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First Time Flying? Here’s What You Need to Know

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I remember the first time I boarded a commercial flight all by myself. I was about seven years old and my Mom put me on a flight from Washington State to New York to visit my grandparents. I was just a kid and enthralled by the whole thing. I completely enjoyed my flight except for the part when I got sick. Thankfully, I was seated next to a really nice lady who held my hair back and put a damp cloth on my face to easy my queasiness. Since then, I’ve flown about a dozen times with no problems.

I’ve got a friend who’s a grown woman and who will be flying out of Binghamton Airport this afternoon. She asked me questions about flying for the first time and I realized that there are probably a bunch of other grown adults who’ve never flown, so if you’re a first time flyer, here’s the scoop:

Packing Your Bag
Since September 11th, the FAA has tightened rules about what you can and cannot take with you on a plane and what you can and cannot include in your checked luggage. To see what you are and aren’t allowed to take with you, check this out. There’s been a lot of confusion what liquids you can and can’t take in your carry on.  This should clear that up.

Airports Can Be Crazy
Most airports are crazy busy with people walking super fast to get to their gate so that they don’t miss their flight. If you do your research before flying, you shouldn’t have to rush around like a chicken with it’s head cut off. However, there are exceptions to every rule. If you you’re flying to a connecting flight and your first flight was delayed in take off, you probably need to step up your speed to get to the next flight. But knowing where you’re going before hand will make it much easier. Know what airport you’re flying into to grab your connecting flight and call the airline help desk and ask them what gate your flight will be arriving at and at which gate your connecting flight will be departing from. Don’t be scared to ask them how to get from one gate to the other.

Give Yourself Enough Time
Although the restrictions on flying have loosened up quite a bit in the past year, it’s still a good idea to get to the airport in a decent amount of time because although you might find yourself twiddling your thumbs, it’s always a good idea to leave a little wiggle room in your schedule in the event something unexpected pops up.

Security
You’ll have to go through security. If/when asked if you’ve allowed anyone you don’t know to watch your bags, joking around is not cool. Your answer should be “no.” Obviously leaving your bags with someone you don’t know is just a bad idea all the way around.

When you get to security, a security agent will check your boarding pass and ID. Nothing is worse than standing in line behind someone who forgot they need their ID and shoved it into the deep recesses of their carry on. Have your boarding pass and ID in your hand and ready to go. Next, you’ll need to place all your carry on bag on the conveyor belt that runs under the x-ray machine. You’ll also need to empty your pockets and place the contents in a bin along with your belt and your shoes. For this reason, wearing slip on shoes or flip flops is a good idea because it’ll speed up the process.

After you’ve put everything in bins and on the conveyer belt, you’ll need to walk through a scanner that’ll check to make sure you’re not concealing anything on your body. If the alarm sounds, don’t panic. It happens. You’ll be asked to walk through again and if the alarm goes off again, you’ll be asked to move to the side where a security guard will use a hand wand to figure out what’s setting off the alarm. In rare cases, you might be patted down, but usually that won’t happen. Most always the alarm will sound because you forgot to remove something from your body such as car keys. Sometimes jewelry sets off the alarms too. I had a friend who couldn’t figure out what kept setting off the alarm. Turned out it was her belly piercing.

Finding Your Gate
After you’ve passed the security checkpoint, you’ll need to find your gate. If you’re in a larger airport this can be a little overwhelming, but keep in mind most airlines are located together. So, if you’re flying US Airways, all the gates for US Airways will be in the same section. Once you find the gate area for your airline, if you’re still confused where your gate is, don’t be scared to walk to an airport employee and ask them to help. That’s what they’re there for.

Waiting for Your Plane
Probably the most boring thing about flying is waiting for the plane to arrive. Once you find your gate, you’ll probably want to find a seat. Sometimes the gate areas are crowded and other times they’re empty. If you’ve got a long wait before your flight, bring something to do- a crossword puzzle, book, your smartphone. The waiting is, I think, the worst part.

Boarding Your Plane
Although I’ve flown many, many times, I still find myself getting a little anxious when it comes time to board. When it’s time to board, the airline employee working your gate will announce which rows are to board. You’ll know what row you’re in by looking at your boarding pass.

When it’s your time to board, have your boarding pass ready because the airline employee will ask to see it. Once inside the plane, find your row and seat and stow your carry on either in the bin above your seat or securely beneath your seat. Sit in your seat, buckle up and get ready to fly!

Takeoff, Turbulence and Motion Sickness
Before takeoff, the airline staff will go through safety procedures. It always annoys me when people take the procedures lightly or poke fun at them. It’s better to know what to do if, God forbid, something happen than to make a joke out of it and not be prepared.

Follow the flight attendant’s directions and you’ll be fine once your plane takes off. Know that in the pocket in front of your seat will be a bag. If you start to feel llike you’re going to be sick, grab the bag and let it out if you have to. Holding it in will only make you feel more sick. If you get motion sickness easily, you might want to take Dramamine. Chewing gum also helps because it pops your ears as the altitude rises. I’m not sure why, but I’ve found cold tomato juice always makes me feel better too. Most airlines offer the juice along with sodas, coffee and tea on their flights.

If the plane starts shaking, it’s called turbulence. This really isn’t a big deal, but it’ll probably make your heart jump. The Captain will keep you informed with what’s causing the shaking. Usually when there’s turbulence, you’ll be asked to buckle yourself into your seat for safety sake.

Landing
When the plane comes in for the landing you might feel a few little bumps. Completely normal and to be expected. Your flight attendant will ask you to return your seat to an upright position and buckle yourself in for landing. You’ll be asked to stay seated and buckled in until the plane has come to a complete stop.

Claiming Your Baggage
Once the plane has come to a stop and you’re told you may get up, don’t forget to grab your carry on. If you checked a bag before takeoff, follow the signs to baggage claim. You’ll see signs and you’ll also see signs at baggage claim letting you know what flight’s luggage is arriving. It’s not a bad idea to tie a scarf or something else on your bag to help your identify your luggage. You’ll find that a lot of suitcases look the same.

Once you’ve flown once, you’ll feel like a pro the next time around!

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