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Advice for First-Time Flyers


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#1 Maglev

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Posted 12 June 2018 - 12:07 PM

My wife's best friend and her husband will be taking their first flight ever from CLT to SEA on AA.  We bought them F tickets, and also sent them a pair of carry-on size suitcases.  I don't want to overwhelm them with advice, but also know how important preparation is.  What are a few important things I should tell them?  Should they check their luggage?

 

This same couple came out here for our wedding in 2004 on Amtrak, and had a great trip.  But Bedrooms cost twice as much as airfare, and they don't have enough time now to travel by train.  


Edited by Maglev, 12 June 2018 - 01:24 PM.

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#2 Trogdor

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Posted 12 June 2018 - 01:00 PM

Pre-trip:

 

1) Be familiar with what is and is not allowed in a carry-on.  They should learn this before they pack, and not at the airport.  If they want to carry a bag on board, they should know what to put in it and how big it can be.  They should also know what *not* to put in a checked bag (generally, expensive electronics, Li-ion batteries, and/or critical medications).

 

2) Arrive at the airport at least 90 minutes early.  Generally, for a domestic flight, this is too early, but if this is literally their first time, they will need extra time to be familiar with things.

 

3) Wear comfortable clothing and minimal jewelry (to have less to deal with at the security checkpoint).  A backpack (or purse) with room to easily stuff some things (like watch, phone, wallet, etc.) quickly.

 

At airport:

 

1) If they check a bag (it's probably free if they're in F, but just verify that as I'm not familiar with AA's bag policies), make sure anything they will need immediately is in their carryon (and hopefully they don't need anything on the no-carryon list).

 

2) They will need to show their ID at the check-in counter and at security.  They will also need to show their boarding pass at the security line.  Have these items ready.

 

3) Put jewelry, wallet, phone, etc. in purse/backpack (nothing in clothing pockets) to not have to deal with the small trays at the security checkpoint.

 

4) Follow signage to gate, and keep an eye on the departure boards.  Gate changes may occur before departure time, so if their posted boarding time (which is typically 30-45 minutes before departure time) comes and no announcements are made, check to see if there has been a change.

 

5) They don't get lounge access with a domestic F ticket.  There's no point in trying to talk their way in for free.  If they pay the one-time pass fee to get in (or if they have access to another lounge through a credit card or whatever), there will *not* be flight announcements from the lounge.  It's up to them to make it to the gate before boarding.

 

 

 

On board:

 

1) Larger carryon overhead, smaller carryon under the seat in front of them.

 

2) In F, meals and drinks are complimentary.

 

3) Know how to set the phone to airplane mode, and do so.  Phones and tablets are allowed (in airplane mode) at all times.  If they have a laptop, it's only allowed above (IIRC) 10,000 feet.  Basically, listen for announcements.

 

4) Download the airline app beforehand.  I think some AA flights use wi-fi based entertainment, which probably requires the app to be installed (I know United does).  You'd have to pay for airline wi-fi to download the app, but wi-fi based entertainment through the app is free.

 

5) The pilots will typically make an announcement when they start their descent.  While they generally don't explicitly say so, this is the "last call" for restroom use until the plane arrives at the gate.  Plan accordingly.


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#3 PRR 60

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Posted 12 June 2018 - 01:02 PM

On AA F, you can pre-order your meals 30 days in advance (up to 24 hours in advance). Within 30 days of travel, go to AA.com "Your Trips," select the trip or enter the reservation number and name to find the trip.  Meal selection will be an option for each passenger.  CLT-SEA is a full meal service flight with drinks, warmed nuts, hot towel, appetizer, meal, dessert (custom made ice cream sundae - very nice), and later a snack basket (assuming dinner).  It's a pleasant way to spend a few hours.

 

CLT-SEA uses legacy US Airways A321's.  These aircraft have no at-seat power or built in entertainment system. However, AA offers on-demand movies and TV streamed to your own device.  If using a tablet, they will need to have the AA app installed.  GoGo wifi will also be available at about $19 for each flight.

 

I would lean toward checking luggage (free for First).  It can be nice to not have to drag bags along and deal with the overhead space issue.  Even though they are in First, some of the overhead space in F is filled with safety equipment and Row 1 has to put everything up there since there is no under seat space ahead.  Not being worried about overhead space also means they do not have to be gate lice*.  F gets Group 1 boarding, so they will be on early regardless, but maneuvering to ensure they are among the first of the first group will not be needed.  First passengers in theory get priority baggage handling, but that is a bit hit and miss.

 

*Gate Lice: persons who hover at the entrance to the Jetway in order to board as soon as gate opens.


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#4 SarahZ

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Posted 12 June 2018 - 01:11 PM

Take your shoes/belt/jacket off *before* you get to the bins.

Put your travel size shampoo/etc in a Ziploc and keep it in the front zipper pocket of your suitcase. It makes it easy to take it out and put it back when going through security.

Same for the laptop. Have it ready to go in a separate bin.

Don’t wear lots of stuff that’ll encumber you. I put my jacket in my bag and wear slip-on shoes (ballet flats) instead of something with laces.

If you put your carry-on in the overhead bin, place it facing wheels out. That’ll ensure 2-3 others can get theirs in. Don’t lay it sideways.

I put my purse under the seat but lay the strap on my knee. Once we’re in the air, that makes it easy to pull it up and get stuff out of it.

The window seat can get very cold. Either put the “always warm” person in that seat or use your jacket as a buffer/pillow along the wall.
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#5 railiner

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Posted 12 June 2018 - 02:14 PM

Watch the safety demonstration, and follow along on the seatback cards.  Memorize the location of the nearest emergency exits.  

Drink plenty of water...the pressurized air is extremely dry.

Try to do some isometric exercises in your seat, for your feet and legs...there are tips for this and more in the airline's seatback magazine.

To clear your ears when descending for landing, make a "yawning" motion with your jaw, to help equalize the pressure.


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#6 blueman271

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Posted 12 June 2018 - 02:15 PM

As PRR 60 stated the ex-US Airways airplanes don’t have any type of screens or plugs even in F. So make sure the tablet and phone are charged prior to getting on the plane. Also prepare your friends for a long flight. I flew this route back in January and it was a six and a half hour flight gate to gate.
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#7 Devil's Advocate

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Posted 12 June 2018 - 02:25 PM

In addition to not packing or carrying anything the TSA is going to freak out about, my main piece of advice I have for new flyers is to always maintain some basic situational awareness.  When you feel the need to stop and reconsider your options please don't park yourself in the middle of the aisle or walkway forcing everyone else to slam to a halt or walk around you.  Take a moment to step aside so others can pass while you figure out what you need to do.


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#8 bmjhagen9426

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Posted 12 June 2018 - 02:44 PM

In addition to not packing or carrying anything the TSA is going to freak out about, my main piece of advice I have for new flyers is to always maintain some basic situational awareness.  When you feel the need to stop and reconsider your options please don't park yourself in the middle of the aisle or walkway forcing everyone else to slam to a halt or walk around you.  Take a moment to step aside so others can pass while you figure out what you need to do.

Even something looking innocent like a pen or an alarm clock can sometimes trigger the airport screener. Had that happen to me five years ago at Seatac Airport. When one of my bags were xrayed, it somehow raised an alert so the screener requested that my bag be opened, and found an alarm clock. I was let through shortly after when the screeners determined the items in the bag as harmless. Went on to the South Concourse to board my plane.


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#9 AmtrakBlue

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Posted 12 June 2018 - 03:31 PM

Watch the safety demonstration, and follow along on the seatback cards.  Memorize the location of the nearest emergency exits.  
Drink plenty of water...the pressurized air is extremely dry.
Try to do some isometric exercises in your seat, for your feet and legs...there are tips for this and more in the airline's seatback magazine.
To clear your ears when descending for landing, make a "yawning" motion with your jaw, to help equalize the pressure.

I always wear knee high socks when flying.

Yawning or swallowing works for the ears. Some people chew gum or suck on hard candy to “force” the swallowing.
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#10 seat38a

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Posted 12 June 2018 - 07:06 PM

My wife's best friend and her husband will be taking their first flight ever from CLT to SEA on AA.  We bought them F tickets, and also sent them a pair of carry-on size suitcases.  I don't want to overwhelm them with advice, but also know how important preparation is.  What are a few important things I should tell them?  Should they check their luggage?

 

This same couple came out here for our wedding in 2004 on Amtrak, and had a great trip.  But Bedrooms cost twice as much as airfare, and they don't have enough time now to travel by train.  

If they are checking their bags, tell them to put something obnoxious on it like a colorful ribbon, bandana or something along those lines on it. Bags look alike and 2 weeks ago, someone walked off with my dads bag which was the EXACT same brand and color. The guy did later in the day returned it back to United and United shipped it back to my parents house. Have them double check the name on the tags when they pick up their bags.

 

Oh and to make it really special, send them couple of day passes to the Admirals Club in CLT.  ;)


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#11 cpotisch

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Posted 13 June 2018 - 06:14 AM

They won't be able to move around much, so they should make sure that what they're wearing will be very comfortable to sit in for hours on end. Keep all their liquids in a ziplock bag with the air sucked out, so as to avoid any explosions/leaks/messes as the air pressures drops.

 

I'll fill you in on the security process a bit, however you should probably make sure to look on the TSA website to see everything you can and can't bring. During the security process, they will have to empty their pockets, and take off shoes, jackets, and belts. All of that, along with the rest of their stuff, will go in bins to be put through the x-ray machine. They then have the option to either go through the body scan machine, or the can request a pat-down from one of the security officers (if you feel uncomfortable getting microwaved).

 

Hope any of that helps.


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#12 Railroad Bill

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Posted 13 June 2018 - 09:10 AM

We did the PRE-TSA documents and it made our flights more enjoyable. No long lines waiting for security.  At SEATAC the lines were very long in the regular check while there were only two people a head of us and you do not have to take off your shoes, etc.  It is $85 for a 5 year pass, but well worth it especially for people who fly often.  


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#13 Ryan

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Posted 13 June 2018 - 09:19 AM

That varies widely. At BWI the PreCheck lines are frequently longer than the regular security lines. Much easier to move through, though.
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#14 Seaboard92

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Posted 13 June 2018 - 09:23 AM

The other item that works for ears popping is hard candy. When I was younger I used to put one in my mouth and then just swish it around in my mouth.
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#15 Devil's Advocate

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Posted 13 June 2018 - 11:09 AM

At my home airport the TSA Paid Security line closes several hours before the last flight departs, so if you have an evening or nighttime flight you get no benefit whatsoever.


Edited by Devil's Advocate, 13 June 2018 - 02:33 PM.

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#16 XHRTSP

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Posted 13 June 2018 - 11:25 AM

What are a few important things I should tell them?


It is perfectly acceptable to let the ticket agents, TSA, gate agents, flight attendants, etc know that you are a first time flyer. If there is any confusion as to where they need to be going, or what they need to be doing, they should just speak up. Everyone who flies has a first flight, people understand.

On the return leg, SEATAC has some great restaurants. Try Anthony's, Beecher's, Dilettante...


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#17 cpotisch

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Posted 13 June 2018 - 11:56 AM

We did the PRE-TSA documents and it made our flights more enjoyable. No long lines waiting for security.  At SEATAC the lines were very long in the regular check while there were only two people a head of us and you do not have to take off your shoes, etc.  It is $85 for a 5 year pass, but well worth it especially for people who fly often.  

I would definitely recommend Pre-Check for anyone who flies a few times a year or more, however I don't think it would make sense for someone flying for the first time. If they end up flying multiple times, sure, but if they only do it once, that's $85 down the drain for one flight.


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#18 Trogdor

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Posted 13 June 2018 - 01:12 PM

my main piece of advice I have for new flyers is to always maintain some basic situational awareness.  When you feel the need to stop and reconsider your options please don't park yourself in the middle of the aisle or walkway forcing everyone else to slam to a halt or walk around you.  Take a moment to step aside so others can pass while you figure out what you need to do.

 

This should apply to anyone, anywhere.  That should apply to streets and sidewalks as much as airports.


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#19 trainman74

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Posted 13 June 2018 - 04:48 PM

At my home airport the TSA Paid Security line closes several hours before the last flight departs, so if you have an evening or nighttime flight you get no benefit whatsoever.


Not even a colored card to take with you through security so you don't have to take your shoes off? That's what I've gotten in the past when the Pre-Check line has been unavailable/closed (but I don't think I've been to your home airport).

#20 Devil's Advocate

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Posted 13 June 2018 - 05:58 PM

 

At my home airport the TSA Paid Security line closes several hours before the last flight departs, so if you have an evening or nighttime flight you get no benefit whatsoever.


Not even a colored card to take with you through security so you don't have to take your shoes off? That's what I've gotten in the past when the Pre-Check line has been unavailable/closed (but I don't think I've been to your home airport).

 

Did they offer it or did you have to ask for it?  There's still an after hours airline staff "lane" that I might try next time just to see what they do.


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