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First Time Flyer Guide

If your travel plans involve you flying on an airplane for the first time, you might feel daunted, confused and excited. Unfortunately, for those that are unfamiliar with flying, the processes that happen can leave you feeling totally disorientated. Below, Alpha have compiled a lot of important information which is essential if this is your first time flying. Don't panic, it's not as confusing as it may seem!

Ordering your ticket

Most airlines today check passengers in using electronic tickets (e-tickets). With these types of ticket, an example of valid identification is often needed when checking in - for example, a passport, a credit card, a driver's licence or a frequent flyer card. Some airline providers give you a traditional paper ticket, but these are generally billed as more expensive.

Think about your needs - if you have any special needs, whether you're travelling in a wheelchair, are carrying special medical equipment or have specific dietary needs, ask the airline if they will take this into consideration. They can make your journey a lot less hassle for you, change your meal plan and generally make travelling a lot easier.

Packing your luggage

There are two types of luggage to fly with - your carry-on luggage (also known as hand luggage) and your checked-in luggage (your suitcase/s). There are limitations on what you can carry within your luggage due to security restrictions so here is a quick guide:

Arriving at the airport

Airports, full of the hustle and bustle of travellers and late-comers, can seem hugely confusing the first time you enter one. However, there are four main activities to do: check in, go through security, grab something from duty-free (optional) and find your way to the boarding gate to board your plane.

Arrive at the airport with good time - if your airline suggests that travellers need to arrive to the airport two or three hours before the plane is due to depart, make sure you add on extra time. First-time flyers can encounter small things like not finding the right terminal or looking for the right check-in counter which can steal some time away from you.

Make sure you arrive at the right terminal - it should be detailed on your ticket. More often than not, the distances between terminals are quite long and require a bit of determination and planning in order to find your way between them. Luckily, terminals are signposted very well. You need your travel documents (passport and ticket) frequently throughout the different stages of the airport. Make sure you have these in a safe but easily accessible place so that you have them to hand when asked.

When you first arrive within the correct departure terminal, make sure you find your way to the right check-in counter. More often than not, these counters are emblazoned with the airline's logo above the desk and staff in distinctively coloured uniforms. If you can't see the sign or make out any staff from your airline, ask any member of staff at the airport or visit an information desk to find out where you should be going. Some airports have TV monitors showing the flight number and the corresponding check-in desk.

Security

The security control zone is just for departing travellers and the security staff. This is the point where your person and your carry-on luggage are scanned for concealed weapons and other travel contraband. You will have to place your bag in a tray, which will go through a scanner. You should place any metal watches, wallets and pocket contents into this tray too. If you're wearing a metal belt, it's also a good idea to put this in the tray as large amounts of metal set off the body scanner.

Make sure that your checked luggage does not contain any cigarette lighters, sharp objects or liquids over 200ml. You should also make sure your boarding pass and identification is easily accessible.

Before departure

After the security zone is the duty-free section. This section is covered with seats, shops and restaurants for you to spend time in before you have to board your plane.

Monitors across the duty-free section will detail your flight's status - take a note of your flight number and look out for it saying 'Boarding' or 'Delayed'. A tannoy will also be announcing flight numbers and the gate number, so make sure you pay attention to any announcements.

If you're planning on spending money on the VAT-free goods in duty-free, make sure you have your boarding pass as identification.

Airport lounges are accessible for VIP members or for those who pay an extra fee to wait somewhere away from the hustle and bustle of the rest of the airport. You can buy tickets through Alpha, who for a small fee allow you to take advantage of over 120 airport lounges in both the UK and worldwide, with complimentary WiFi, TV, spa treatments, newspapers and refreshments whilst you wait.

Boarding

Once you have reached your boarding gate, crew and staff from your airline will begin to board passengers onto the plane. This is usually done by reading out seat numbers (detailed on your ticket) or it can be a bit of a free-for-all. You must present both your boarding pass and your passport to the staff before you board the plane. Boarding a plane is an easy procedure to follow.

Once on-board the plane, place your hand luggage in either the box above your seat or under your seat. Fasten your seatbelt and wait for the emergency procedures, the pilot to announce departure over the tannoy, and for everyone else to be seated.

Flying

The flight is often the most exciting bit of the journey- especially for children. It's normal to be anxious, but it's also important to know that you are in the hands of experts who do this multiple times. There are also a lot of new feelings that you may experience, especially if you have never flown before.

Ear pain is common, especially if you feel like they may pop during take off and landing. This feeling does not last very long but it helps to suck on a sweet, chew gum or hold your nose whilst blowing it during the take off and landing of the plane.

Turbulence is another common feeling of flying. Turbulence isn't very dangerous, so it's important not to panic when the airplane seems unstable or shaky.

It's important to remember that during take-off and landing, you should turn off any electronic devices such as tablets, laptops and cameras (phones should be turned off throughout the duration of the flight).

Once you land, make sure you have collected all of your hand luggage before you disembark the plane. Make sure your travel documents are readily available and accessible.

Baggage claim

After following the signs to baggage claim (or baggage reclaim), look at the monitors which are displaying flight numbers and there corresponding belt numbers - this will tell you which baggage belt your luggage will be coming through to. Stand at the belt and wait for your luggage to arrive.

If your luggage has not arrived, go to the arrival service stand and report your baggage missing. Make sure you receive written confirmation from the service stand as this will be essential if you intend on making a claim from your travel insurance company. As your delayed baggage should be arriving on a later flight from your departure point, make sure that you leave the airport with a contact name and number in order for them to tell you when it has arrived, or alternatively, make plans with the arrival service to make sure your baggage is sent straight to your holiday address.

Customs

If you have flown internationally, you will have to go through customs upon your arrival into that country. Customs seems scary but it should not create any hassle or problems so long as you are not carrying illegal goods or contraband. You will be asked to walk through one of two or three zones, make sure you are walking through the right zone. Customs officers do carry out random checks on passengers walking through these zones. At the end of customs, you may be asked some questions about who you flied with and what the purpose of your visit to the country is.

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