Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Flying 101: What to Expect

First thing to know about flying is that almost all tickets are electronic now. You will receive a confirmation code from the airline.  Once you get this code, you can go online to check your seat assignments. Some airlines like Spirit Airlines charge for seat assignments in advance. Other airlines charge for seats with extra leg room such as the Emergency Exit row.  Be sure to also check the immigration requirements if you are traveling internationally. A great resource is the State Department website:

For most airlines, you can check in up to 24 hours in advance online. You can confirm your seat assignment and potentially prepay for baggage. If you have trouble checking in for an international flight, it may because the airline needs to confirm your immigration documents before a boarding pass will print. 

It's very important that you review the baggage policies of the airline you are flying. Many airlines charge additional fees for both check bags and carry-on bags. A checked bag is a bag that you check in at the counter at the airport and it’s loaded into the bottom of the plane. The carry-on bag is a bag that you carry on to the plane to store in the overhead compartment or underneath the seat in front of you. All airlines have restrictions on the size that both these types of baggage can be. If you are traveling internationally, it's important to check the baggage requirements on all of your flights. Smaller airlines may have more restrictive weight and size policies.
When you get to the airport, be sure you have with you your confirmation code for the airline and the documentation you need to travel.

For international travel from the United States, it is important to have a passport that is valid for at least 6 months past the date of your return. For domestic travel within the United States, you must have a government issued photo ID that is valid. Most people use their driver’s license.

When you check in the at the desk for the airline you are flying, the customer service representative will give you a boarding pass and the claim tickets you will need for your checked baggage. It's important to put the claim ticket in a safe place because you will need them if anything happens to your luggage.

Going Through Security

In the United States, the TSA has several requirements for being able to pass successfully through security. The first one is 311.  You can only bring on liquids as if they are in containers less than 3 ounces. Gather up all those three of containers and put them in a quart size - no larger - Ziploc bag. You take that out and put it in a bit and then put the rest of your luggage through.  You are also required to put laptop or any large electronics in a separate bin. If you are carrying a water bottle, make sure it’s empty.  I find it effective to open the top when you put it in the bin so that the TSA agent can clearly see is empty. Otherwise they may ask you to take out the water bottle show that is empty and that can just slow you down getting through security. In the United States, you will go either through a metal detector or a radar machine that takes your picture to make sure you don't have anything dangerous in New York love. Sometimes they also swipe your hands to test for explosive residue. For a full listing of all the TSA requirements - click here.

Finding Your Flight
Once you clear security, look for the large TV screens. They will list the flights and the gate numbers where you can find your plane.

Getting on the plane.

Systems for boarding the plan vary by airline.  Some airlines call people up by row numbers. Others assign you a boarding group and will call you about that boarding group number. Your boarding group number can be found on your boarding pass so just look for that. Southwest assigns an order to boarding the plane as they have open seating once onboard. You'll be assigned a place in line.  The first person on the plane is A1. Once you're on the plane you can choose any seat that's available. During the flight, most airlines will serve you a free soft drink. Don't count on snacks or food being available. International flights tend to have more food available.

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