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The Wonderful Flying Experience 

By Brady Winkler

It’s a rainy, freezing day in the middle of February. Shaking with goosebumps, you roll your suitcase into the chaotic Logan Airport with dreams of sunny Florida. It is packed to the brim with business people and vacationers alike scattered about the terminal. This experience can be overwhelming and confusing for some, yet the fastest way to travel long distances. There is no reason to be anxious. Before long, you’ll be looking forward to that discombobulated airport terminal.

  1.  Check-In

Airports are massive! It seems like it would be easy to get lost or not know where you are supposed to go. Let me walk you through the airport process from the time you pull up to the time you board the plane. 

First, if you haven’t loaded your boarding pass on your phone or printed it out, you will print out your boarding pass at a desk or kiosk. Make sure that your bags are tagged with your name and phone number in the event they get lost. Then, you can “check bags” where your bags are brought underneath the plane in a cargo section. From there, there will be signs leading you to security.

  1.  Security

 For most people, security is the most stressful part of the experience, with the lines that look like they never end, the intimidating guards, and the possibility that you would have to get an uncomfortable pat down. Usually, the lines look longer than they actually are, because there are many scanners and TSA (Transportation Security Administration) Agents. These agents are portrayed to be quite strict, but they are actually very helpful and understanding. Once you get to the front of the line, you will take off your shoes and jacket and place all electronic devices and personal items in the trays per instruction of airport staff. You will need to empty any liquids you have which is why I recommend coming to the airport with a reusable water bottle in your backpack that can be filled up after security. I know some of you can’t possibly leave home without your cute STANLEY cup anyway. For full details on what you put on a tray, visit the TSA travel checklist. You will either go through a metal detector (UNDER age 13) or a walk through X-Ray Machine (13 AND UP) that are meant to detect dangerous items and can be set off by metals. In the event you set off an alarm, you may just need to take off watches or jewelry for additional screening and go through again. Unless you actually have what the TSA considers a dangerous item, you won’t get in trouble and you shouldn’t feel embarrassed. If you have further security concerns, I’d recommend spending time on the official TSA website, the agency that keeps our airports safe. 

  1.  After Security

You’ve made it past the most chaotic part of flying and now it’s time to find your gate. It will be listed on your ticket and on the airport departure board. The most important tip I can give you is to pay attention to announcements and signs to lead you in the right direction. Logan Airport in Boston has a very useful interactive map that allows you to type in places around the airport like your gate, nearest restrooms, etc. and get useful directions towards your desired place. Once you arrive at your gate, you should check the screen to see when your flight will begin boarding. If you arrive early to the gate, it may have another flight’s information on the screen but if so, it will always show your flight’s information in a small rectangle at the bottom.  I’d recommend staying close to the gate and checking in regularly as occasionally they may change the gate because of congestion on the runways. They will always say there is a gate change although you may have to look closely on the screen to see it. Try to head back to the gate at least ten minutes before your plane is scheduled to begin boarding to leave plenty of time. 

  1.  Boarding

It’s time to say your goodbyes to Boston (or wherever you are departing from) as you begin the final process at the airport. This can get confusing, but it’s very straightforward once you understand it. Your gate agent will begin calling out boarding groups over the intercom. It is very important that you listen closely for your boarding group, indicated on your ticket. If your group hasn’t been called out yet, be patient. If your group has already been called, you can board with any later group that has been called or in the final boarding call. Once your group has been called, line up and have your boarding pass ready to be scanned. 

  1. Entering The Plane

Once you have boarded the plane, you will first be greeted by a very friendly flight attendant. They are there for your safety and comfort. If you’re a nervous flier, let them know! There are people like you on every flight, so don’t be embarrassed. They would much rather help you than see you anxious and think you are in danger. They can talk to you about just how incredibly safe planes are, comfort you, and listen to your concerns. To get their attention, there’s a button with a flight attendant icon on it that you can use any time in flight, besides during takeoff or landing. Once you find your seat (shown on your boarding pass) , stow any large carry-on baggage in the bins overhead, and smaller items that can fit in the seat in front of you. You should check under your seat both to ensure that your life vest is there and to know the location of it.

This past summer, I was flying back to Boston from Philadelphia and expecting to see my life vest, but when I looked under, there was nothing there. I rang the call bell and asked for one. It’s not too uncommon for these vests to fall out of their pouches or be stolen. Even though the chances of getting involved in a fatal emergency onboard are one in eleven million (according to a study at Harvard), you still should be prepared for any emergency situation. This brings me to my next point. 

  1.  Safety Demo

Still anxious, you watch your plane roll back onto the taxiway while the safety demonstration begins playing. This briefing will highlight the features that make flying the safest way to travel. You will be taught how to fasten an airplane seatbelt, use life vests and oxygen masks if they are needed (once again, there’s a one in eleven million chance of a fatal emergency condition compared to one in five thousand in a car) and other safety and comfort features. I’ve been fortunate to fly on upwards of twenty different planes, and there are sometimes things from the demonstrations that I forget as time goes on. I was also fortunate to have an amazing flight attendant over the 2024 February break that let me do the safety demo, knowing I’m an aviation enthusiast. It was an amazing experience! When I finished the safety demo, I got an ovation from all of the passengers! Always give the flight attendants your full attention. If you need to review the information, read the safety card in front of you. 

  1.  Takeoff

After navigating the crowds of the airport, waiting for your plane to board, boarding your plane, and sitting through the safety demo, it’s time to take off. For first time fliers, this is usually when the fear can kick in. Just take some deep breaths and remember it’s okay. You might start to feel strong emotions. But once your plane starts going down that runway and you slowly lift off the ground, it’s going to feel great. It is an experience that cannot be described in words. This is when things will start to look up for you (metaphorically and literally). The plane will start to feel really safe to you. My friend was originally nervous about flying. They hadn’t flown since they were a toddler, and didn’t trust the experience. They were scared to get on the flight, but almost instantly after they got in the air they thought it wasn’t bad at all. They are no longer afraid of flying! Take advantage of this moment of soaring through the beautiful skies. And now, you may even forget about your fear and enjoy the view. 

  1.  Brady’s Top Travel Tips
  1. Food/Drink
  • Pack your favorite snacks in case you get hungry before or after in flight service. 
  • Unless you plan to finish it, don’t get drinks before security as you will need to dump them out.
  1. Electronics
  • Be prepared in the event the wifi doesn’t work or your airline charges for wifi. This could mean bringing a book, or downloading movies ahead of time.
  • Make sure that your electronics are charged before the flight. Try to do this at home, as airport chargers can get crowded.
  • Make sure to bring headphones, both for noise canceling and to allow you to use your devices or if there is any IFE (in flight entertainment).
  1. Seat Choice
  • If it’s your first time flying or are interested in planes,  try to get a window seat. If you find yourself needing to leave your seat a lot or are worried about space, try to get an aisle.
  • If your seat is near the engines, it may get a bit noisy. These sounds may seem irregular, but trust that there’s nothing wrong with the plane if there are some strange sounds.
  1. Updates
  • Your caregivers should download the airline’s app ahead of time and check their email/messages to make sure the flight is on time. If it is delayed, still prepare to leave as if the flight is on time as sometimes flights can get back on time.
  • You should consistently check the app in case there is a gate change, delay, or early departure.
  1. Timing
  • Depending on how busy the airport is, leave at least an hour and a half for checking bags, getting through security, and boarding. 
  • Be sure to be at the gate at least ten minutes before your plane is scheduled to board. This will allow you to hear any special announcements from the gate agent, as well as the boarding calls.
  1. Transportation
  • If you or your caregivers get stressed about Boston traffic or parking, I’d recommend the Framingham Logan Express coach bus if you are in or near Wayland.
  •  If you live in Boston, you can take the Silver Line SL1 from South Station to your terminal or the blue line to Airport Station. From the blue line station, take the Route 55 or 66 bus to your terminal. For help with the MBTA, read here.
  1. Fun Facts & Statistics
  • Flight attendants are more than “air waiters/waitresses.” They have to go through vigorous training where they are taught how to deal with unruly passengers, medical emergencies, cabin depressurization, emergency landings both on land and sea, how to fight fires, how to give birth to a baby, and more.  You’re in good hands!
  • Flying is by far the safest way to travel.

 It’s safer than taking the bus or train, riding a boat, driving and even walking. 

  • At the time of writing this, the last fatal plane crash in the United States was over 15 years ago. That was when Barack Obama was being inaugurated as president. 
  • In 2023, there were about 16 Million flights in the United States and 1,225 emergencies onboard, 1,216 of them being medical emergencies that were not caused by flying. That means 9 non-medical emergencies last year out of 16 Million. 
  1. Pictures

Example boarding pass. The three letter codes translate to your destination and starting point. The information may be laid out differently depending on your airline, but regardless, it will contain the same information. 

Items you need to place in a tray at airport security.

Departure Board. To read it, first look for the letter that your destination airport begins with. For example, look for “N” if you’re flying to New York City and then go down a few more rows until you find your flight. If there are multiple flights that day to your destination, they will be listed according to the departure time.                          

Me doing the safety demo!

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