Travel often enough, and eventually, you'll miss a flight. Often that's through no fault of your own: weather, mechanical issues...or maybe the airline just bumps you and makes you take a later flight. (If you happen to get bumped involuntarily, here's what you can expect in terms of compensation.)
But sometimes the reason you miss a flight isn't the fault of the airline. Possibly you got delayed on the way to the airport.
Or maybe you love to cut it close.
According to this Atlantic article, there are two types of airport people: those who arrive early, and those who love to arrive "late." (And evidently the two camps despise each other.)
I fall somewhere in the middle: I tend to arrive a little over an hour early to busy airports, but feel comfortable arriving 25 or 30 minutes early to airports like Richmond and Norfolk in Virginia, where parking is convenient and lines tend to be short. (One time I made it from the Richmond parking garage to the departure gate in nine minutes.)
Regardless of the reason why you're in danger of missing your flight, there are things you can do to make sure you get through the check-in and security processes and to your gate as quickly as possible.
1. Try really hard not to check a bag.
Checking a bag not only slows you down on the front end, it will also add at least 15 minutes to the back end of your trip.
But if you do need to check a bag, try to do so at curbside. The lines are almost always shorter.
2. Use a backpack whenever possible.
It's a lot easier to hustle through the airport when you aren't dragging a roll-on. Plus, you can grab your laptop, tablet, etc. and load it back up as you hurry to the gate.
Get the right kind of backpack and you'll be amazed what will fit. Especially if you only pack what you need and leave all the "just in case" items at home.
Because "just in case" never happens.
3. Double-check your bags.
I've had my backpack searched because I left a half-full Diet Mtn. Dew inside. And I've gotten delayed because of a too-large tub of toothpaste.
Both instances added about 15 minutes to the security process.
A quick scan while waiting in line to have my ID and boarding pass checked would have avoided the delay.
And while I don't, some people put all their toilet articles in a clear plastic bag, which typically keeps them from having to remove it during screening.
4. Get TSA PreCheck.
Sure, sometimes it will be a waste of time. But still: I've traveled with people who didn't have PreCheck who took 20 to 30 minutes longer to get through security.
And you'll save time not removing shoes, certain items from luggage, etc.
PreCheck does cost $85, but on the other hand, it's good for five years. (And I don't know anyone who has decided not to renew.)
Also consider Clear. I don't have it, but a few people I know swear by it.
5. Get the airline app.
Maybe you won't want every airline's app, but if you regularly fly certain airlines, get their apps. Check-in is easy. Plus, you'll get alerts reminding you when it's time to check in. And generally speaking, the apps do a good job of keeping up with flight status, gate changes, etc.
6. Be nice.
If you get to the gate late, apologize. If the doors are closing and you want any chance of being allowed to board, ask nicely. Gate agents typically deal with two moods: neutral and upset.
So don't run up and demand to be allowed to board. Apologize. Be nice. Ask nicely. While you still might miss your flight, the gate agent is much more likely to work with you--instead of sending you off to a customer service agent--to find another flight.
Besides: Being nice is always the right thing to do.