Preparing for the First Flight
The sight of an aeroplane looking so tiny in the sky makes us curious and wonder about the size of the aircraft and continuously stare at the height at which the plane is cruising along.When it is our turn to fly in the same plane for the first-time flyer, we experience butterflies in our stomach. The nervousness slowly builds when you leave home to travel to the airport.The sight of the stern faced security guard outside the airport who check your passport,your ticket and sometimes also scan you and ask you to proceed towards the next counter may be scary.Before you step into the airport,there will be several questions in your head like.Where and how do I buy a ticket?How can I get the fare and the best routing for my itinerary? What do I do when I get to the airport? How do I identify myself? The options and questions never seem to end but there is no need to be anxious as long as you prepare and inform yourself, you can successfully fly not once but many times.Please be assured that Air travel is not at all a daunting task as all of us think it to be and the stern faced security guy is only doing his duty.There is no need to be nervous at all.
The first flight should be a memorable one, let us put together the few things you should know.
PREPARATIONS BEFORE TRAVEL
A government issued photo identification is advised to be carried if you are traveling within your home country.This can be your Driving License,Pancard or your Passport .For an International trip, you will need a Passport that is in a good condition and preferably valid for atleast six months from the date of departure although this may be Country specific at times.Damaged passports are not accepted for travel and you may be denied checkin and boarding. Hence always keep your passport in a safe place anytime anywhere.Make at least three photocopies of your passport.You can carry two and leave one at home and one on your email account as well for safe measure. Photocopies come in very handy in the event of your Passport getting lost or stolen.An Important step to take before you book and purchase your ticket is to decide the Destination and if your destination requires a Visa to be stamped on the passport before departure then a Valid Visa should be stamped on the passport.Please check and confirm if your visiting destination requires a Visa.If yes then it is recommended that you arrange to obtain the visa well in advance of purchase of your travel tickets.Some of the Visas require you to also submit the travel tickets. If the Visa is not obtained and stamped in time then you can be denied boarding on a flight.Make sure that you have a Valid Visa before your purchase of tickets.Just like the passport,it is a good idea to keep copies of the Visa as well.Please research the health requirements of the destination to be visited.If a Special Vaccination is required for the visiting Country please inoculate yourselves as per the requirements.Check and ensure if your Travel Insurance provides Medical Insurance cover as well.
BOOK AND PURCHASE YOUR TICKET
A New Destination chosen and decided!!!Good..Passport,Visa,Insurance,Currency all arranged!!!Good and you are done..?No,you are not..An Important step to take before you book and purchase your ticket is to check and research your New Destination.Gather information from various sources about the weather in that Country at the time of your visit and if you need to carry additional clothing,medications and if any special local rules need to be followed.Always keep a tab of the weather in the days leading upto the departure.What is the mode of transportation available and if the different places in the City are well connected with each other.
Today a plethora of travel portals and airfare search engines help you to easily search multiple dates and flight times on various airlines for your flight ticket online. You can also take the services of a Travel Company to check on seats and flights.You can also browse through the airline website online to get a broad idea of fares.Enter in the name of the departure city, arrival city and dates, and the portal or website engine will revert with a range of flights that fit your selection criteria. Read through properly to review departure and arrival times, connections time between two flights and availability of seats. If seats are available then,please review,check the fare rules and conditions for the ticket and once you are convinced and ready to buy the flight, click on it to select and follow the instructions mentioned on the website or portal.It is advisable to check on fares for the tickets as early as possible for two reasons.ΞPlenty of Seats will be available and Ξ You can get cheaper and lower fares. Whatever the mode of purchase,the airline gives you an option to prereserve seats in advance.Sometimes seat prereservation comes at a fee. There are Aisle seats close to the passageway and Window seats are close to the walls of the aircraft.There are special seats in an aircraft which can be reserved only at the time of Checkin. Emergency Exit seats are have more leg space,feel a bit spacious. As the name suggests the seats are used as exit seats in case of an emergency,so the traveller occupying the seat has to be agile and in sound health to carry out instructions at this critical time. Travellers with special needs;differently abled and Wheelchair assisted may need to book special seats.Make sure to inform the airline of these needs well in advance. To get help with good seats one can refer to Seatguru. Similarly if the airline and your flight offers food on board,you can also assign your preference of meals on the flight.In case of any special dietary food or any any particular requirements it is highly advisable to check the food type available on the flight and inform the airline days in advance for them to arrange it for you. Informing the airline on the day of the flight may not get a confirmation of the desired seat.
Credit card is the most used method of payment on these portals and websites. Travel Companies may only deal in cash,online bank transfers or Cheques. Once payment is complete and the ticket is issued,the airline or the portal will send you an email confirmation and e-ticket number.Suggest you take at least two copies to be carried along with you and 1 copy to be left at home.Keep a soft copy in your email as well for safe measure.
BAGGAGE AND ARRIVING AT THE AIRPORT AND CHECK IN
Baggage allowance details for your flight are available at the time of ticket purchase itself.The allowance varies depending on the class of Travel and also varies from airline to airline. It is a better idea to weigh your bag/s before you depart for the airport to ensure that your baggage allowance meets the airline requirements.This bag or bags need not be on you all the time and can be checked in and stored with the airline during the flight in their cargo section and are called “Check in Bags“. Most airlines allow passengers to bring one “Carry-on Bag” and one personal item, such as a laptop or a ladies hand bag of certain weight and size specified by the airline you will be flying with.Always best to check the baggage allowances and specifications for Check In Bags and Carry on Bags for your airline and the destination Country by visiting its website. The baggage information is generally placed under “Travel Information“or “Before you Fly” tab. Please check for fees if any for checked bags. All the airlines in the United States of America charge a fee for each checked bag maximum upto three bags (the fee increases with the number of bags) and a separate fee for oversized bags for flights within United States and Canada also its neighbouring Countries.Next please check for prohibited and restricted items specified by the airline in for Checked in Bags,Carry on Bags and both Checked in and Carry on. Authorities at the airport will confiscate any item that do not adhere to this policy.Please do not pack any valuable items in the Check in Bags. Since this bag will be accessible to you at the Destination,please do not pack items in it that you may need on you during the flight.You can paint your name and address,place some special identifications or have a unique coloured bag.This helps you to identify your bag and retrieve it from the baggage belt or counter at the Destination from a sea of bags.
Most of the Airlines facilitate Online Check In and also print boarding passes as well before the scheduled departure time.The time you can do the online checkin varies from airline to airline and this helps for fast and easy check in for your flight.Many a times flights are delayed due to multiple reasons-technical snag,bad weather or an airline strike.Always check the current status of your flight and time of departure on the day of the flight. Some cities have multiple airports and equally multiple terminals. Check and be informed of the correct Airport Terminal you are flying from.
For a first time flyer,it is suggested that he/she/they arrive at the airport early say atleast 3 hours in advance to the departure. Keep some time to acquaint yourself with the procedures at the airport.Big monitor screens display the status of the flights. Continuous announcements and displays about counter numbers for flight check in,security check counters etc.also help ease the process.Though the check-in commencement time is usually 4 hours prior to departure and the counters close at least 1 hour prior to departure at most of the airports,it is still recommended that we check with the respective Airline for this information,reason being, the check-in time frame varies from airline to airline.
♦Most flight counters open 3 hours before departure for travellers to check in. For a Domestic flight check in 2 hours prior to departure while long haul international flights can start checking-in 3 hours before the scheduled take off time.The Check in time can be slightly less if you have already done an online checkin and printed your Boarding passes and do not have any Check in Bags.Business Class passengers can check in 2 hours before an International flight and between 45 mins to 1 hour for a Domestic flight
♦You can load the baggage to be checked in on a baggage trolley available in plenty outside as well as inside the airport terminal.These steel trolleys are equipped with four wheels and fitted with a handle which has to be pushed down to move the trolley forward.At the entrance of the airport,the security guard will match your passport and the ticket details and if all is founder in order will allow you to move in to the main area of the airport where most of the procedures take place step by step.
♦There are ample directions and people around to help you,but if you are still in doubt do not hesitate to ask questions.Once inside proceed towards the Baggage screening counter. At this counter all your bags are screened to check for any prohibited and restrictive items. If all in order then you go ahead.Else you will be asked to to remove the item and place it in the appropriate bag ( Carry on or Check in) as deemed fit by the airport officials.Sometimes you may be completely forbidden to carry the item.A checked sticker will be affixed to all of your bags.
♦The scene inside may be chaotic with a huge sea of people at many different counters moving around with lot of baggage.You may also have to do the same.Be calm and look for TV monitors which display the departure flights with the airline name and logos.Proceed with your trolley to your airline counter and patiently wait in the queue for your turn.While you await your turn keep your photo identification and your ticket copy ready to be presented at the counter. For Domestic flights you can present any government issued photo ID like a Pancard or Driving License and for International flights it is always a Passport.Business Class and First Class travellers have a separate counter for checkin and are sometimes offered a personalised checkin. When your turn arrives, the airline executive at the checkin desk will match your flight reservation with your ticket and check if your passport/visa is in order for travel.At this time he/she can help you to assign seats of your choice (if available)if you had not already done an online check in.You can place your checkin bags on the weighing scale next to the checkin desk. The bags will be weighed and a computerised tag will be attached-one part to your bags and the other part to the copy of the ticket. This is because if the bags are delayed or lost in transit and do not arrive with you at the destination then in such times the tag attached to your tickets is the only proof for you to claim your bag from the airline.Please keep this piece of paper in a safe and handy place till you receive your bags at the Destination.The bags are then placed on the conveyor belt and taken to the cargo hold in the plane.You are happy that the bags checked in successfully.But please do not leave the trolley at the counter.Please place away the now empty steel trolley in a safe place so that it does not hamper the movements and passage of fellow travellers.
♦Printed boarding passes for your flight will be handed over to you along with your photo ID/Passport,ticket .A departure card or Embarkation Card is available at the checkin counters.The departure card or Embarkation cards(required only for Indians departing from India) on departures should be completed and presented at Immigration.A baggage tag for each piece of Carry on Bag will also be handed over to you.Attach the baggage tag to each and every piece of the Carry on Bag.Please keep the passport,ticket and boarding passes handy as from here on they will be required to be presented too often till the boarding of the plane. The boarding pass contains your seat number,boarding time and boarding gate number,which you need to proceed to for boarding your flight after Security Check and Immigration or vice versa.
SECURITY CHECK AND IMMIGRATION
Boarding passes collected ,proceed towards the Security Counter for screening and inspection of the Carry on Bag.While you wait for your turn in the queue (separate for males and females at some airports),you can prepare yourself with the items to be checked and screened
♦Place your wallet,coins if any,phone,jacket and any other metal items in the tray to be taken through the scanner
♦If you are carrying a laptop you will be required to remove the laptop and place it separately in a tray to be checked
♦Some Countries of the world require you to remove your shoes,overcoat and belts and be presented for inspection
♦Medications required on the flight (with Doctor’s certificate) and baby food are exempted.
♦You will be also asked physically to walk through the metal detector and a scanner moved through your body as part of the security check.(male security guards for the male traveller and a female security guard for the female traveller will do the body scanning)
♦Wait on the other side of the scanner to retrieve all your items after passing through the metal detector and the security staff will give you a clearance and will stamp the boarding pass and the baggage tags on the carry on bag items.Ensure that the boarding pass and each baggage tag is stamped.
Departure and Arrival needs to be recorded on the passport if you travel to an International destination as it involves crossing of two International borders.Kindly await your turn in the queue.The officer behind the desk will check your passport, the visa and occasionally ask you a few questions.Present the completed Embarkation form and the boarding pass to the Immigration Officer.He must stamp the departure date on all of the three documents-The Passport,Embarkation form and the Boarding Pass,but should retain the Embarkation form with him and only return the Passport and the Boarding Pass to you.This completes the Immigration procedure.Continue to keep the Passport,Immigration form and the Boarding Pass handy as they will be required at the time of boarding the plane.
After Immigration,the last and final counter to go through will be the Customs Declaration Counter before proceeding to your Boarding gate.Customs is the authority in our country or the respective country you enter that is responsible for controlling the flow of goods, including animals, transports, foods, personal effects,goods of high value like jewels and precious stones,electronic items,illegal,contraband and hazardous items, into and out of a country.
Presenting yourself at the Customs is deemed to be a declaration by you that you do not possess any of the above goods. There are Customs Facilitation counters just after the Immigration area. If in doubt regarding the permissibility of any goods that you intend to take with you or for answers to any query about any Customs procedure please contact the officer at the Customs Facilitation counter. No stamping or baggage check is normally done by Customs, however in case of suspicion or as a random routine check, sometimes your baggage may be examined by the officials present on duty.So nothing to worry if you are not carrying any goods that need to be declared.
BOARDING PROCEDURE FOR THE FLIGHT
Once the Security Check is over,you can proceed toward your boarding gate number mentioned on the boarding pass and proceed towards the sitting area in and around the boarding gate. Wait for the announcement for boarding. Boarding gates can and may be changed till the last minute.So always keep an eye on the display screens to check any boarding announcements and lend an ear to the announcements or calls for boarding.Usually boarding starts atleast 30-40 minutes before the departure.If you find that you still have some time before boarding then you could take a walk,read a book or visit the area around.However do not go to far from the boarding gate.Business Class and First Class travellers can spend the spare time in a quiet lounge till the boarding call.
While some may be different,most of the airlines use a common process for boarding.It usually happens by the number of rows,class of travel and also by special need travellers. That is wheel chair bound travellers who need to be escorted and assisted upto the seat in the aircraft or travellers with other special needs,Senior Citizens, Mothers with infants and expectant mothers are called for boarding first up as they will need more time to board and settle down.Then the First Class,Business Class travellers and those holding a high membership rank on the Frequent Flyer programme of the airline will be asked to come forward for boarding.The Economy class will be next and last in the gang who are asked to proceed in by calling in a group of rows on after the other in an orderly and organised manner so that the boarding happens smoothly.So do not rush forward or try to push in when Boarding of the flight is announced.Each one will be allowed boarding if you have the valid documents on you checked and stamped from the relevant authorities.Then at the gate, the airline executive will welcome you on board ,will ask to see your Boarding pass, scan it through a machine and return it to you “Wishing you a pleasant flight”. This done you should walk through the boarding tunnel which is a Jet Bridge between the boarding gate and the aircraft. At the end of the bridge you find yourself at the entrance of the aircraft where two or more flight crew will welcome in you into the aircraft,guide you to your seat after checking the same on your boarding pass.
Finally you have entered the aircraft for the first time…CONGRATS..Now with mixed thoughts of anxiousness and excitement you look for your seat,the number for which is mentioned on the Boarding Pass and as directed by the flight crew,you find your seat.The seat number is a mix of a number and an alphabet…like 17K or 21C. You can store the Carry on Bag in the Overhead storage compartment after removing the items that you will need through the flight.Here as well there are the flight crew attendants who will help you store the bags and help you settle down quickly.Do remember to keep a pen handy as you will be asked to complete an arrival form when the plane is about to land at the Destination airport.
Store your bags quickly and also settle down quickly to make way for the other set of travellers into the aircraft. Once all of them are seated, the flight crew checks and matches the number of travellers with the traveller list (also called the Manifest in airline lingo) given to them.If all in order,they announce the closing of the doors of the aircraft and start preparing for the TAKE OFF
WELCOME ABOARD…FASTEN YOUR SEAT BELTS AND HAVE A PLEASANT AND SAFE FLIGHT