In March 2011, after I already made quite a few miles traveling, I finally went on a trip, which included a plane ride. My first flight! I have always been attracted to the airplanes, and I wasn’t worried about the flight itself, but the thrill had quickly turned from „yaaay“ to „naaah“ when I realized how much I did not know about flying. When do I need to get to the airport… and what should I do then?! The more I read the forums and articles, the less I knew, and I had more and more questions. The possibility that I will finish on another continent instead of in Rome was increasing. So here are some first time flying tips. I hope they are going to be helpful!
WHEN SHOULD I BE AT THE AIRPORT AND WHAT DO I NEED TO DO THEN?!
The time required to complete all the formalities at the airport depends on the size of the airport and the country where it’s located. It is recommended to come at least two hours earlier, but in Zagreb, even an hour and a half would be too much (especially if you don’t have a morning flight). On the other hand, if you depart from the airport in the United States or some other very big airport, you should come three hours earlier due to more comprehensive security control and larger distances within the airport.
Before going to the plane, you need to check-in to the flight (or do it earlier online and drop your baggage), go through the security check, and wait for your boarding time to get into the plane. All this can be done in 15 minutes, but also can last longer than an hour. Larger airports are more likely to be crowded, so adjust your arrival time according to that.
HOW MY PLANE TICKET LOOKS LIKE AND WHAT IS “CHECK-IN”?
Today’s plane tickets are generally electronic, so you can come to the check-in counter with the printed purchase confirmation, or even without it. Upon the arrival at the airport, you need to go to the check-in counters and find the right one (look for it on the screens above the counters and search by the airline’s name or the destination). Check-in usually starts 120 minutes before the flight.
In most cases, it is enough to hand over your documents to the counter person and place the luggage on a track. After the luggage is weighted, it receives the tags, and it is taken away by the conveyor belt so the airport personnel can put it into the bunker. The counter person issues the boarding pass and checks you into the flight. The boarding pass contains your personal information and flight data and usually states the gate number, boarding time, and seat number.
WHAT HAPPENS AT THE SECURITY CHECK?
The security check consists of passenger and baggage control. Passing through the security check can be quick and painless if you follow the next tips.
- While waiting in a queue, please remove your watches, belts, and all the metal you are wearing. Do not do that when it is your turn because you are creating a crowd unnecessarily.
- Jewelry usually doesn’t need to be removed, but if you are not 100% sure should you remove it, ask the staff.
- If you have any metal on (piercing) or inside you (metal plates, etc.), be prepared to show it to the officers or bring your medical records.
- Wear clean and untorn socks. Sometimes you will need to take off your shoes, especially if you are wearing the boots, a lot of metal on them or if you fly from the U.S. People are ashamed very often.
- Before passing through a metal detector, empty all your pockets.
- All the items you need to put in the plastic containers, but do not overcrowd them.
- The laptops need to be removed from the bags and put into a separate box, with no other items in it. Lately, they ask to take out other electronic devices too, like iPad or Kindle.
- If you are dressed in layers (for example, a shirt, a sweater, and a jacket), you need to take off the shirt and the coat. You shall not wear thick layers of clothing when passing through the detector.
- You cannot have more than one liter of liquid when passing through the control. All the fluids must be in packages up to 100 ml and placed in one one-liter plastic bag with zipper. Do not forget to take out that bottle of water from the bag.
After you put all the things in the containers, your stuff passes through the scanner, and you go through the detector. If everything is okay, you can take your items and get dressed. If the officers notice something suspicious or the detector sounds, they could ask for more detailed luggage or personal examination and ask you to open the backpack. Show them without the complaint.
WHAT CAN I DO AT THE AIRPORT AFTER SECURITY CONTROL?
Everything! You can have a coffee, pour water into an empty bottle that you had in your backpack, read the newspaper, eat, surf, shop at the duty-free store (you can buy even liquids, everything you buy there will be packed in welded bag which you are not allowed open until you land!).
Depending on the size and equipment of the airport, the time before the flight can be shortened by the various activities. With its numerous restaurants, shops, and excellent waiting rooms, airports can be an oasis of entertainment. Some of them even have a casino and mailboxes.
WHEN THE BOARDING STARTS AND HOW DOES IT LOOK LIKE?
Boarding usually begins 30 – 45 minutes before the flight. The time is usually stated on the boarding pass and departure screens at the airport. Sometimes the gate and boarding time has not been assigned yet at the moment of issuing the boarding pass, in that case, you can find all the information on screens.
The boarding is announced by ground staff at the gate assigned to this flight. At the entrance, the staff will check your documents and boarding pass, so don’t put them in the deepest part of your backpack right after the security control. Sometimes they will check the dimensions and hand luggage weight. This usually happens when traveling with low-cost airlines, but even the “regular” companies sometimes check that you are not traveling with more pieces of luggage than allowed.
Depending on the airport, you go to the plane on foot or by bus. At Zagreb’s airport, there is an airport bus in front of the gate which takes passengers to the plane. Then you climb the stairs to enter the aircraft. My favorites are those cases where you can get to the aircraft by the big tunnel, which connects the gate with the plane.
Upon entering the plane cabin, staff will greet you and, if necessary, help you to find your seat. If you have the assigned seat, you must sit right there and place the hand luggage in the overhead compartment or under the seat in front of you. During the takeoff and landing, you are not allowed to have anything in your lap (like purse or laptop).
There is a reason why you shouldn’t spend too much time taking pictures in front of the plane, even though it’s the first time you will enter it. If the plane is full, there probably won’t be enough space for all hand luggage. So if you have a larger piece of luggage and if you don’t want to spend a few hours with a suitcase below your legs, hurry up to the plane and take place for luggage. Otherwise, it could happen that you are sitting in the fourth row, and your luggage is placed in the compartment above the 30th row. Long story short, you would need to wait for all people to exit the plane before you could reach it. In the event of a power space for carry-on luggage, larger pieces are sent free of charge to aircraft bunker.
Once you’ve placed the luggage, tie yourself, and listen carefully to what the cabin crew will have to say. The pilot’s greeting contains some necessary information such as the duration of the flight and weather conditions in a destination, and the flight attendants are going to give you safety instructions. Listen to them carefully, so you know what to do in case of an accident and where are the emergency exits.