First Time Flyer Tips
First Time Flyer Tips
Article by iFly
First Time Flyer Tips
You’ve booked your Trip…
You’ve booked your trip… you’re all excited to go see the in-laws. But there’s a little detail…ok..not so little. You haven’t flown in years (maybe never?), and you have no clue what’s involved to get to your local airport, check in for your flight, get through security (are they going to strip-search me?), get to your gate, and fly those friendly skies.
Don’t fear, we’ve put together some helpful tips to get you to and through airports. Keep in mind, each airport is different, so things like parking garages and their daily rates, the layout of terminals and gates, and the general number of available airport services, such as restaurants and stores, will be very different between the various airport facilities.
Preparing for your Trip
Before you Leave. If this is your first time flying, or it has just been a while, follow these tips to be best prepared before you even leave for the airport.
What to Pack
Restricted Items – things you can take with you.
Due to the heightened security measures after 9/11 and following the exposed plot in the UK during the summer of 2006, the agency who regulates airport security, the Transportation Safety Administration, or TSA, has revised its guidelines numerous times. Clearly there are items that were and always will be prohibited, such as firearms, explosives, dangerous chemicals, etc. (seems like common sense, right?). But if you want to know if you can take that sewing needle on-board, of if your 2 gallon jug of hair gel will make it past airport security, its best to check on the latest advisory directly with the TSA, at http://www.tsa.gov.
The Pros and Cons of Checking your Bag.
Often a hotly-debated subject amongst flyers, there are certain advantages and disadvantages to each argument. But first, for those new to the game of flying or need a refresher, there are certain limits to what you can take, both in your carry-on (what you can physically take with you on the aircraft), and what you can ‘check-in’ (what goes in the cargo hold of your plane – under the floor of the cabin).Â
Advantages of taking only carry-on luggage
Disadvantages of checking your bags
The airline won’t lose your bags! Always the scorn of travelers, lost luggage can be a real drag. And if this happens, the air carrierwill do little to compensate you, except to deliver your bag to your home or hotel, often many hours or even days after your luggage was lost.
When you get to your destination, you can just zip right through the airport to your rental car, taxi, or shuttle, and not have to wait endlessly for your bag to show up on that baggage carousel.
If your flight is delayed (or canceled altogether) and you missed your connecting flight, you have your bags with you and are much more flexible. Perhaps there is another flight you can be re-routed to, or a flight going to a nearby airport. Remember, if you check your bags, those bags will stay on the scheduled flight (in most cases), even if that flight is delayed by hours and you can be re-booked on a different flight. The airline will simply send your bag on the originally-scheduled flight, requiring that you stick it out at your destination or return to the airport what that flight arrives (what a bummer!).
Another advantage is that you keep your bag securely with you, thus eliminating the chance that your camera fails to zoom anymore after being zoomed into the cargo hold by a guy who used to work lugging concrete bags at construction sites, or worse, that it ‘sprouted legs’ and disappeared en-route to your arrival airport.
Advantages of checking your bags
Disadvantages of carrying your bags into the cabin
You can take a lot more stuff. Since airlines restrict what you can carry-onÂ board the airplane, you have to pack very carefully (read: don’t take that kitchen sink). If you’re traveling on a trip of a few days, you can probably get by carrying your bags on-board the flight, but if you plan to fly with lots of gifts and goodies, you’ll be much better off checking your bags.Â
You won’t have to fight 280 people for that elusive overhead bin space (the area above your seat that always seems to be 1 inch smaller than your bag). Since most business travelers tend to take shorter trips and hence don’t check-in luggage, and they are priveleged to board before the rest of the masses, chances are the overhead bins might be full by the time you embark your flight, or, the only space available is all the way in the back over 49E, and your seat is in 12A (meaning you have to wait until all the passengers disembark at the destination airport to wait to get back and retrieve your bag at baggage claim.
How much can I take On-board, and what do I have to Check?
As a very general rule, you can take one size-limited carry-onÂ bag with you when you fly, not including a small laptop bag, backpack, or handbag. Alternatively, you can check two bags at the airport check-in counter. Bag size restrictions for carry-ons and weight-limits for checked-luggage are determined by each airline.Â
What happens if I am over the Checked-Baggage Limit?
If you arrive at the airport check-inÂ counter with 12 bags of gifts for your nephews, be prepared to pay a hefty price. Airlines allow you to check two bags that meet their size and weight limits. Anything over the limit can cost or more per bag, so be aware! The ticket counter agent will be happy to take your credit card and charge you more than you spent on those gifts.
What happens if I carry my bags on-board, and there is no space?
You’ve made it to the airport, your flight is set for an on-time departure, and you’ve started the boarding process – only you’re in the back of a long line of fellow passengers, and by the time you get on board, there is no space left in any of the overhead bins! Well what happens in that case is the flight attendants take your bag into the cockpit, where the pilot gets first dibs on your stuff…ok, what really happens is that they take your bag off the plane and check it in. So now you have to go to baggage claimwhen you arrive at your destination to pick it up at the baggage carousel. No big deal, right?
Documents to take.
See airport IDÂ section for info on proper ID requirements.
Confirming your Flight.
If you fly on any one of the major US carriers or their large alliance partners, you don’t have to worry about calling to confirm your flight. However, if you’re flying Air Zimbabwe or other less-known carrier, its a good idea to call at least 24 hours prior to your scheduled departure. Check with your airline a day before your departure.
Checking on the Status of your Flight before you Leave
It is definitely a good idea to check the status of your departure prior to leaving for the airport. Check on iFly’s live departuresÂ to see the status of your flight. NOTE: remember, if your flight is listed as ‘on-time 3 hours prior to your boarding time, that does not guarantee that by the time you get to the airport parking lotthat the flight status will not have changed to ‘delayed’.
When to Arrive at the airport?
After you’ve familiarized yourself with the direction to the airport, seen what the average drive time is, and viewed the parking options, you will probably now be asking: “when should I arrive at the airport”?. The TSA recommends arriving at least 2 hours before your flight. You might also want to check the average security wait timeÂ to see how long the lines are at the time you’ll be arriving.
Airport Parking Options
Airport parking can be very frustrating, and very expensive, if you’re not prepared. It is very common for passengers to miss flightsbecause they could not find appropriate parking, or getting stuck with huge bills because time ran short and the only option left was the high-priced short-term parking garage. Know your options.Â
Public Transportation Options
If you live in an area which has public transportation, often this can be the cheapest and most reliable way to get into and out of the airport. Trainsare not affected by rush hour (they only run more frequently), and often take you very close to your departure terminal.Â
Checking In for your Flight
Checking in with bags: If you’ve decided to check-in your bags,Â then you must proceed to the check-in counter for your airline. There you will wait in-line until its your turn to heave your bag on the scale, present your airport ID, and get your boarding pass issued, along with a baggagetag receipt. Make sure your bag is unlocked, or has a TSA-approved lock. Once you have that, you’re set to pass through the security checkpoint and on to your departure gate.
Checking in with only Carry-on Bags.
Should you be traveling light and have only a carry-on bag, your best bet is to look for one of those nifty self check-in ticker kiosksÂ (machine) – most major airlineshave them at most airports. That way you can avoid the lines at the check-in ticket counters.
Self Check-in Ticket Kiosks.
These are machines which allow you to insert your ID – usually a valid credit card for validation – and print a boarding pass without having to wait on line at the check-in counter. Located near the airlines’ ticket counters, these great time savers also allow you to view your itinerary, select seats, and print boarding passes for all your flight segments.
Note: if you’re checking bags, you will still have to go to the ticket counters – but many have ticket
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