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Airline websites seem to assume I've done this before. My extremely limited experience with flying has been direct flights.

  1. Arrive, check-in at the kiosk(s) outside the terminal.
  2. Take bags to airline counter
  3. Go through security
  4. Find your gate

Now I have a layover (in Denver) and I don't know how the system works.

Do I need to go through security again? How do I get a boarding pass if I'm already inside security? Do I need to pick up bags and drop them back off? (Same airline)

I am flying from (from comments):

PDX-DEN then DEN-BNA

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  • 2
    Are both flights on the same airline, and/or were they booked together?
    – Doc
    Jul 1 '20 at 17:31
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    Actually we ask that you use the three letter codes for clarity. Google can help you if you don't know off the bat that DEN is Denver, PDX is Portland, and BNA is Nashville. Jul 1 '20 at 19:15
  • 1
    As a side note, bring a facemask to wear in Denver since it's required at all times in the airport. You'll likely be wearing one on the plane before, but you must keep it on in the airport during your layover. Jul 1 '20 at 19:17
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    The most important thing: DO NOT EVER be afraid or embarrassed to walk up to a uniformed airport employee and ask for help. They deal with lost passengers and lost baggage many times a day and will be happy to help. For that matter, if you're really in a crunch, just stop anyone (who is not in an obvious hurry), ask nicely, and they'll most likely help you the best they can. If you happen to find the crabby grouch, just walk away and try someone who looks nicer.
    – FreeMan
    Jul 2 '20 at 11:21
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    @PaulPalmpje - the reason for specifying airport codes, not city or airport names, is that "New York" could mean JFK, LGA or EWR. And some people may mean LaGuardia, but say "New York". "LGA" is printed on the itinerary and is easy to copy, so it eliminates confusion.
    – FreeMan
    Jul 2 '20 at 11:24
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Assuming your flights were booked as a single itinerary, you will not need to go back through security nor pick up any checked luggage in Denver. When your first flight lands:

  1. Get off the plane, taking your carry-on luggage with you (note 1)

  2. Look for a monitor displaying departing flights

  3. Find your second flight and note its gate number

  4. Go to that gate and wait until it is time to board. (note 2)

You should be given boarding passes for both flights when you check in in PDX (or online). If something happens and you lose your second boarding pass, it can be reprinted at the departure gate of your DEN-BNA flight.

If your flights were not booked as a single itinerary, things get more complicated, but I won't go into that unless you confirm it's the case.

Note 1: If your PDX-DEN flight was on a smaller regional aircraft, some of your carry-on luggage may have been "valet checked" or "gate checked" at the departure gate in Portland. If so, you need to pick it up in the jetway as you exit the plane in Denver, and take it with you to your next flight.

Note 2: DEN has three gate areas, A, B and C; every gate number includes the area letter (e.g. A31, B17). Most likely your DEN-BNA flight will depart from the same gate area where the PDX-DEN flight arrived, in which case you only need to walk east or west along the concourse in the appropriate direction until you find the gate. If you should need to go to a different gate area, they are connected by an underground train, which can be reached by going to the center of the concourse and taking an escalator or elevator down.

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    If you don't know, ask someone when leaving. They deal with this every day and will immediately know what to do. Do NOT go wandering the airport without knowing where you are suppose to go or which signs to follow. If something goes wrong (missing boarding pass, not enough time, etc), immediately ask for assistance, even before landing. Flight attendants can arrange things ahead of time to handle issues that come up.
    – Nelson
    Jul 2 '20 at 3:01
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    More tips: It's a good idea to verify at check-in (PDX) that the checked luggage is tagged to the final destination (the big letters on the tag should be BNA). And if a carry-on bag has to be gate checked in PDX, which is the normal procedure if it's oversize or the overhead bins are full on a mainline jet (as opposed to valet checked, which is done on regional jets), the bag will not be picked up planeside in DEN but will ultimately go to baggage claim, so likewise should be tagged to BNA (the gate agent or flight attendant will confirm your final destination).
    – nanoman
    Jul 2 '20 at 4:39
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    @nanoman That's not necessarily true. Delta uses the term "gate check" to refer to both of these processes and informs you when they give you your claim receipt where you will pick up your bag (either at the breezeway or at the baggage claim). I frequently fly BOS-MKE and my rollerbag is always "gate checked" to be picked up on the jetbridge at MKE (or in the return at BOS).
    – Andrew Ray
    Jul 2 '20 at 15:34
  • Pro-tip: You no longer need a paper boarding pass at all. Download the passes to your phone. You can use that both at security and when boarding. Make sure you can access the images off-line and that you have plenty of battery charge before leaving (bring a charger of course, you can charge at the airport in the worst case). I haven't printed a paper boarding pass in years in the US. (Not sure how well this works at smaller airports or in other countries, but in this case it's all major US airports.) Jul 2 '20 at 18:06
2

You've had a lot of good advice that I'm not going to repeat, other than to say that half a century of travelling the world has taught me that the most important thing is to ask, ask and ask again. Never be afraid to ask -- you won't look stupid, no matter how dumb you may be afraid your question may seem to yourself. Intelligent travellers keep asking questions -- practices vary between airlines and between different airports and different countries.

When booking flights involving a connection I always leave plenty of time between the flights -- at least two hours for an internal connection, and at least three hours if one of the flights is international. Airports are big, confusing places full of confused people. Few airports try really hard to make life easy for passengers. Notable exceptions are Changi (Singapore), Bangkok, and especially Xiamen in China where although there's very little English spoken, it's simply not necessary -- all the staff seem to be on the lookout for lost or confused foreigners and all you need to do is show your ticket or boarding pass and you'll be pointed in the right direction.

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