0

I've only been at the airport a couple of times in my life and it's been quite a long time since my last flight. My girlfriend will fly soon and I wonder how much time we will have together at the airport (MUC, Germany).

Could you please tell me which steps happen at the airport?


I vaguely remember what I would expect in an answer. I lack the English vocabulary for this process and I don't quite remember the details. If a good answer contains those aspects, I will remove this part from the question.

  1. Buy the ticket: You specify your start airport and your destination airport, when you want to fly, your passport number, and you pay.
  2. Online Check-in: On the day of your departure, you basically confirm that you want to fly. I have absolutely no clue why this is necessary and what happens if you don't do this.
  3. Give away your luggage: You go to the counter of your airline and give them your luggage. The airline checks if the luggage is too big / too heavy. The staff will give you a "boarding card" which states when your flight goes, which terminal you need to go to / which gate you need to go to. In this area, there can also be people who don't want to fly (e.g. to take back heavy stuff from the luggage). You also get a "tag" for your hand luggage. So essentially you can have 3 types of luggage: (1) One heavy one that you hand over to the airline (2) a medium-sized one that will go over your seat in the plane (3) a small handbag / very small backpack that can also go under the seat.
  4. Go in the "internal" area: Your passport and your boarding card are checked.
  5. Boarding: Maybe 30 minutes before departure, people can actually go on the plane
  6. Departure: The airplane starts!

With Quatar airways in Munich (MUC), I have seen the recommendation to be at the airport 3.5h before departure. How long before the departure should you go into the "internal" area? Or in other words: If you arrive 3.5h before departure at the airport, how much time do you have to say goodbye?

6
  • It’s unclear whether you want just an answer to the final question (how long before you are separated) or if you want a full breakout of whether all your steps above are correct and complete. If the latter, note that full details can vary a lot depending on origin, destination, airline, nationality, and more. We have the origin (MUC), airline (Qatar Airways) but we’re missing the final destination and nationality of the passenger. This may affect the requirement for additional documentation (visas, ETAs, etc.) and procedures. – jcaron May 16 at 15:17
  • Also you forgot going through security (usually just after passport control, though this may vary from airport to airport, don’t know about MUC). – jcaron May 16 at 15:17
  • @jcaron Oh, I wasn't aware that the destination matters (as long as it's outside of the EU I thought it would be the same) or even the nationality of the passenger. In both cases, Indonesia / Indonesian would be the specific answers. – Martin Thoma May 16 at 16:19
  • "Going through security" is probably what I meant with "go in the 'internal' area". Can people who don't want to fly go through security? – Martin Thoma May 16 at 16:20
  • Not in Germany, you need a valid boarding pass to pass the gates before security check. – dunni May 16 at 19:18
6

Buy the ticket: You specify your start airport and your destination airport, when you want to fly, your passport number, and you pay.

The main thing to write down is your Record Locater or Booking Reference which is a 6 letter/digit code. This will be useful for every interaction around the booking.

Online Check-in: On the day of your departure, you basically confirm that you want to fly. I have absolutely no clue why this is necessary and what happens if you don't do this.

At the moment online check in is rarely an option for international flights. Due to Covid almost all countries have testing, registration or documentation requirements that need to be checked manually by airline staff at the airport. You can check in at the airport instead: either at kiosk but more likely at a counter. At check in, they will verify your booking and your documents and will print you a boarding pass. At this point you can also drop off your checked luggage, if you have any.

Give away your luggage: You go to the counter of your airline and give them your luggage. The airline checks if the luggage is too big / too heavy. The staff will give you a "boarding card" which states when your flight goes,

See check in

which terminal you need to go to / which gate you need to go to.

You should determine which terminal you depart from BEFORE you go to the airport. The check in counter will only be in one terminal, so you need to go to the right one. You can certainly transfer between terminals but in some airports that can take quite a bit of time.

Gate info varies from airport to airport: In most cases it's printed on your boarding pass, but in some airports they will only tell you the general area and announce the gate maybe an hour before departure. So you need to monitor the signs in the terminal.

In this area, there can also be people who don't want to fly (e.g. to take back heavy stuff from the luggage). You also get a "tag" for your hand luggage. So essentially you can have 3 types of luggage: (1) One heavy one that you hand over to the airline (2) a medium-sized one that will go over your seat in the plane (3) a small handbag / very small backpack that can also go under the seat.

Hand luggage is rarely tagged. Make sure to check the airline rules for carry on luggage. Some airlines are very restrictive with what can go in the overhead bin. They have weight limits and will often enforce them. Other airlines don't care.

Go in the "internal" area: Your passport and your boarding card are checked.

You'll go through boarding pass check and then passport control. The most time consumig activity here is tends to be security. All your carry on items and you as a person will be scanned.

Boarding: Maybe 30 minutes before departure, people can actually go on the plane

Boarding time is printed on your boarding pass. It can be anywhere from 1.5 hours to 20 minutes before departure. The boarding often also states a "gate closing time". That's the official cut off time for making the flight: If you are not at the gate by that time, you have lost your seat on the flight.

Boarding processes can be convoluted (by status, row, boarding group etc). Just follow the announcements.

At boarding they always check your boarding pass and in many cases your documents again, so make sure you have them easily accessible.

Get on the plane, find your seat, store your gear, settle down and relax. You are done.

How long before the departure should you go into the "internal" area? Or in other words: If you arrive 3.5h before departure at the airport, how much time do you have to say goodbye?

3.5 hours is excessive for Munich. If you come this early, the check in counter may no even be open yet. Last time, I flew from Munich I did hotel to gate in 15 minutes (granted it was an early morning domestics flight and I was staying in the airport Hilton). I'd say 2 hours would be fine and 2.5 hours is plenty. The most unpredictable part is security. It can vary a lot on time of day and staffing level and attitude. Munich actually posts current wait times at https://www.munich-airport.com/flight-connections-transit-240142 . If you want to spend more time with people after check in, you can determine security time and than determine how much time you have. Personally, I'm comfortable with targeting start of boarding or 30 minutes before gate closing.

Tips and Tricks

  • During covid many procedures and rules change frequently. Make sure you are up to date, understand all the requirements and that you have the necessary documents
  • While many airlines accept electronic copies of PCR test, travel forms, things are typically easier if you print them out and show them in paper
  • Make sure you have all your documents easily accessible. You may have to show them frequently and unexpectedly. Last time I flew to Germany, my PCR test was checked at least 5 times.
2
  • These tips and tricks are great. I was connecting in Australia to a flight to New Zealand and they needed proof of a flight leaving NZ and my laptop was completely discharged on the long flight to Australia. Print everything. – chx May 17 at 0:57
  • Thank you :-) This helps a lot :-) – Martin Thoma May 19 at 20:23
2

What are the steps for flying?

  1. Buy your ticket. This is almost always done online, but can be done by phone or through a travel agent. You may be asked to give passport details at this stage. You will also be told how early before your departure time you have to be at the airport - usually from 1 hour for a short domestic flight to 3 hours for a long international flight.
  2. Online check-in. Usually done up to 24hrs before the flight. This lets the airline know you really intend to fly, and allows you to check if your flight's time has changed. For international flights you will have to give passport details here. Often you get to choose your seat at this time, so do it early. Often you can print your boarding card.
  3. Check-in at the airport. This can sometimes be skipped if you have done online check-in and have only cabin baggage (items small enough to keep with you in the plane). If you don't have a boarding card or need to check bags you need to do this. You need to have your ID checked. It may be done by machine or by a person. Bags other than cabin bags will be taken from you here. You will probably need to wait in line, possibly a long one. If you didn't check in online be sure to arrive early.
  4. Go through a security check. Your bags will be scanned, and you will be searched or scanned too. Up to this point someone who isn't flying can stay with you, but they will not be allowed through security. Some people wait a bit before going through security, but it's best to go through right away. There are often lines to get through security. There are places to eat, drink and shop after security. For countries that check passports on exit this will be done around here.
  5. Boarding the plane. Your boarding card usually tells you which gate your plane departs from, and there are also screens telling you the gate and time when boarding of the plane will start. Keep checking them as they can change. Get to the gate early - boarding can start up to an hour before departure.
2
  • Also, when boarding the plane, listen to instructions, they will tell you when to board the plane according to your seat row. (it'll be chaos, but you'll get in) – Max May 16 at 20:16
  • In Schengen Area airports (like MUC) usually to go airside you present your boarding pass and then go through security. Then you are in the "Schengen" are of the airport. So if your destination is within Schengen you do not need to go through passport control. (The airline may ask for your passport or ID at the gate, but not all do) IT is only when you are travelling to a non-Schengen destination that you need to go through passport control to access the non-Schengen departure area. – Krist van Besien May 17 at 11:14
0

The procedure for flying internationally is somewhat involved and any mistakes or omission on your part is considered your fault which can cause delays or loss of your flight, so it is very good to know the steps involved.

  1. The first step is usually to check the entry-requirements of your destination country. You need to make sure that your current documentation allows you to travel to your intended destination. This means making sure you have a valid passport that satisfies the entry requirements of the destination. A number of countries ask for a passport to be valid for a certain number of months (3-6 is typical) beyond your arrival.

    Depending on your nationality, you may need a visa to travel where you are going. In this case, you must get informed on how to proceed. Some countries offer a visa-on-arrival but those have requirements too (ex: bringing a photo of a certain size and cash of a certain currently - usually USD to pay for it), some offer electronic visas you can apply for online, some require you visit a consulate and leave your passport there which you can pickup or have it mailed back.

  2. The next step is to buy your ticket. Most tickets have set dates and those are the days you will be flying, always in local-time (important to for you return flight and possible connections. Be sure to book sufficiently in advance to have received any documentation you need, including renewing your own passport if it needs to be valid longer than the one you currently have and visas on the passport you will travel with (some visas are assigned to the passport while some are transferable, so be sure to get them in the right order).

    A. When booking you ticket, pay particular attention to stop-overs that are not in the departure or arrival country. They may have Transit Visa requirements depending on the duration of the stop over. Generally, you will need to have the right to enter the country for overnight stop-overs.

    B. If you have an Open Ticket, you will need to call the airline to book the departure date. Those are rare and generally more expensive. Travel vouchers and award travel work similarly.

  3. Pack. Verify your baggage allowance which is generally split into a personal item, a piece carry-on luggage and checked luggage. Airlines have strict strictions on most of these but only checked ones are systematically checked. Try not to exceed any official limit as some airlines are quite strict! Be sure that all your essentials (documentations and medicine) plus valuables are in cabin luggage. Be sure to check the allowance for your ticket as airlines sell low-cost tickets without allowance of all types of luggage (but you can usually buy for more at the airport - up to a certain maximum).

  4. Online checking. Typical airlines offer online checkin 23 hours ahead of departure. This will allow you to confirm the flight time and date (that may change slightly or a lot - in which case you can call the airline to get rebooked into an alternative you prefer. If not, some jurisdictions allow compensation for significant scheduling changes).

    A. It is possible your online checking will not complete. In this case the process still serves to confirm your flight and often seating and baggage allowance (which you can usually upgrade at that point to) and you will be given a checkin confirmation (usually labelled This is NOT a boarding pass). This will force you to lineup in personal at a checkin counter where they check your entry-requirements to the destination country. Nowadays, they also use this to take a temperature check, asked you questions about covid-19 symptoms and check your paperwork in case you need to show proof of a covid-test.

  5. Arrive at the airport with enough time to go through all the following steps. There is usually a limit to when you can drop-off your checked-luggage (typically 1h before departure) and most people go to airports 90mins to 2 hours before departure. Certain airports require more (3 hours is common in some).

  6. After checking you go to the Baggage Drop area for Checked Luggage only. If you do not have any checked luggage, skip this part completely.

  7. Head to the security entry point. This often varies depending on your gate (which implies your next destination). So even you have an internal trip, a first domestic leg will usually make you go through domestic security.

  8. Most but not all countries also perform exit immigration to check who is leaving the country, sometimes they collect a departure tax during this step.

  9. Go through security and head to you departure gate. Gates change more frequently than any other thing and so be sore to check on airport monitors and listen to loudspeaker announcements for gates changes for your flight. Keep an eye on your belongings there.

  10. Optional but highly recommended: Use the airport bathroom. Plane bathrooms are really uncomfortable and can have long lineups because they are not usable during certain times (take-off, landing, turbulence).

  11. Wait to the gate area and keep listen to announcement. They may announce a gate change, delay or simply call people to perform secondary verification. Eventually they will announce boarding by class and/or group number (which is written on your boarding pass). Line up when they call your turn and be sure to stand in the correct line. Larger planes can have multiple boarding lanes for different classes and groups.

  12. Board the plane, taking note of where you place your luggage if you use the overhead bins or if you were asked to hand-over a larger bag, stroller, baby-chair (for gate-checking) during the process.

  13. Make yourself as confortable as the space allows it and enjoy your flight!

3
  • You missed out the passport check/stamp out of Schengen, and you missed telling where they have to say goodbye as the party not flying is no longer allowed to come along. – Willeke May 17 at 15:02
  • In point 1, you forgot the need to check for requirements to transit a country, not just enter the country of destination. Those can range from non-existent to "need a full visa", with "need a TWOV visa" or "need a transit visa" in between (and of course vary a lot depending on origin, destination, citizenship, country of transit, duration of transit, airport(s) of transit, terminal(s) of transit, airlines, ticketing...). Those are often one of the biggest traps for travellers. – jcaron May 17 at 15:57
  • That is 2A. You usually don't know the transit country ahead of time since you have to start looking at buying tickets first. That's why I put the step later. And, yeah, there are sometimes other steps! – Itai May 18 at 1:38

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.