Check-in & Airport | Tips for an Enjoyable Flight Experience

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Airport-Security-Checkpoint-Overhead-ViewThere are steps you can take to make flying more enjoyable well before the flight even takes off while at the airport or waiting at security. Here are some helpful tips and suggestions to maximize the convenience and comfort of your flight experience while you’re at the airport.

Be at the check-in counter on time

This seems self-evident, and you probably think that it goes without saying. Most people assume that they need to arrive at the airport X amount of time prior to takeoff. This is not quite the case, however. Many airlines and regional jurisdictions have a cut-off time for checking in, as well. Sometimes, they cannot accept baggage to check or cannot check you in if you’ve past the flight’s cut-off.

Cut in line

I’ve arrived at Newark Airport once eight minutes (told to me by one of the concierge employees) before the cut-off time for check-in on an international flight. Needless to say, I was anxious that I was about to miss my plane, and then I saw the line snaking around like it was the release of the latest iPhone in Apple’s Fifth Avenue store. I cut in line – I just wheeled my luggage straight to the front; people understand, usually. Sure, it sounds like a dick move, but worse yet would be to leave the next day, if there was another flight available, and pay a $250 change fee.

Be at the boarding gate on time

Give yourself plenty of time to get to the gate after security. This means not only arriving before the “final and immediate” boarding call, but when they begin to let those first passengers onto the plane; being first on line will give you the advantage of making sure your carry-on belongings are allocated space in the overhead compartments.

Embrace your anxiety

I’m perpetually late for everything; it’s one of my signature faults. My home airport in New York City is a hectic journey from almost any starting point you choose; the travel getting to the airport is notoriously riddled with delays and unexpected, altered routes, no matter by bus, train, or car. By the time I get there, I feel anxious – and the trip has just begun! However, I now embrace this anxiety. It seems that when I get onto the security line, and I’m feeling like my plane might leave without me, I wear my heart on my sleeve. And more than once, I’ve had those security attendants at the checkpoint lines move me to the very front, simply because I kept asking if they’re absolutely sure I’ll make it.

“Ok, come on to the front. You nervous is making me nervous.”

Or something like that. Contrary to popular belief, my anxiety never got me held for being suspicious, and for good reason – I’d imagine (and hope) that these agents are more aware of human emotion and subtleties than [calm=good, nervous=suspect]. Just be nice when anxious; don’t let your tardiness make you an asshole – that won’t get you anywhere. Read this for more: Talking to Airline Agents: Calm or Anxious?

Turn left

Apparently, research exists that since more people are right-handed, they tend to go right in lines, such as the security line at the airport. To save time, go to the line furthest to the left. It is an easily-confirmed fact that most people are right-handed, though I’m not quite sure about the research that suggested this advice; often the security agent points you to a specific line anyway.

Or better yet, just go to the shortest line ;)

Don’t be a dick; be ready when on line

I hate being behind slow people on line, and I’m sure you do too. And the airport is the worst place to not be ready, exponentially more annoying than fumbling with payment at a grocery checkout. So, don’t wait till the last second when standing on line. When called from the line to a check-in counter, have your documents and identification ready. At security, remove your shoes (in the US and similar places) about two people before you are called; likewise, take your laptop out of its case, belt off, etc.

Adjust time now

Upon arriving at the airport before you get on your first flight is an ideal time to set your watch and cell phone time to the time of your destination. It’s ideal because it affords you hours more to start adjusting your daily routine, allowing you to be that much more acclimated upon arrival.

Don’t follow instructions

This is what I consider an elite travel-hacking strategy, though you may call it a dickish move. So, airports often have long lines, whether it’s a line at security as you head towards the gate, or the line at customs or immigration when you arrive. Often in these twisting lines, there is an agent of some sort that monitors the line and directs people to certain lanes. For example, at JFK in New York, at the customs and declarations line when I arrive home from another country, an agent stands at the head of a long line and directs people into lanes at the base of each customs agent booth. They do it in waves, so that they don’t overwhelm the lanes, but when I am directed from the line to a lane that has several people in it, I often skip it and head over to a shorter lane. I also do this when I sense a particular agent ahead may not find me as agreeable as the rest, making it necessary for me to go into a random screening area – I’ll avoid that line by simply picking another. This strategy might not work every time; you could end up in a closed line, or by being reprimanded for not following instructions, but it has worked for me usually.