Before the Flight

Good things to know when preparing for your flight: Before the Flight

Before the Flight

Before the Flight

Flights, particularly long haul or those that involve connections, require many more preparations than they did 15 or 20 years ago, due to security restrictions imposed in recent years. In addition, many airlines are allowing less baggage than even a few years ago, requiring passengers to limit the things they pack or be creative with how they arrange things in suitcases. Liquids and gels in carry-on luggage are only allowed up to 100 millilitres, and toiletries and medications have to be displayed in clear plastic bags at security. Passengers should plan to arrive at the airport in plenty of time to check in, pass through security, and get to their gate. The more complicated the flight, the more time passengers need to allow. For example, those flying internationally should allow up to three hours from airport arrival to scheduled takeoff. This can require careful preparation, taking into account variables such as traffic, train timetables, taxi fare, and long-term airport parking, especially if they are catching an early flight. In addition to the logistics of preparing for the flight, there are many small details passengers need to think about before flying.

General flight preparations

One time-saving measure passengers can take, depending on the airline, is to check in online. This avoids the check-in queue at the airport, saving time and hassle. Online check-in is available up to 24 hours before the flight. It also helps to have accurate scales at home to avoid overweight baggage, and the delays, inconvenience, and fines that a few pounds over the limit can cause. Airlines typically allow one free bag of checked luggage for economy-class passengers, which can weigh up to 50 pounds (23 kilograms). First-class passengers can usually check two or three bags, weighing up to 70 pounds (32 kilograms).

Packing checked and hand luggage

When packing checked and hand luggage, it helps to pack heavier items in carry-on luggage, to conserve weight in checked luggage. However, passengers should consider distance between terminals and how much they can carry, if they are catching a connecting flight. Breakable items can be packed in between clothes for added protection. Another tip is to roll clothes together rather than folding them, as this saves space. It also helps to stop the clothes from wrinkling. However, passengers should not be too stealthy with packing to maximise space and weight, because if the suitcase is chosen for a random search, it can take the security workers longer and increase difficulty in repacking afterward. The most efficient attitude passengers can adopt when packing is to coordinate and minimise. For example, one pair of shoes can go with several outfits, and will save space, as shoes are some of the most cumbersome accessories to pack. Thin, lightweight clothing takes up the least amount of weight and space in the suitcase. It also creates space to wear bulky items on board, such as coats and boots.

Hand luggage restrictions

As liquids and gels in hand luggage are restricted to such a small amount, it is best to pack items such as shampoo and toothpaste into carry-on luggage. However, these items can be put into carry-on luggage if they are purchased beyond the security checkpoint. Items not allowed in hand luggage include anything flammable or sharp; these will be confiscated at security.

Flying with Babies

Flying with babies requires a large amount of consideration. Babies’ necessities can end up equalling the weight of their parents’ luggage. Babies can usually fly on their parents’ laps free or at a fraction of the cost, and many airlines check buggies and car seats at the gate at no cost. Buying a lap-child ticket, usually at about 10 per cent of the adult fare, will often get them a 10-pound (4.5-kilogram) luggage allowance. With their own seats, babies can ride in their car seats on the plane. Some airlines have travel basinets on fold-down ledges on the bulkheads, for families with small babies. Depending on the airline, these may need to be reserved in advance, or may be first come, first serve. Babies’ milk is not subject to the carry-on restrictions of other liquids and gels.

Flying with Pets

Flying with pets usually requires the animal to ride in the hold in a carrier, though some airlines allow pets less than 13-15 pounds (6-8 kilograms) into the cabin. Some airlines require the use of a pet travel agent, which takes care of documentation, vaccinations, booking, and transporting the pet to the cargo area. If the pet is travelling to the EU or will return to the UK, it will need a pet passport, which requires a rabies vaccination, to avoid quarantine. The pet should have access to water at all times. It also helps if the pet has a familiar toy or blanket, as well as something that smells of the owner, such as an article of clothing they have worn.

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