg.

The University of Wisconsin-Madison professor explains that every hour spent waiting for your plane at the airport is a "negative unit." It's an hour you could've spent in the comfort of your home or hotel. If we routinely arrive at airports three hours ahead of time, we'll accrue hundreds of those lost hours over the course of our lives, and that's not an efficient use of our time on earth.

So to optimize your time and therefore optimize your life, Ellenberg says it's best to cut it close -- very close -- when showing up to the airport.

"If you've never missed a flight, you're not doing it right," he told The Sunday Times.

Ellenberg says his strategy, outlined in the new book How Not to Be Wrong, will leave travelers with just a one to two percent chance of actually missing their flights.

He does, however, concede that his plan might not be for you if you cherish your clean flight record.

Adopting Ellenberg's strategy “depends on how you personally feel about the relative merits of missing planes and wasting time,” he said.

We personally feel like "wasting some time" at Duty Free.

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