This post results out from the many queries asked by the people on this blog, when they travel first time by the flight. I hope it will help to ease that tension or fear of the first flight.
You can buy a flight ticket either online, or through a travel agent. You can also buy it from the airlines counter, either located in the city or at the airport terminal.
(If you are looking for a cheap flight ticket, you may find this useful: How To Book a Cheap Flight Ticket? and Hidden City Ticketing: A Fact to Keep in Mind While Booking Cheap Flight Ticket )
Points to Note While Booking A Flight Ticket:
1. Your First and Last name on the flight ticket must be exactly the same as the name on the ID proof.
2. If you book your ticket through a credit card, airlines staff may ask to see your credit card also (not necessary). If you book your ticket by using a credit card of another person, you should carry a photocopy of the credit card as well as a letter from your friend stating that his card was used to book that ticket with his consent. (It may not required always, but sometimes, an airline staff may insist for this).
3. If your name on the flight ticket and on the ID proof doesn’t match, then the airline staff can stop you to board a flight. If there is a spelling mistake in the name upto 3 characters, you may call the customer care of that airline to correct the mistake. They may correct it and send you a revised flight ticket. If you don’t have any surname (e.g., your name is Nidhi), then you can write Nidhi in the first name as well as in the last name, while booking the flight ticket. (Nidhi Nidhi).
Similarly, if your name is Nidhi on the ID proof, and after marriage if you book a flight ticket with the name Nidhi Maurya, you may be allowed to board the flight. But, if your name on the ID proof is Nidhi Singh, but after the marriage, if you book a flight ticket as Nidhi Maurya due to the surname of the husband, you may not be allowed to board the flight without an identity proof as Nidhi Maurya.
4. In case of the international travel, the name on the ticket should be exactly same as the name on the passport (without any kind of exception). However, you may skip the middle name, while booking the flight ticket.
5. If you claim any concessionary fare, you must have any ID proof to support your claim.
6. While booking ‘hand baggage only’ fare, make sure that you don’t have any check-in luggage. However, If you later decide to carry check-in luggage, you can always pay the required price and carry your luggage.
For Domestic Flights
1. A Valid Identity Card: A valid iidentity card is must for any kind of air travel. You can’t go on an International Travel without a passport or special travelling documents, so that solves the purpose of identity proof during international travel. But, the passport is not mandatory to board a domestic flight. So, what are the other documents you can carry? You should have any of the following documents in original:
a). Voter ID Card
b). Ration Card
c). PAN Card
d). School/College ID Card
e). Office ID Card ( Government or Reputed Private Companies)
f). Aadhar Card
g). Public Sector Bank Passbook having photograph
Note: An infant or a kid is required to have a birth certificate, if no photo ID is there. Upto 2 years of age, the birth certificate is normally mandatory (As an infant, airfare is only approx Rs. 1000, but for a baby above 2 years of age, airfare is full as an adult in most cases, so they just want to make sure that the baby is not above 2 years of age 😃 ). After that, a kid can travel with his parents without any ID card also for 3-4 years of age. After that, the school ID card works good as an Identity proof.
Sometimes, I get queries, where people doesn’t has any of the above mentioned documents. Please be clear that you can not travel without an identity proof, so try to get one before the commencement of the journey. If you are on a short notice, you should try to arrange an identity document issued by local SDM/DM office or by local MLA/MP.
2. A Printed Copy of Flight Ticket: A saved copy in mobile/tablet is also good, but it’s better if you have a printed copy also.
For International Flights
1. A Valid Passport: Minimum 6 months validity is an important criteria for the visa approval from most of the countries.
Note: Nobody can travel without a passport or a valid travel document issued by the country of citizenship. It applies to the infants/babies/kids also.
2. A Valid Visa: Unless you are travelling to a destination, that offers visa free entry or visa on arrival facility, a valid visa from the destination country is always required.
3. A Printed Copy of The Flight Ticket: A saved copy in mobile/tablet is also good, but it’s better if you have a printed copy also.
4. Other Documents: Keep other documents like return flight tickets, hotel reservations, financial proofs, photographs etc with you to show at the immigration of your destination country. Sometimes, these documents are also required, even if you have the prior visa.
(You may like to read this post: How To Prepare For The First International Trip?)
5. Currency Restrictions: You are not allowed to carry the Indian as well as foreign currency above a certain limit while going on an international trip. For example, while going on an international trip other Nepal and Bhutan, you can carry upto INR 5000 in cash. You are free to carry upto USD 10000 on an international trip. However, if you have foreign currency notes (bills) of more than US $5,000 or equivalent and/or foreign exchange including currency of more than US $10,000 or equivalent, you will have to make the declaration before the customs officer. Generally, import of Indian currency is prohibited. However, while entering in India from any other country, you can bring upto INR 5000 in cash.
Reach at the Correct Terminal: Sometimes, various terminals of an airport are located far away from each other. For example, at Delhi IGI airport, Terminal 1 and Terminal 3 is approximately 7 kms away from each other. Similarly, various terminals at Moscow Shermeyato Airport are miles apart. Double check your terminals before leaving the home, so that you can reach at the right terminal for your flight.
How Early You Should Reach ? Depending on the airport and the type of travel (Domestic/International). In case of domestic flight from smaller airports, you should reach at the airport at least one hour prior to your flight departure time. In case of the airport like Srinagar and Leh, arrive at least 90 minutes prior to the departure time. At the large airports like Delhi, during the peak morning hours, you should reach at least 2 hours before the departure time of your flight. In case of an International flight from the busy airports, it’s better to reach at least 3 hours prior to the departure time of your flight. From smaller International Airports, you should reach at least 2 hours before the scheduled departure time of your flight.
Normally, in India, check-in counter closure time is 45 minutes (for domestic flights) and 60 minutes (for international flight) prior to the scheduled departure of a flight. Boarding gates closure time is normally 20 minutes before the scheduled time of departure. So, if you have check-in luggage, you should always try to reach the airport as early as possible.
What To Do After Reaching The Airport? Entry procedures vary from the airport to airport and country to country, but generally they all follow the same pattern of check-in (boarding card & luggage drop) , immigration and security check. There may be 2-3 layers of security checks inside a terminal.
Entry Inside The Terminal: In India, a copy of flight ticket with a valid identity proof (in original ) is required to show the security personnel at the entry gate of an airport. It can be a printed or a copy saved in the mobile. Airports in the country like Russia, Egypt or Thailand may not ask for your flight tickets to enter in the terminal. It means, a person without a flight ticket can also enter in those terminals. Sometimes, the baggage screening through an X-Ray machine is also required to enter in an airport terminal.
Special Needs: If you have any type of difficulty at the airport, due to any reason, you can always seek the help from the airlines staff near the check-in counter. They may depute a dedicated staff to help you till the boarding. In case of genuine requirements, they are supposed to carry your cabin baggage also.
Check-in and Boarding Pass: The next step is to get your boarding pass for the flight. At every airport, many counters are there for this purpose. Almost every airlines has its own counter and sometimes major airlines also have a multiple counters at a single airport. A boarding pass contains information like name, flight details, seat number, flight gate, boarding time etc. You can’t board a flight unless you have a valid boarding pass.
Sometimes if you arrive early at the airport, you may not have the gate number mentioned in your boarding pass (also, in case of web check-in). In that case, keep a look on the LCD displays in the terminal area for the gate number of your flight. Gate number may also be changed at the last minute, even after you have them mentioned on the boarding pass.
Web Check-in: You can also opt for an online check-in, popularly known as web check-in. After web check-in, a boarding pass is issued online. The printed copy of that boarding pass is valid for entry into the terminal and further, to board a flight.
Luggage Drop: Most of the time, you check-in your luggage at check-in counters. But if you have already done web check-in, you can just go to the luggage drop counter (specifically marked as Luggage Drop) to leave your check-in baggage.
Baggage Limits: Baggage limits of allowed dimensions and weights vary from airline to airline. It also vary as per your ticket category. Always know your allowed baggage limit to avoid charges on excess baggage. In India, most of the domestic airlines allowed 7 kgs cabin baggage and 15 kgs check-in baggage for domestic flights, while check-in baggage limit is 30 kgs in case of an international flight on most of the airlines. Sometimes, you may ask to pay for check-in baggage (even for 3-4 kgs, regardless of the minimum weight upto a certain weight limit), if you book ‘cabin-baggage only’ fares on the flights offered by the low cost airlines.
Immigration At The Departure: For International flights only. Also known as the passport control. Sometimes, you have to fill a form (Departure Card) before proceeding to the passport control. At some places you can only proceed with your passport and boarding pass.
If it’s a departure from your home country: At the immigration, they check your passport and visa for the destination country, may ask about your purpose of travel before stamping your passport with departure seal. In case, the destination is a visa-free country or offered a visa-on-arrival, you can inform them about the fact, if asked. They may also take your fingerprints scan to establish the identity with the central database.
If it’s a departure from the another country: Same procedure as the departure from the home country. They also check whether you have overstayed your visa or not.
Security Check: The last checkpoint is the security checkpoint. Near the security queue, put your electronic gadgets (mobile, camera, laptop, watch etc) in a tray. Sometimes, they may ask you to keep your jacket, boots (ankle-legnth boots), wallet etc to put in a tray. These tray with the cabin bag pass through an X-Ray Scanner. You are also supposed to pass through a metal detector. After that a security person performs a manual check with handheld metal detector. They put the security check stamp on the baggage and you are done. At some airports, this stamping part is not in practice. But, it’s mandatory in India at all the airports.
What Are Not Allowed To Carry: Some items are not allowed in a cabin baggage. Some items are allowed in the the check-in baggage only. You should know that what you can carry with you and what you can’t. This procedure may vary across the airlines, from the country to the country and from one airport to the another airport within a country. For example, I carried my shaving razor and scissor from India on a Saudia Airlies flight, but at the Riyadh Airport in Saudi Arabia, they asked me to remove the scissor before boarding the next flight to Cairo. Similarly, no cabin baggage (except ladies purse) are allowed on a flight at Leh or Srinagar Airport in India.
The list of items are gathered from the Air India website, that are not allowed to carry or allowed only with certain restrictions:
Items Which Cannot Be Carried In Hand Baggage
Personal Items: Lighters, Scissors-metal with pointed tips, Realistic replica of toy weapon.
Sharp Objects: Box Cutters, Ice Axes/Ice Picks, Knives (any length and type except round-bladed, butter, and plastic cutlery), Meat Cleavers, Razor-type blades such as box cutters, utility knives, razor blades not in a cartridge, but excluding safety razors, Sabres, Sword
Sporting Goods: Baseball Bats, Bows and Arrows, Cricket Bats, Golf Clubs, Hockey Sticks, Lacrosse Sticks, Pool Cues, Ski Poles, Spear Guns.
Guns and Firearms: Ammunition, BB guns, Compressed Air Guns, Firearms, Parts of Guns and Firearms, Pellet Guns, Realistic Replicas of Firearms, Starter pistols.
Tools: Axes and hatchets, Cattle Prods, Crowbars, Hammers, Drills (including cordless portables power drills), Saws (including cordless portable power saws), Screwdrivers (except those in eyeglass repair kits), Tools (including but not limited to wrenches and pliers), Wrenches and Pliers.
Martial Arts/Self Defense Items: Billy Clubs, Black Jacks, Brass Knuckles, Kubatons, Mace/Pepper Spray, Martial Arts Weapons, Night Sticks, Nunchakus, Martial Arts/Self Defense Items, Stun Guns/Shocking Devices, Throwing Stars
Items Which Cannot Be Carried In Hand Baggage And Even As Checked -in Baggage:
Explosive Materials: Such as Flare Guns, Gun Lighters and Gun Powder, Explosive material. Blasting caps, Dynamite, Fireworks, Flares (in any form), Hand Grenades, Plastic Explosives and Realistic Replicas of Explosives.
Compressed gases: Such as (deeply refrigerated, flammable, non-flammable and poisonous) Such as Butane, Oxygen, Liquid nitrogen and Aqualung cylinders. (deeply refrigerated, flammable, non-flammable and poisonous)
Flammable Items: Such as Aerosol (any except for personal care or toiletries in limited quantities), Fuels (including cooking fuels and any flammable liquid fuel), Gasoline, Gas Torches, Lighter Fluid, Strike anywhere matches, Turpentine and Paint Thinner, Realistic Replicas of Incendiaries
Oxidizing materials: Such as bleaching powder, peroxides
Poisonous and infectious substances: Such as insecticides, weed-killers and live virus materials.
Corrosives: Such as acids, alkalis, mercury, wet cell batteries (except those in wheelchairs), oven or drain cleaners
Other dangerous articles: Radio-active materials, Magnetized, offensive or irritating materials. Briefcases and attaché cases with installed alarm devices
Restricted Items: Certain other items such as the following may be carried only with advance approval according to policies of Air India, interlining carriers and local regulations:
Battery-powered wheelchairs with spillable/non-spillable batteries, dry ice, portable medical electronic devices etc.
1. Make sure you know your hand baggage allowance and the latest restrictions on carriage of certain items in your hand baggage.
2. Make sure you take medication, important documents, valuable items and cash in your hand baggage.
3. Do not carry packages with unidentified contents on behalf of other people.
4. Do not accept any packets from unknown persons.
5. Make sure you declare before checking-in, if carrying any arms or explosive substances. Concealment is an offence under the Aircraft Act and Rules.
6. Battery cells in any electrical / electronic items are permissible now & will now not be removed at the security point. Loose battery cells / dry cells carried in the hand baggage are liable to be removed and the airline would not be in a position to hand over the same at the destination. Please carry the same in the checked baggage.
Water Bottle: Water bottles are also not allowed at any security checkpoint. It’s better to carry an empty water bottle, that you can fill inside the terminal after passing the security checkpoint. You can board a flight with that bottle.
Food Items: Some airlines restrict the carriage of personal food on-board. But, you can carry light refreshments to use in a flight.
Bagage Identification (Not a common procedure): Only at some defence airports like Leh, Sri Nagar in India, you have to proceed to baggage identification area to identify our checked-in baggages just before boarding the flight. Just look at your baggage and inform the staff there. They put a mark on the boarding pass and also on the baggage that the identification is done. This is necessary from the security point of view at these highly sensitive airports.
Final Boarding: Whether mentioned on the boarding pass or not, just confirm the gate number of your flight from the many LCD displays installed at the terminal. Proceed to the gate. During the boarding, the airlines staff again check your boarding pass.
Depending on the parking gate, you may just walk in to the aircraft through the attached aerobridge. Sometimes, you are supposed to wait near the departure gate, so that an airlines bus can carry you to the departing flight.
Before proceeding further, a request to every traveller. I think, it’s a worldwide practice, but please do not stand up in a queue just after the landing, while the aircraft is still taxiing. I never understood that why the people stand up in a queue despite the repeated appeals from the cabin crew, when they reach at the destination, while aircraft is not yet parked. At most, it’s only a matter of 10-15 more minutes.
Arrival at The Airport Terminal: Depending on the parking gate, you may just walk in the arrival hall through the aerobridge attached to the aircraft. Sometimes, you are supposed to wait outside on the ramp area after leaving the aircraft (with attached ladders). A airlines bus carry you to the arrival hall of the terminal in that case.
Luggage Collection: Your cabin crew may announce the conveyor belt number, from where, you can pick your check-in luggage. If not, you can get this information from LCD display of the arrival hall. Proceed to the conveyor belt and collect your luggage.
After collecting your baggage, just walk to the terminal exit in case of the domestic flight. In case of the international flight, two more clearances, The Immigration and the customs clearance is also required.
Immigration Clearance: The immigration section is also known as the Passport Control. Immigration Officers check your passport and visa. They may enquire about the purpose of the travel and may also take your photograph and finger prints scanning. They may ask for the additional documents (return flight ticket, hotel reservations, proof of adequate finances like credit card statement, bank statement etc). These procedures vary form country to country, but more or less, they all follow the same procedures. Then, they stamp your passport with immigration seal, which may have information about the date of entry or upto what duration you are permitted to stay in that country as per your visa requirements or as per your visa stamped on the passport.
Customs Clearance: Every country has two channels for the customs clearance. One is Green Channel and another one is Red Channel. If you have any declared goods (Jewellery, High Valued imported items etc) , then you have to pass through the Red Channel. If you don’t have any declared goods (that don’t attract any customs duty), then you can simply walk through the Green Channel. The declared goods requirements and related customs duties vary from one country to another.
You should know about the permissible limit of duty-free items ( Liquor, Cigarette, Currency, Electronic items etc) before passing through the Green Channel. If you walk through the Green Channel intentionally/unintentionally, you are liable for prosecution as well as high penalty. It’s a criminal offence. At some airports, you are supposed to put your luggage under an X-Ray Scanner in the Green Channel also.
Proceed To Your Destination: After clearing the customs formalities, you are free to exit from the terminal with all your luggage. There are many pre-paid counters for the buses and cabs at the airport. You may avail their services. Many airports have taxi stands outside the terminal area, where you can walk and negotiate on the prices to get a better deal.
I hope that you can board your first flight without any fear or any kind of hesitation. Please, Let me know if you find any other point that I forgot to mention here.