Admittedly this is a very selfish “how to” guide. I spend a decent amount of time in airports as per my job requires and I’ve seen non-travelers make the same mistakes over and over again. So let me help you, help me.
- It’s the airport, not the red carpet – I don’t understand why everyone needs to get so dressed up to be crammed in a metal tube sitting next to strangers for hours on end. Seriously, what compels otherwise sane people to wake up and go “I’m getting on an airplane today, let me pick out the most ridiculous clothes I own and put on my entire jewelry collection.” It’s just a plane and you’re probably not someone the paparazzi care about – so chill out.
- It’s the airport, not your bed room – I don’t want to contradict point number one, but please make some of an effort to put on clothes. Grabbing the nastiest looking stuff you own and looking like you were thrust from bed and dragged to the airport makes you look ridiculous.
- If you don’t have status on any airline, you aren’t a “professional traveler” This may be a hard pill to swallow, but going on a plane once or twice a year doesn’t qualify you as a frequent traveler. What is a frequent traveler? From September 26th to December 23rd (2010) I went to the airport 18 times. That’s twice a week for 9 out of 13 weeks and I’m at the low-end of the truly frequent travelers. Keep your vacation travel to yourself.
- Don’t line up to board before your group is called – Actually, don’t even go near the door until your group is called. You will get on the plane, you have an assigned seat. Every time I have to push through a horde of people that are in boarding group 4 to get to the line for frequent fliers it brings me one step closer to attacking, no one in particular, just blind rage.
There are obviously a million other things the once a year crowd should know, but I want to spend some time to map out how you should go about your day.
Start off by dressing in a normal way. Wear clothing that you can be comfortable in, but that doesn’t make the general public want to throw-up (morbidly obese woman should not be wearing skin tight clothing that they spill out of. It is horrifying that you could even describe someone as “spilling out” of their clothing). Wear something on your feet that is easy to take off, but requires socks. You HAVE to take your footwear off so boots that require a well trained team to unzip or unbuckle should be avoided. Socks are essential because there are plenty of people that have some disgusting feet. Like image-burned-in-my-brain disgusting.
Other accessories to avoid:
1. Excessive Amounts of Jewelry – Why the hell are you wearing that many necklaces and bracelets to go sit on a carbon fiber tube for three hours? Are you a pirate? Are you going to a rap convention?
2. $56.78 worth of change in your pocket – What were you doing before you came to the airport? Only a psycho carries this much change in their pocket. Did you forget to stop at the Coinstar? Are you a bank robber from the 1880s?
So at this point you’ve arrived at the airport. Based on the look most of you have on your faces, I highly doubt you’ve ever been outside before. Some of you actually look like what I would image George Washington would look like if I traveled back in time, grabbed him, and then dropped his ass in the middle of an airport security line.
What were you expecting to see when you got to the airport? Oh well we came here thinking there was going to be a science exhibit, but then we were strip searched and forced into a metal tube to God knows where. Calm down. Since you listened to me regarding your attire, you’re fine. Just walk to a ticket kiosk or baggage attendant and get your boarding pass/deal with your bags and pay attention. Stop checking Twitter every five seconds and stop turning the music up in your head phones.
Side-note: Just because you have a smart phone with your boarding pass on it doesn’t mean you figured all this shit out and somehow you are a master traveler. Wipe that smug look off your face and pay attention. I would also recommend that you get the paper boarding pass the first few times you use the electronic one. Until you are a pro-status electronic boarding pass traveler, you are still bound to mess something up and delay everyone else while you figure out how to get the bar code back.
Okay, we have our tickets and we ditched our bags. Security time. Now the media and a lot of personal liberty groups would have you believe that the TSA is waiting with gloved hands to fondle the hell out of you, but that is not actually the case. Getting a pat-down is usually the product of two situations 1) you decline the normal process (metal detectors, imaging equipment) or 2) you fail one of those processes because you kept a lot of dumb shit on your body/in your pockets (yes, cell phones set off the metal detector).
Double Secret Pro Tip: If you can control it, being a white, unassuming male in business attire is probably the best way to not make a new friend in the TSA.
In the security line grab 2 bins and in the first place just your laptop. In the second place shoes, belt, wallet, cell phone, ticket, and liquids (jacket on top if you have one). Place your bags in the following order – roller bag, bag that hold the laptop, laptop bin, and then the other bin. If you are going over two bins and 4 total pieces - get out of line and go home, you’re not ready to be outside. Walk through the metal detector or the “other” machine at the order of the TSA. Remember, listening to them means you don’t have to have a full contact experience with a stranger in a public place.
Now, grab you roller bag and place it next to you, open the bag you’re putting the laptop in and get the computer in there. Then grab the other bin an walk your ass away from the x-ray machine. Seriously you don’t need to get redressed right there. Don’t be a bottle neck - just grab and go. Get yourself situated at one of the benches that the TSA set up outside of the security area. It’s that simple. Did you get touched? No. Did you get through in the 1 minutes (or less) that it is supposed to take? Yep. Now go to the gate.
Wonderful, we are at the gate. Stay way from the two lines that lead to the boarding door. Seriously, stay away from them. You standing in the way literally helps no one. Especially since the boarding process works as follows (I’ll use United as an example):
- First Class & Global Services – These people either paid a ton to be special or have passed the unannounced mileage threshold to be seen as always special.
- 1k Fliers – They have done at least 100k miles this year
- Star Alliance Gold & Premier Executive – 50k miles
- Star Alliance Silver & Premier – 25k miles.
Note: Some of these descriptions are off as this is an older post that was in draft form for a while.
Your ticket will CLEARLY state if you are in one of these groups. If you look at yours and it isn’t instantly obvious that you are in one of them, you aren’t. From here the normal boarding process begins.
- Boarding Group 1 – These are the suckers that paid extra per ticket to board early. I bet that was worth it…Guess what though, you are not special. You may have paid a whopping $25-50 per ticket extra, but compared to the frequent fliers you aren’t anything. Stay away from the boarding lines until they say “Early Access Fliers/Boarding Group 1″
- Boarding Group 2 – These people are sitting in window seats
- Boarding Group 3 – Middle seats
- Boarding Group 4 – Aisle seats
So what did we learn? If you aren’t a frequent flyer and you want to sit in an aisle seat, I would get the early access. Otherwise you are probably checking your bag. I know that sounds awful, but one of the by products of bag fees is that everyone wants to bring a carry on. Trust me on this, there is a lot less space then bags on the plane. If you are in boarding group 4, have them gate check your bag. It’s free and you wont be the moron holding up the plane because you boarded last thinking you were too smart for that scam. If you’re in boarding group three I would think about this as well. It makes the process faster and if you’re in the middle/back of the plane, your wait at baggage claim is going to be around 5 minutes.
We made it on the plane though! Nice work. There are only a few other tips that I have for you today.
- If you are in the window or middle seat, control your bladder. Nothing pisses people off like being woken up in the middle of a 6 hour flight to move so you can go to the bathroom for the fifth time.
- If you plan on listening to music, I don’t want to hear it through my headphones. I’m sorry you’re so gangster you blew out your ear drums, but don’t punish me. Also, nothing says “I’m a loser” like dressing like a bad ass and listening to Kelly Clarkson. (You know who I’m talking about Flight 503, BOS to SFO, Seat 42E).
- The planes are packed tightly – respect that for a few hours you are going to be very much violating someones personal space. Wear deodorant, don’t eat a ton of garlic right before getting on the plane, and (more difficult) don’t be so fat you spill over the arm rest into my seat.
I think the moral of the story is use common sense. Traveling isn’t hard. Nothing that I wrote about should be too difficult to keep in mind while you’re at the airport. And be nice to the flight attendants - their job is about safety, not being a hand maiden. They don’t need to be treated like shit because your bag didn’t fit in the overhead or you’re too fat to fit in one seat.