Checking in with bags: If you’ve decided to check-in your bags, then you must proceed to the check-in counter for your airline. There you will wait in-line until its your turn to heave your bag on the scale, present your airport ID, and get your boarding pass issued, along with a baggage tag receipt. Make sure your bag is unlocked, or has a TSA-approved lock. Once you have that, you’re set to pass through the security checkpoint and on to your departure gate.
Checking in with only Carry-on Bags
Should you be traveling light and have only a carry-on bag, your best bet is to look for one of those nifty self check-in ticket kiosks (machine) - most major airlines have them at most airports. That way you can avoid the lines at the check-in ticket counters.
These are machines which allow you to insert your ID - usually a valid credit card for validation - and print a boarding pass without having to wait on line at the check-in counter. Located near the airlines’ ticket counters, these great time savers also allow you to view your itinerary, select seats, and print boarding passes for all your flight segments.
Note: if you’re checking bags, you will still have to go to the ticket counters - but many have ticket kiosks right in front of the counter, and prompt you "Are you checking bags?". If you select yes, you will be assisted by an airline ticket counter agent.
The next step after getting your boarding pass will be to proceed through airport security. Follow the signs to your gate, as there may be a security checkpoint at the entrance to several groups of gates.
To avoid any delays, here is what you should be prepared for when entering the airport security checkpoint:
- Make sure any sharp objects, files, scissors or other items are in your checked bags. See the TSA’s site for the latest on what is allowed through security (www.tsa.gov).
- Be prepared to remove your shoes, belt, watch, and anything that has a substantial metal content. Bins are provided to keep lose items together.
- Remove your laptop from its case or bag, and place that in a separate bin.
- Keep your airport ID and boarding pass available to show any of the TSDA security screeners.
Before you board
Should you get something to eat before you catch your flight? Its no secret that after 9/11, most airlines began cutting back on many in-flight services, such as food service. Many offer what is now referred to as ’buy on board’ - where meals and snack boxes are sold, depending on time of day and duration of flight. You might want to know in advance what the on-board options will be, otherwise you might have to make-do with what is offered, and shell out the $5 or $10 for your mile-high box.
Once past the airport’s security checkpoint, proceed to your gate’s boarding area. Look for departure monitors as you proceed, checking on the latest status and gate (yes, they can change) of your flight. Boarding typically begins about 30 mins prior to the scheduled departure time, so be sure to arrive there in time. You may risk losing your assigned seat (or even your flight) if you show up too late.
Check your boarding pass. Most airlines board by zones or rows. Listen to the announcements regarding boarding, and proceed when your row section or zone is called. You will pass an airline gate agent, who will take your boarding pass and may ask for ID. If you printed out a boarding pass at home, you will surrender it there for a bar-code scan. Embark the plane, find your seat, and make sure you do not put anything too large under the seat in front of you, as the flight attendant may ask you to put it in the overhead bin. Then fasten your seatbelt... the flight attendant will show a video (its done manually on some aircraft types) explaining the safety features of the aircraft prior to takeoff.