Canterbury Tales: Advice for freaked out first time flyers

Hello, my fabulous Readers!

I’m writing this blog post from Canterbury, Kent, in the U.K, where I will be for a year to complete my Masters. I’ve only been here for a week and it’s also my first time out of the motherland, so everything from my first international plane ride to shopping at Tesco and night time at 5:00 P.M. to finding my footing (which is proving hilariously literally impossible given my new-found skill in tripping over my feet on flat ground) is a new experience.

I was flat-out petrified of having to navigate the airport system – baggage, security, immigration, going to the bathroom on the plane for goodness sake. But, thanks to the countless reassurances and pre-flight information supplied by my friends, it all went off fine and contrary to my fears, I did not end up on a mystical island with polar bears and smoke-monsters or stranded in a terminal or detained in a small room with grumpy officials because I didn’t have the right papers (which are completely normal fears, okay?).

So, for anyone who’s scared shitless of their first plane trip abroad – it’s totally normal to freak out, but don’t get too worried because there are always airport people around to help, you can follow the crowd of people on your flight to figure out where to go and everything’s actually pretty straightforward.

Yeah, if you’re a first time flyer, that wouldn’t have convinced you, so maybe the following will help:


1) You need to find the counter for your flight – when you arrive at the airport, ask someone where it is.

2) Head over to the counter and give them your ticket. Oh! If you have the time to do so, try to check in online earlier, which will save you some time and let you pick your seat (I picked a window seat because I really wanted to be able to look down on London before we landed). You give them your ticket and they’ll give you your boarding pass.

3) Luggage – make sure you know the allowed weight for your suitcases. If you’re a student, you may be allowed to carry an extra bag, so make sure you check! My mum and I spent two days packing, repacking and redistributing the weight of two suitcases. It didn’t help that we had a indecisive weighing scale. The suitcase weighed differently based on whether it was placed vertically, horizontally, whether it was the morning or evening and the weather conditions. I kid you not. In the end, we dragged both out to an auto, took it to a nearby biriyani restaurant and weighed it on one of those ‘check your weight for only 2  rupees’ electronic machines! Haha, extreme right? What can I say, after that, it was a weight off my mind (bad pun intended). So, when I did check my suitcases in at the counter, they weighed exactly as they did before at Aasif’s Biriyani, Chennai (highly recommended btw).

NB. there are some kinds of locks that airport security can open without having to chop them off. I used these.

4) After you hand over your luggage and receive your boarding pass, they’ll give you an immigration form to fill out, so go find a seat and fill it in – this is just your basic personal details, passport number and international address.

5) Now head over to immigration – remember to keep your passport and the immigration form together. Sometimes, they might ask for your other documents, so keep that in your backpack/carry-on luggage and ask various questions. CALM THE FUCK DOWN. I was pretty jittery at this point. Like so..

I was asked questions about my course and then weirdly, “are you from Sri Lanka? you talk like that? are you sure you’re from Tamil Nadu?”. But, give or take a few weird questions, you’ll be stamped through immigration. Don’t worry too much. If there’s any problem, remember that your friends and family are still close-by, but it’s basically a standard procedure, not an invigilation.

6) Proceed to security by following wherever everyone else who’s just finished immigration is heading to. Um, look out for a girls/guys sign because I like the idiot I am, promptly tried to join the guys line. They’ll ask you to take out electronic devices and anything that may set of a ‘beep’ so remember to remove your laptop, cell phone, keys and camera, before sending your bag through the scanner.

7) Collect your stuff – check that you haven’t forgotten anything and then follow the crowd to the waiting room. You’re going to be here for a while (if you arrived to the airport early in the first place) so head over to the bathroom, walk around a bit and make a couple of phone calls while you wait. At this point, one of my friend’s who is a pilot called me (at 4:00 in the morning!) to tell me all about the plane and to reassure me that I wasn’t probably going to die in mid-air.

8) After a while, they’ll start boarding people. Just follow everyone. At the entrance, the air hostess will tell you where your seat is. If you’re confused, look up to the right or left – you’ll be able to see the letters and numbers there.

9) Always ask, if you’re unsure of what to do or where to go. If you’re like me and hate asking anybody for anything,

………… you’ll just have to get over it.

10) Sit down, strap in, get some sleep, watch a movie, follow someone to the bathroom and wait to see how they open the door (if you’re scared of making an idiot of yourself), eat well, have a drink, put food you’re not eating now in your bag for consumption later, look out the window – after take off, while floating in clouds infused with pink and orange, and when you’re going to land.

Have a good flight. xx

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