How to Catch a Flight:

Never been on a plane before? Here’s how to catch a flight in a few simple steps:

Arriving at the Airport

You might think ‘How to Catch a Flight’ starts in the actual airport but there are some things to remember when it comes to parking. If you’re driving to the airport the first thing to know is that the car park has many different sections. There are sections for short trips (usually less than a week) and sections for long trips. Some airports also have sections for valet parking, business parking and other categories. Airports usually provide advice on their signage of which section is the best fit for you. If you park in the short stay for too long, you could face a hefty fine.

Check-in – Traditional

Once you’ve parked up and headed into the building, you first need to find your check-in desk. It should have your airline clearly marked and a sign telling you which flights are checking-in there. Many airports have a big electronic screen telling which desk number and some have designated areas for all of the desks for a specific airline. It might sound confusing but it shouldn’t take you long. Some airports have extra help on their website to find the correct desk.

Once you’ve found your queue, just join the back with all of your luggage. When you get to the front you will have to put any luggage going in the luggage hold onto the conveyor belt. This will weigh your bag, then the member of staff will put a tag around the handle (to ensure it goes to the correct place). If your bag is overweight, there will likely be a charge. It’s a good idea to weigh your bags before you go. They will also check your passport and ask some routine questions about what you have packed. Traditionally they would give you your boarding pass here but having you print them at home is becoming more common. 

Please be aware that some airlines no longer offer traditional check-in.

How to catch a flight: airport info board.
The large electronic info board.

Check-in – Online

Checking-in online can be faster than traditional check-in but can be scary if you don’t regularly use technology. Just head to the airlines website or app and select Online Check-in. Follow the steps and you’ll reach an option to download and print your ticket. You can do this from your own home the day before your trip, to save time on the day. You will still have to drop off your bags when you arrive but this will be much quicker.

Remember to check when your check-in time is before your trip!

Saving time at an airport: 5 top tips!

Going Through Security

Now you need to head through security. It’s quite straight forward, first just join a queue. When you reach it, you’ll be able to put your carry-on bag(s) in a tray. You should take out any electronics & liquids (under 100ml & in a clear plastic bag). You should also remove your belt, watch and jewellery and add that to the tray. Many airports also like you to remove jackets and shoes. This will be quicker if you avoid wearing unnecessary items. Your tray will go through a scanner and then you will also go through a scanner. Unless pulled aside for a further check, you can now just put your items back in your bag and be on your way.

Hand Luggage Restrictions at UK Airports

How to catch a flight: airport security scanners.
Airport security scanners.

Find Your Gate

Just like when you first arrived, there should be a large electronic board advising you what your gate number is, and signs telling you what direction it is in. Even if you have a few hours before boarding, it’s a good idea to first find your gate and stay relatively close to it.

Getting on the Plane

When it becomes your boarding time, staff at your gate will start calling seat numbers to come forward and get on the plane. They will check your passport and boarding pass again and then direct you to follow the other passengers. You will collectively be escorted to the plane. Sometimes you will walk through a tunnel connected to the plane door, and other times you will go up some steps into the plane. When you get on, the cabin crew will point you in the direction of your seat. Put your bags in the overhead bin and take a seat.

You might think ‘How to Catch a Flight’ is over but there’s still some things to know before you land.

How to catch a flight: boarding the plane.
Boarding plane.


Once landed you can collect your bags from the overhead bin and begin to neatly file out of the plane with the other passengers. Follow the others to Immigration and then Baggage Claim. At Immigration, just join the correct queue for you, where you will have to show your passport again and may have to answer some simple questions about your trip. 

When you get to baggage, use the large electronic signs to find the correct conveyor belt. You may have to wait for the baggage to start appearing as they still have to get it off the plane. When you’ve collected your bag, you can head through Nothing to Declare and leave the airport. And that was how to catch a flight!

How to catch a flight: airport baggage claim.
Airport baggage claim.

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