Flying for the First Time
If you have never flown before or are scared of flying, the idea of going on a flight to your holiday destination might seem a bit daunting. However, the whole airport and flight experience is much more straightforward and enjoyable than you might think. Having made the first step, many first-time fliers go on to fly time and time again and it often becomes their preferred method of travel, opening up new destinations and experiences that once seemed out of reach. Below is our step-by-step guide to help you know what to expect so that you can take that first flight or overcome a fear of flying.
Before you go, make sure that you have sorted out all the necessaries such as passports and visas and travel health requirements. Good planning
and preparation on this means that you won't have to worry about sorting things out at the last
Aim to get to the airport with plenty of time to spare (including any transfers between the car park or bus station etc and the airport terminal). If you are arriving by car you can save time by booking your airport car parking in advance.
No matter how long your flight is, there may be some essentials such as tickets and medication that you need with you on the plane. Pack these in your hand luggage as you will not be able to get at your checked-in suitcases until you reach your arrival airport. It is also a good idea to have something to do or read with you, as you might not fancy the TV programme or film on offer (or there might not be TV screens at all). You might also like to take some sweets to suck, as the swallowing motion help your ears to deal with the changes in pressure on take-off and landing.
Once inside the airport terminal, you first need to go to the check-in desk for your flight.
However, you will only be able to do this once your flight is open - check the flight monitors
or departure boards in the terminal to find out when and where you can check in. You will need
to present your passport and tickets, as well as any hand baggage. This is also where you hand
over your hold luggage. The check-in attendant will give you a boarding pass and receipt stubs
for any bags that you have checked in.
After checking in you need to go through to the departure lounge - at most airports you will have to pass through security before you can do this. Security checks can take some time but are an essential part of flying safely. You may have to take off your coat and jewellery, so be prepared for this. You may also be asked to open your bag for inspection - this is normal, so don't let it alarm you.
When you are in the departure lounge you should have enough time to relax and grab a bite to
eat or do a spot of duty-free shopping. It would also be a good idea to have something to do or
read, as not all airports have very big departure lounges. However, make sure that you keep an
eye on the flight monitor/departure board to see what time you need to go to your gate. When
your gate is open, start making your way towards it. Bear in mind that at some airports it
might be quite a walk or you might need to get on a shuttle, so leave enough time.
Once at the gate you should have a bit of time to sit down before boarding. Your flight number will be called by the flight attendants, then you will need to queue up to present your passport and boarding pass. After this you will be directed to the plane.
Taking to the Skies
As you board the plane you may be expected to show your boarding pass again, so don't put it
away just yet. Take your seat and do up the buckle. The cabin crew will only close the doors
when all passengers are on board, so you may be sitting there for a little while. They will
then take you through a safety demonstration - don't let this worry you as it is a routine part
of any flight. However, do take note of what they are telling you.
During preparation for take-off there will be increased noise in the cabin - this is normal. But if you are feeling a little queasy, a good way to help you keep calm during take-off is to open the cold air vent above your head. When the aircraft has reached a certain height, the captain will switch off the seatbelt signs, meaning that you are free to move around the cabin. However, there may be occasions mid-flight when the captain sees fit to turn the seatbelt signs back on. This is purely for safety reasons in case of turbulence.
Turbulence (invisble air movement) can cause some unsmooth motion of the aircraft, so could be the most feared aspect of a flight. It is caused by atmospheric conditions outside the aircraft and may result in a bumpy feeling. If worried about this, some people find it helpful to look out of the window at the wings of the plane, as the perception of motion inside the cabin can be much greater than it actually is.
Enjoying the Flight
During the flight drink as much water as you can - not only will this keep you hydrated, but
it will also mean a toilet break might be necessary, giving you a good reason to have a walk
down the cabin and stretch your legs. You should also regularly do in-seat exercises,
especially on long haul flights. If you are nervous about the flight, don't drink too much
alcohol as this will dehydrate you and can also increase feelings of anxiety.
Depending on where you are going, at some stage during the flight the cabin crew might give you a landing card. Have a pen handy to fill this in, as you will need to present it on arrival. As you start on the descent to your arrival airport the seatbelt signs will be switched on again. This is a safety measure and does not necessarily mean that there will be turbulence. As you land there may be a jolt as the wheels touch the runway, then increased engine noise as the aircraft slows down.
The plane will then take you towards the airport terminal. You may have to get on a bus to take you up to the terminal. Once inside you will need to present your passport (and landing card if applicable) to the immigration authorities, then go through to reclaim your baggage. This should be clearly signposted but you can always ask an airport official if you're not sure where to go.
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