May 06, 2008

#01-105: Taking a Flight - Part I: Checking In

looking down on an open hall in a busy modern airport
Inside a terminal at Los Angeles International Airport (in my hometown!)

Note: There's lots to know about getting through the airport before we ever board the plane! Learn the process of checking-in.

Get Ready: Have you ever been in a big airport? What was the atmosphere like? Did you check in and go through security?

In this lesson and #01-106, let's describe a trip by air from "door to door."

Starting at home, you may take a taxi, bus, or airport shuttle to the airport. Some cities may offer an "Airport Express" or shuttle with one or more starting and pick-up points.

When you arrive at a larger airport, it's important to know which terminal you're leaving from. When you've determined the correct terminal, you should go to the "Departure Area" (usually on upper floors of a terminal).

Inside the terminal, check the notice board to see which window or windows you should go to for check-in. The notice board will list your flight number, time, destination, and check-in time and window. It will also tell you of any delay or cancellation of your flight.

Next, go to the appropriate check-in window. Be sure to go to the right window for your class: Economy or First Class. Also, note that some windows may be designated "No Baggage," meaning they're for passengers who have carry-on luggage only (no checked bags).

When you check in, show your passport or ID and ticket. You may want to request a window seat or an aisle seat (these may not always be available). You'll be given a boarding pass, which tells you your boarding gate and seat number on the plane. It may also tell you the boarding time, and will have other details such as your name and the flight number. It will probably also tell you this is a "No smoking" flight--a little useless, since there are no "smoking" flights anymore!

If you made a special meal request (vegetarian, diabetic, etc.) when you booked your ticket, you can usually confirm it at the check-in window, but in some airports, you may have to go to the Supervisor's window or another designated place. Also, at some airports a staff member will radio to the caterers to make sure your meal is loaded on board.

Now it's time to go to the security check. First your documents will be checked: have your passport/ID, ticket, and boarding pass ready. Then your carry-on bags will be x-rayed (you may be asked to remove your laptop from its bag).

You should empty your pockets of anything metal (including your mobile phone). Some people just put all these things in their carry-on luggage ahead of time to speed up the security check. Others wait until they approach the x-ray machine, then empty their pockets into one of the trays provided. This slows things down a bit.

More about security restrictions, your flight, and your arrival, in Lesson #01-106.


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Practice: Match the airport term to its description below:

  1. boarding pass
  2. check-in window
  3. departure area
  4. notice board
  5. seat
  6. security check
  7. special meal request
  8. terminal

  1. you might choose one by the window or on the aisle (if available)
  2. your carry-on bags will be x-rayed here
  3. this tells you your seat number and other details
  4. these should be made when flight is booked, and confirmed at check-in
  5. you should know which one you need to go to before traveling to the airport
  6. this tells you about flight delays or cancellations
  7. you might have to go to a different one for Economy or First Class
  8. the part of the airport where planes leave from
Answers are in the first comment below.

Submitted to the Shenzhen Daily for May 6, 2008

1 comment:

  1. Answers to the Practice: 1. c; 2. g; 3. h; 4. f; 5. a; 6. b; 7. d; 8. e