(NB: This is mainly for first-time flyers. If you are a more experienced flyer – and chances are you will be – I encourage you to give your own advice in the comments below.)
So a while back, I rode a plane for the first time and it was the ideal first flight. I went to Scotland so the flight wasn’t even that long but I got a good feel as to what it was like and hopefully, if there are other potential first time flyers out there, this could provide a sort of guide as to what it’s like to fly.
Before the Flight
I’m not gonna lie, the bit I was most nervous about was security. There are so many rules as to what you can and cannot pack, how much you should pack and what you can take through security. Luckily I didn’t go to Scotland alone so I had help and I learned several things:
- Don’t pack too heavy and only take the essentials: Your main suitcase/luggage etc is the first thing to sort out as that usually gets taken into the hold. Because it’s in the hold, however, weight is an issue and you don’t want to weigh the plane down. It’s always best to bring the essentials in around 1 suitcase (maybe you can get away with extra if your party is big but it’s always best to check beforehand anyway). If you want to take anything extra, put it in a backpack.
- Always remember what you’re taking through security: I learned this the hard way. I forgot that I put shaving cream in my rucksack and I nearly got into trouble with security because of it as liquids are only allowed in small quantities. Be sure to put your toiletries in a clear plastic bag. Those will be provided as well as a tray to put your bag, laptop, belt, small suitcase and backpack separately.
- Don’t panic: You will be guided through the security process and it’s a good idea to travel with experienced flyers who can help you out. Help will always be on hand should you be afraid.
- Have your passport and ticket on standby: You’ll need these before putting your luggage in the hold and again before the flight itself. This even applies to national flights.
- Be prepared for early starts or late nights: Flights, even 1-hour flights, take a long time to prepare for and if you’re landing somewhere that’s not your intended destination, you’ll have to make time for transport and settling into accommodation. So you may either have to wake up early if you’re heading there or be prepared for late nights or even overnight flights depending on how far you’re flying.
I should probably tell you upfront the dos and don’ts of security before I move on to the next stage.
- Put your small electrical and metal items inside the backpack so it’ll be scanned by the X-ray
- Put larger items such as laptops, jackets, coats and belts in separately
- Go through the metal detector. If you get beeped, you’ll simply either scanned with a manual detector or put through a full body scan. Unless you’re a terrorist or a maniac, this shouldn’t be a problem.
- Pick up your stuff once you’re done. If there is trouble with the X-ray, be sure to remember what you forgot and be prepared to let security know you’re no threat
- Take any of the following: sharp objects (e.g. knives and large scissors), weapons (real or fake), drugs (unless it’s medical), liquids above 100ml, non-safety matches, fireworks and other explosives, sports equipment (e.g. bats, clubs, billiard sticks, fishing rods, darts etc.), DIY tools, chemicals and other toxic substances. Most of these (with the exception of chemicals and toxic substances) can be put with the hold luggage.
- Forget what you packed in case you get stopped by security.
- Put liquids anywhere other than clear plastic bags
The Waiting Game
This is the easiest bit. There’s usually a walkthrough of shopping areas where you can buy things like perfume, clothes, food, drink, books and magazines. There are also restaurants you can try out which will vary depending on which airport you travel from. Make sure you time your arrival to at least an hour before the departure gates open so you won’t have to wait too long but make sure you leave enough time to go through security and the shopping mall.
Boarding, Take-off and the Flight
Find out which departure gate you need to get to during the waiting game and see if it’s open (it’s usually open 30 minutes before take-off). Once you found out the gate number, just follow the signs to the gate’s seating area. Once the gates are open, you queue up and show your passport and your ticket to the attendant and you board the plane.
Once on the plane, you find your booked seat (they’ll be numbered fasten your seatbelt) and you fasten your seatbelt. (I’d recommend you keep your seatbelt on during the flight). You then listen to the attendants during the safety presentation. They and a handy guide will be able to tell you the safety regulations. Make sure to keep your phone (and your laptop if it’s in use) on aeroplane mode, especially during take-off.
Take-off itself is like a roller coaster in that it’s really fast. During take-off and especially during landing, you will feel pressure on your ears and they will pop. I’m not gonna lie, it is painful but you’ll plough through it.
After take-off, you simply enjoy your flight. If you have the window seat, I implore that you look outside. It’s truly breathtaking seeing the world below so tiny and it puts a lot into perspective. Now, the flights I took lasted only an hour so I can’t tell you anything about the in-flight food and entertainment though I’m given to believe that the in-flight snacks are rather expensive and it’s ideal that you buy food from the mall beforehand.
Landing and Afterwards
Landing’s not as intense as take-off but it’s hell on your ears so be prepared for that. Keep your seatbelts on and keep your devices in aeroplane mode until you go inside the airport. Occasionally, you may have to take a free bus back to the airport depending on how far away from it the plane lands.
Once you’re back in the airport, you find the luggage collection point and collect your luggage from a conveyor loop. Once that’s done, you simply find the way out. You may have to rent a car if you can afford it and there will be companies nearby if you book with one of them in advance.
After that, you enjoy your holiday. It’s pretty much the same on the way back only this time, you’ll be more prepared.
I can’t claim to be an expert as I myself am a beginner’s flyer. I haven’t flown internationally or long-term so I haven’t got the full picture. However, this is what I learned from my first flight and I hope it provides insight into what flying is like for those who haven’t flown before. I know I can’t be the only one who didn’t fly until early adulthood so I hope this prepares you.
The process is rather linear and straightforward so I wouldn’t worry about it too much and chances are, you’re going to love flying. It’s definitely an experience everyone should try at least once in your life and it’s worth all the hassle with security and luggage.
But of course, like I said, I’m only a novice myself so I encourage more experienced flyers in my audience to give any further advice in the comments below. As for me, I feel like I have given all my knowledge on flights, so it’s time to go back down to earth for my next blog as we approach the end of the holidays. I’ll see you next time and until then, fare thee well good people of the internet!