By Andrea Romano
May 30, 2019
Philipp Nemenz/Getty Images

Some people like a little danger. And what’s more dangerous than almost missing your carefully planned vacation?

Sure, missing your flight isn’t exactly akin to skydiving out of a plane or trekking an active volcano, but some people actually do get a bit of a rush by showing up to their gate at the very last minute, according to The Atlantic.

Maybe it’s the thrill of running through a busy airport, a la "Home Alone," or maybe they’re just one of those horrible people who actually enjoy making others late, but The Atlantic posits that there are two types of people at the airport: early people and late people.

While many chronically late people really are doing their very best to be on time (bless their hearts), there is a small group that actually just lives for the drama of it all.

“I just really live for the feeling of literally running through the airport barefoot because you didn’t have time to put your shoes on after security, and your laptop is in your hand because you didn’t have time to put it back,” said Ellen Cushing, senior editor at The Atlantic.

Tim Herrera, an editor at The New York Times, even tweeted about his late-arriving habits, perhaps to get a rise out of people by saying he might “stop for a snack” because he was going to arrive at the airport 30 minutes before his flight began to board. Such a declaration would make lots of the early birds out there sweat.

“Tweeting about it is kind of fun and adds some drama,” Herrera told The Atlantic. Some people just like to watch the world burn.

Most of the time, late arrivers are going through the proper channels in order to get to their flight and not taking any unorthodox, or illegal, shortcuts to get to their gate, like one man who called in a fake bomb threat to get his plane delayed or another passenger who sprinted across the tarmac and tried to open a plane door (for the wrong plane).

No matter how they’re getting to their gate, there seems to be some psychological need to take the risk. But the reasons why we take risks can be a little murky.

According to LiveScience, a Columbia University psychologist, Elke Weber, says that everyone has a “domain-specific risk propensity,” which usually falls into one of five categories, “financial, health/safety, recreational, ethical and social.”

It’s debatable where being late to a flight would fit in. Weber says that a person’s tendency to risk in a certain category depends on “how much he or she expects to benefit from the outcome.”

According to The Atlantic, that benefit might be excitement, adrenaline, or even a way of coping with the stress of actually being at the airport.

“They distract and procrastinate, and next thing you know, they can’t do what they need to do to get there on time. It’s not quite self-harm, but it’s in the same arena. It changes your feeling state and gets you out of that place that’s uncomfortable and into this place of excitement,” said Jonny Gerkin, a psychiatrist at the University of North Carolina, to The Atlantic.

It can also come down to a person’s personality type. Jeffrey Conte, an organizational psychologist at San Diego State University, told The Atlantic that “Type A” people (organized, ambitious, but impatient and more neurotic) people are generally early arrivers and “Type B” people (more relaxed, less neurotic, but also less ambitious and punctual) tend to chronically arrive late. Of course, there are other factors to consider when it comes to the chronically late and the chronically early, and it can’t all be chalked up to “type.”

Arriving late for a flight doesn’t always mean you’ll miss it, but with some risks can come less-than-desirable consequences. Even though you can’t get a refund for missing a flight (unless there’s some mitigating factor besides bad time management), there are things you can do to minimize the damage.

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