First time on a plane. Part II At the airport

Yesterday, you learnt how to prepare for your first flight. I explained to you how to search for and how to book the best tickets and what the difference between carry-on and hold baggage is. By now you should know what can you put in the carry-on luggage and what you can carry only in your hold luggage.

Today, I will explain to you what to do when you arrive at the airport. But first let’s see how long before the flight you should leave your house.

4. Trip to the airport

Plan your trip carefully and try to arrive at the airport at least 2 hours before the departure of your flight. This will allow you to do everything you need to do at the airport without any pressure and to have a positive flight experience! So start by making sure that you leave home early enough in order to have plenty of time at the airport.

5. At the airport: Check-in

Nowadays many airlines offer online check-in. If you can check in online, do it from your home computer, print your boarding pass, take it with you and continue reading from step 6.

If you haven’t done your check-in online, when you get to the airport you have to search for the Check-in Desk for your flight. There may be more than one Check-in desk for your flight or there may be a few Check-in desks that handle your airline’s flights to all destinations. At the check-in desk you have to show your ID or passport and your ticket. If you have hold luggage, you have to drop it here.

6. An the airport: Security check

After checking in for your flight you need to go through the security check. At this point you should only carry with you your travel documents and maximum 1 piece of carry-on luggage. Normally, there is only one security control area in each terminal, so you can’t miss it! When you reach the security gate, you have to take all the liquid containers out of your hand luggage and put them in a transparent resealable plastic bag. This will allow the security personnel to quickly check the liquids and cause you no further delay. Also, if you have a bottle of water/juice with you, you have to throw it away it before reaching the security gate.

Your relatives and friends who may have accompanied you to the airport can’t go beyond the security check, so you will have to say goodbye here!

The security control is a very simple procedure. You have to put your carry-on luggage, the plastic bag with the liquids, your jacket and any metallic or electronic items (like mobile phone, wallet, belt, keys etc) on a conveyor belt that drives them through a x-ray scanner. Then you have to pass through a metal detector gate. In case you are requested to take off your shoes or to open your luggage for a routine inspection, don’t worry as these are normal procedures.

Once you’ve cleared the security check, you can start heading to the boarding gate, as explained below.

On your way to the boarding gate, you will pass through the Duty Free area.

7. At the airport: The boarding gate

Each terminal has several boarding gates. Only one flight is boarding at any one time from a gate. So make sure that you correctly identify your boarding gate. There are 2 ways to find it:

  • by checking your boarding card, if you did the check-in at the airport. The gate number should be clearly written on it.
  • by checking the list of departures on the the airport electronic displays. There should be quite a few of them in various areas of the airport. Identify your flight (using the airline name, destination and departure time) and you will find the gate number right next to it.

Once you have understood what your boarding gate is, follow the signs that lead you to it. Please note that if your flight is an international one (unless it’s a flight inside the EU), you will find a passport/ID verification desk on your way to the boarding gate.

If you have reached the boarding gate, you are almost done! Boarding normally starts 30-40 minutes before the departure of the flight. If your flight is not boarding yet, you can take a seat and wait for the airport personnel to announce that the boarding of your flight has started. If you have reached the gate long before your boarding is supposed to start,  the gate may still be open for boarding the flight before yours. Don’t worry, you didn’t miss your gate ;). Just check the electronic display above the gate and you should see which flight it is that is boarding.

If you have purchased “priority boarding“, you will be allowed to board before the other passengers. When boarding begins, the airport personnel at the gate will ask the passengers who have priority boarding to step forward and board the plane. Some airlines like WizzAir, include priority boarding in the “extra leg room” option.

At the boarding gate the airport employees check your boarding pass and make sure that your carry-on luggage complies with airline size and weight restrictions. After passing this gate you board the plane by walking inside a passenger bridge, taking a bus to the plane or simply walking to your plane (in very small airports).


Today you’ve learnt everything about airports. The check-in, the security check and the boarding have no more secrets for you. But tomorrow is the big day! I will accompany you on your first flight, so don’t forget to come back tomorrow for this unforgettable experience.

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