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At the Airport
Post: #1
Getting from home on to the plane can be for some people the most stressful part of a trip, particularly if you are on your own and are not a regular traveller.
This post describes how to negotiate a typical UK airport, however it applies to most airports around the world. There will always be slight variations but the principle in general is the same wherever you are.

Before you leave home.
A week or so before you travel you will receive your final documents. These will give you your departure airport, terminal, flight number and take off time.

Some airlines allow you to check in on-line at home, some 24 hours before your flight or in the case of Easyjet, months in advance! It is usual that this option is not available for JY customers as we are block booked, however it is sometimes worth trying it the day before just in case.

If you are travelling on the day, always allow plenty of time. The last thing you want is to start your holiday in a panic worried that you may not make the flight. The airports generally say for international flights arrive 3 hours before take off and 2 hours for European destinations. I personally use that as a minimum, after all, the holiday begins at the airport and you can use the time to grab a meal, shop or get to know your travel companions.

Once you arrive at the airport, presuming you haven't been able to do so at home, your first job is to check in. Hopefully you know from your travel documents which airport and which terminal you need to go to. Many airports have more than one terminal - for example Gatwick has north and south, Heathrow has 1,3,4 & 5 (2 is being rebuilt). All airports are very well sign posted. As you enter the terminal you will see boards telling you where your airline check in zone is.

Check in
Once you get to the correct check in you still have two options with most airlines. You can check in at the check in desks in the traditional manner or you can use the self service check in kiosks. These are normally located near the desks and will have a staff member on hand to help you. These kiosks can save you time queuing and also give you a chance to see a diagram of the plane and change seats if you don't like the one allocated to you (see comment below). The kiosk screen takes you through step by step and is very simple to operate. You will then need to go to the 'Bag Drop' to hand over your suitcase. This is normally by the check in desks. The staff member will need your passport and your Boarding Card which the self-service kiosk printed out for you.

Seat choice
Choice of seats is a very personal issue. In my mind, on long flights it depends on your ability to sleep on planes. If you plan on sleeping for most of the flight, the window seat is probably best as you have a little more room and can lean against the window and won't get woken up for someone else who needs the loo. If, like me, you can't sleep, the aisle is a better option, then you can get up whenever you like to either use the loo or just stretch your legs. The middle seat is never popular for obvious reasons so this is another reason to get the airport early as you may find all the good seats filled. It is also good etiquette on long flights to ask the person next to you if they want to be woken for meals.

Seat numbers are a strange thing. The rows are numbered and then within the row each seat has a letter - for example seat 5A is in row 5 by the window on the right as you walk towards the back of the plane. However, the letters depend on the type of plane and the seat plan. Some planes have three seats on each side of one aisle, others can have two one side then four in the middle then two on the other side etc.. This means that some planes don't have a 'B' seat, none have an 'I' and you can't assume that a seat on one plane is in the same position as one on another. Confused?

Once you have checked in you need to go through Security. Bear in mind that once you go through, there is no turning back. Only in very extreme circumstances will you be allowed back out. The terms used at airports are 'landside' and 'airside'. Landside means before Security, Airside is after.

Security
The Security area is marked 'Departures' or 'International Departures'. At the entrance you will find bins for you to put any liquids you may have accidentally brought, I won't go in depth in to the liquids in hand luggage business but suffice it to say, you need to check the rules before you travel and put any small liquids in a clear resealable plastic bag.
You will then need to show your passport and boarding pass at the entrance. When showing your passport at any time during your journey pass it across with your photo page open - it saves the official a lot of time. You then enter Security. There will normally be a number of queues for you to join, if you're like me, whatever one you join will be the slowest one. Make sure you empty all your pocket contents in to your bag. When you reach the x-ray machine grab a plastic box, put all small items and coats / jackets in to a box with your 'liquids bag' and place your hand luggage next to it. Guide it along the rollers until the Security officer has control of it. You then walk through the 'arch' when directed to do so. If the machine beeps you will be either asked to check your pockets or you may just be searched. Even if you don't beep a random search may be done. Is is quite quick and painless - a member of the same sex runs their hands over your clothing. I would rather go through this and know my flight is safe than face the alternative! Some airports require you to remove your shoes as well.

Once through Security you enter a magical world of shops and restaurants. You will see Departure Boards throughout the area showing the details of your flight. It is really important to keep an eye on these - they will tell you what gate to go to and when your plane is boarding. Some airports are huge and the 'gates' - the place where you board your plane from - can be a 20 minute walk away. There are normally signs around telling you how long it takes to get to each gate. Not all airports have announcements so you need to regularly check the departure board for your flight details.

Some flights will have two or more flight numbers. These are called a 'code share' and are very common. For example flight BA 2610 is a British Airways flight to Naples but is a code share with American Airlines and also has the flight number AA6236. This may mean you travel in a plane belonging to either airline. The departure board will show both flight numbers alternately.

Some JY flights give you access to an airport lounge. You will receive a 'lounge pass' with your paperwork which should give directions how to get there. The lounge has free drinks and snacks and is a good place to meet up with your fellow travellers.

Around 30-40 minutes before your flight is due to depart the board will give you a gate number. You need to make your way to the gate quite promptly. Follow the signs to your particular gate, once you get there you will once again need to show your passport and boarding pass and you may have your hand luggage searched once again. There are often no toilets at the gates, so it is an idea to go before you get there.

Once boarding begins, they may call you by seat number. Those needing assistance and the expensive seats go first, then the rest by seat number depending on how many doors you can enter through. Once again you may need to show your boarding card and passport. As you step on to the plane the cabin crew will need to see your boarding card stubb. They will then give you an idea where your seat is located.

Once you reach your seat, try to get out of the aisle as quickly as possible so others can get past you. You bag should either go in to the overhead locker or under the seat in front of you. For very long flights I have a small bag inside my hand luggage which contains all I'll need for my flight eg iPad, book, sweets, water, pen, travel details (if you need to fill in a landing card before you land). This goes in the seat pocket with the rest of my hand luggage in the overhead locker. You then strap yourself in and get ready for a brilliant time.

Hopefully this will help any first time travellers, I'm sure other forum members will chip in with bits I've left out.
Happy flying.
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Post: #2
Well said Sally! I know we had a convo about this on the trip. It was great meeting you! Smile
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Post: #3
Thanks Elaine - lovely to meet you too (and the others of course).
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Post: #4
Hello Administrator(s)

For those unused to travelling (and even for some who have gone through all the hassle of airports before), Sally's advice is very useful. Perhaps you could drag it out from this section and put it into "Important threads" together with Bob Gray's thread on keeping healthy and safe while abroad. You might need to take off its full repetition which is attached to Bosuncat's reply first, though.

Ann
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Post: #5
Hi Ann,

Consider it done!

Kindest regards,

Julia
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Post: #6
(14/05/2013, 11:07 AM)Julia Wrote: Hi Ann,

Consider it done!

Kindest regards,

Julia

To Sally C,

What a wonderful, helpful, thoughtful post!! Well done you.


Denise

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Post: #7
Thanks Denise. Ironically, I wrote it while I was at Gatwick waiting for my flight to go on the Cilento Coast trip. It certainly killed some time!
Sally
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Post: #8
Thumbs up from me, very useful post.
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Post: #9
Well done Sally, a great idea and very clearly written. I'm sure many will find it very useful, especially if they are not used to flying or are travelling by themselves for the first time. It can be daunting! I remember having a bit of a panic on my first tour a few years back and not being able to find the tour manager (or anyone else who was on the tour) - despite being told to meet beyond customs. I was waiting beyond the EU blue channel and everyone else was waiting beyond the green "nothing to declare" channel, which was blocked from my view by a partition! Even on my last tour I got lost (along with some fellow travellers) at Kuala Lumpur airport and we couldn't find our way to the gate (it involved taking the train to another terminal). Luckily we had plenty of time, but it is easy to get confused in an airport!

All the best,

Bob
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Post: #10
Thanks Bob, glad to give you an excuse to take another step towards 'freak' status. I would put a bid in for 'get a life' being the next step above 'posting freak' except that I find myself logging in three or four times a day so that makes me just as bad!!
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