A-Z Guide to Airport Procedures for First Time International Flyers

Airport Procedures to be followed by travellers

The concept of flying at the speed of sound within a metal tube high up in the air does sound daunting but chill, it’s not as bad as it is made out to be. Air travel is one of the finest marvels of human engineering and much thought has been put behind it by those lauded as geniuses in their respective fields. Your safety literally is in the best of human hands here.

So that now you have booked your tickets and packed your bags, all that remains is going to the airport and flying off to your holiday destination…oh wait, what was that? The first time you say? Well, no need to be all embarrassed and nervous! Here is our step by step guide to airport procedures for the first time international flyers. Blaze your way through the hurdles known as airport regulations and be off enjoying that perfect holiday.


Airport Check-in

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The flight ticket by itself won’t be enough for you to board the plane. You need a boarding pass for that and Check-in is the process that is going to produce it. It includes your seat numbers, departure times and gates.

The check-in process is split into three parts:

  1. The actual check-in: You should provide confirmation to the airline that you are intending to board the flight.
  2. Handing down your luggage to the ground handling staff. The baggage will be tagged and sent. The next time you are going to see them will be after reaching your destination. Before doing this step, check out the baggage guidelines mentioned on your airline’s website. Ensure the size and weight of your luggage falls within the prescribed limits.
  3. Last but not the least, grab your boarding pass and get ready for the security check.

Also Read: The ultimate travel checklist for the Indian heading abroad

What is Web Check-in

Web Check-in is a facility provided by the airline. It allows you to do the check-in process online even before you reach the airport. 

What are the advantages of Web Check-in?

  1. You can avoid standing in a check-in queue at the airport
  2. You’ll get the eBoarding pass on web check-in which will allow you to breeze into the airport without much hassles saving time and effort.
  3. You may get to choose the seat of your preference before reaching the airport itself.

Check beforehand with your airline’s online portal if they provide a web check-in facility.

Security Check

Airport security check

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  • Present yourself for the security check. You’ll be frisked as part of the procedure. Keep your ID along with your boarding pass throughout the process.
  • Place your carry-on baggage along with metallic objects and electronic items in the tray assigned for electronic screening
  • In case of having a metallic unit in your body (for medical purposes ex: pacemaker, artificial joint) keep a doctor’s certificate in hand for the same.
  • Go to the end of baggage screening, and claim your possessions and effects. If it’s a domestic flight, proceed into the “airside” terminal. In case of an international flight, proceed towards Immigration and Customs controls.

Immigration and Customs at Departure

immigration and customs officer at departure

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If you are booked on an international flight, you may be subjected to an Immigration and Customs check for both during Departures and Arrivals.

  • Carry your ID, Passport, Visa and other related travel documents with you when you present yourself for the check. State the reason for your trip.
  • Check beforehand to make sure that you are not carrying banned items with you by consulting with the airline staff ( Exotic pets, food and plant items, Items for which import/export duty has to be paid like alcohol, etc are usually not allowed to reduce the risk of spreading infections ).
  • The amount of money you can carry in hand during domestic/international flight travel is strictly regulated by the apex monetary authority of the country. It is prudent to check that limit and carry money accordingly ( Also some countries have a rule on having some local currency on arrival like Thailand for example. So it is wise to check up on that in advance) See Foreign Exchange limits for individuals in India
  • Remember, in some countries merely showing up with customs banned substances can result in prosecution. So thoroughly read the related guidelines before embarking on your journey.
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Waiting Area / Lounge

Airport lounge area and access

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You’ve got through security and are in the secure area (finally!). What to do now :

  • If interested, go through the shops & restaurants there. The prices of items and services will be significantly higher than in stores/restaurants near your home.
  • If you want to wait in comfort, then head to a lounge for those extra facilities. Comfortable seating, good food, internet, etc would be available there. If you have free access you should head straight there rather than waiting at the gate. If you don’t it’s okay. Some airlines allow one-day lounge entry for a fee.


airport departure area

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Boarding pass? Check. Then head to the gate assigned. Boarding closes 10–20 minutes before departure. Late passengers would be called by name at least twice before closing the flight. Once the flight is closed, no more people would be entertained.


flight take-off at airport

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The air hostess welcomes you as you walk the red carpet towards your seat.

  • Place your bags in the overhead compartment.
  • Switch off your mobile device.
  • Get comfortable in your seat and listen to the safety instructions provided by the flight staff.
  • Fasten your seat belt for it’s finally time for the main event.

3,2,1…0! The engine revs up with a roar, the plane gradually gathers speed, as you look out of the window, the tarmac is a blur, you have now attained the speed for liftoff and you are off!


In-flight entertainment system

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Wait for your seat belt sign to go green. Now you can remove them. Get engaged with the In-flight amenities provided for your entertainment or relax and enjoy the vistas below. Clouds have never seemed more interesting have they?


flight touchdown at runway

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The second most exciting part of air travel after takeoff, prepare to feel a slight bump as your plane lands on the runway. Once it taxies to its bay, allow the flight staff to guide you towards the exit.

Immigration and Customs at Arrival

immigration and customs at arrival

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Before you exit the airport, you’d have to face immigration and customs a final time. Although each country has its own immigration and customs procedures, you can, in general, expect the following;

  1. The immigration area will have different lines for host country nationals and other country travellers. So pay attention and stand in the correct line to avoid any mixups which will waste your time and the immigration official’s time.
  2. Avoid using any electronics like mobile phones or cameras in the immigration area. They may be confiscated by the authorities there. This is especially true in the case of immigration in the US.
  3. Your documents like Passport, Visa etc will be reviewed by the officials. Keep them handy in your hand luggage to quickly finish the process.
  4. You will be asked questions regarding the nature of your visit. Answer them calmly and state the truth.

Just keep the above points in mind and your immigration will be a breeze.

You’ll then be moved to Customs. The duty of customs is to control the flow of goods from abroad and especially ensure the prevention of hazardous items coming into their country.

  1. Usually, a Customs Declaration Form will be provided to you in-flight. It will have a list of banned and restricted items. If you have any such items declare them truthfully in the form. If later the customs officials were to find such items in your luggage and also if you have not declared them in the form, it might result in a severe penalty.
  2. Few banned items by the Customs in most countries are soil, organic food, pickles, fruits etc. This is to prevent the transfer of foreign micro-organisms into their country.

The Climax

have a good trip happy holidays

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Now that you’ve braved everything from being frisked to flying for the first time in a plane, what are you waiting for! Grab your luggage from the baggage carousel, complete immigration procedures if on an international flight & head for the exit. Happy Holidays!

Also Read: 6 Essential Documents You Should Have When Travelling Abroad


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