Lost at the Airport?

Part 1: How to Navigate the Airport, for Novice Fliers

Photo by Erik Odin on Unsplash

Directions

First of all, if you’re novice flier (meaning someone who’s inexperienced in travelling by airplane) and planning on going to the airport soon, you need to read the following list of instructions below to prepare yourself for an awesome vacation:

How to NOT Get Lost at the Airport

BEFORE:

1. Ask yourself: do I know my airline?
If yes, great! Then ask yourself:

2. Am I checked in for my flight yet?
This is actually really important, because once you have checked in for your flight, you’ll have access to your boarding pass — this will display important information for you such as your boarding gate, boarding time, departure time, which will come in handy very soon to you.

3. Today many airlines will offer ways to check in before you even reach the airport: either online, or through their mobile app. In this scenario, I recommend using the tools available to you (i.e. your airline’s website, or their mobile app for iOS or Android) to check in for your flight, before you even go to the airport. Trust me, do this in the comfort of your own home, so you can have one less thing to stress over at the airport.

DURING:

Okay, now you’re at the airport. If you feel like it’s a confusing place, trust me you’re not alone. To get through this without getting lost:

1. Find the Security Line.
Good news: if you’re at this step, you problem here is simply keeping things simple. Don’t overthink this part. Ask an airport official for directions to find security, and go wait in that line.

I tend to get a little nervous at this step, because my natural tendency is shying away from inspections of any kind: exams, dates, presentations and the like. However, I have to come to learn (as I’m sure you will) that fear of judgment is like fear of the boogeyman. Just as a child may be afraid of the dark, you and I can also have fear. In fact, just about everyone does, and it doesn’t make you, I, or anyone else abnormal. We just have to start learning to act in spite of fear. Be like the child who looks under their bed, and figures out the dark is nothing to be scared of. Act in spite of fear, and fear moves out of the way.

2. Go Through Security
Again, the advice is to keep things simple. Keep calm, and listen. TSA (the airport security officials) will be shouting out the things you need to do to make it through the line, and the metal detectors for your bags and your person. Listen well, and make any adjustments you need to in order to get through.

3. Wait at Your Boarding Gate:
Woohoo! You’ve made it through the hard part at this point. Now, if you look back at your boarding pass and check your boarding gate and boarding time, you’re fully enabled to go on the plane!

Most of you reading this will probably be travelling with someone else, and that’s a great opportunity for you to work with them, and find where you’re supposed to go. For those of you more introverted like myself, or just happen to be travelling by yourself, I suggest using the signs in the airport to find your boarding gate (usually some combination of letters and numbers like “E23"), before your boarding time (which is when they start letting people on the plane). If you do everything right, you’ll soon be on the way to your destination!

AFTER:

What is Travelly?
If this seems like a lot to take in, I don’t blame you. Getting through the airport is one of those things which society assumes adults know how to do — and some of us will find it easier to do than others. However, speaking from personal experience I can tell you all adulting is still a skill, and that means it can get better with practice.

If you would like to learn more about Travelly, an online tool I’m developing to help you, myself, and all novice fliers navigate the airport, check out the next part of this blog series here.

Who am I?
I have been flying all my life. I’m a Pakistani American, who first immigrated by plane to the U.S. at two years old. I’ve gone on multiple trips since then: back and forth between the U.S., Pakistan, Iran, the Netherlands, and several other countries, all by air travel.

However, let me begin this post with a confession about myself: I am notoriously bad at navigating airports. So if you’re

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Zain Raza

Zain Raza

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Software engineer interested in A.I., and sharing stories on how tech can allow us to be more human.