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Flying for the first time? Have no fear!

We’ve all heard that flying on a plane is statistically safer than driving (and yes—it’s true). However, all the data in the world may be meaningless when you find yourself cruising at over 30,000 feet in the air at 500 miles per hour in a big, pressurized metal object. It’s normal to be nervous before flying for the first time, especially when you’re not informed about how safe, easy and fun the experience can be.  Like many things in life, knowing what to expect can help relieve your anxieties when it comes to flying for the first time.

The first step when it comes to flying is, obviously, getting through the airport. The idea of ticket counters, lines, baggage restrictions, security, and boarding passes on top of navigating an unfamiliar airport may seem daunting, but every airport has a flow and once you know the process, and plan ahead, getting to your gate doesn’t have to be an ordeal. The most important thing is to make sure you give yourself plenty of time—arrive at least two hours before your flight.

First, you will check in with your airline and check your bags if needed. The luggage will be weighed and tagged, then taken to be loaded onto the plane. Make sure any restricted items (like liquids over 3.4 ounces) are in your checked luggage and not your carry-on. Check out the TSA’s website for more information about baggage requirements. You will also want to check your airline’s website for information about the check-in process and weight requirements for bags.

Next you will go through TSA security. Make sure to have all required identification ready and be prepared to remove your shoes, jacket, belt, and anything in your pockets. Place them in the bin to go through x-ray, along with any electronics larger than a cell phone, and any medications or liquids (they must be under 3.4 ounces and fit into one quart-sized clear bag).  You will then walk through the metal detector and collect your belongings on the other side. It can feel daunting, but the TSA security checkpoints are there to ensure the safety of everyone flying and as long as you abide by the rules and guidelines you’ll get through without any issues.

Once you make it through the security checkpoint you are officially on the secure side of the airport where the gates are. At AVL this is where our shop (Blue Ridge Trading) and restaurants (Blue Ridge Tavern, Auntie Annie’s and Cinnabon) are located. If you have time, be sure to relax and grab a bite to eat, a drink, and a unique local gift.  AVL currently has 7 gates so it’s easy to find your gate. You can find helpful information about AVL, including all amenities, on our website.

Then the moment will finally arrive—boarding the plane. Your boarding pass should have a boarding time indicated. Flights can begin boarding as early as 30 minutes before, so be ready. The crew will board the plane by section or zone, so be sure to look at your boarding pass and note which section/zone you are in and listen to the announcements. When they call your section or zone they will scan your boarding pass (so have this ready) then you will board the plane. This may involve an enclosed bridge that you walk through or going downstairs and using a boarding ramp or stairs. You will then find your seat, stow your carry-ons, and settle in for a smooth flight. Some flights offer in-flight entertainment, otherwise make sure to bring something to keep you occupied. 

The crew will go over safety information. While you probably won’t need to use any of it (remember the earlier conversation about the safety of flying?) it’s important to pay attention. But don’t let it make you nervous. Planes have multiple backups and safety features in place to keep you safe. Plus, pilots go through years of intensive training.

The scariest part for many new flyers is taking off. Jetliners take off at speeds of about 150-180mph; fortunately, you don’t feel the full force. The plane is enclosed and pressurized, so while you’ll feel some force it won’t be the same as being on an extremely fast rollercoaster. Once the plane reaches cruising altitude you won’t even know you’re moving. You’ll be able to sit back and relax until you reach your destination.

But what about turbulence, you may ask? Yes, planes do occasionally experience periods of turbulence. However, planes are specifically designed to withstand the strongest forces and most intense conditions, so turbulence is more of an annoyance than an actual threat. Pilots are trained to deal with the changing air currents, so other than the risk of spilling your coffee you can rest assured that the occasional turbulence you experience on your flight is normal.

Before you know it, the pilot will announce that you are getting ready to start your final descent. Much like taking off, landing can be another concern for first time flyers. Like the takeoff, you’ll feel some pressure as the plane descends, but you aren’t going to be plastered to your seat unable to move. You’ll taxi to your gate for a while, and then the pilots and ground crew will park the plane and ensure that it is safe and ready to be exited. From there passengers will begin disembarking the plane. After that just follow signs to the baggage claim, collect your luggage, and enjoy your destination! If there are any issues with your bags just reach out to the airline’s baggage desk (at AVL this is the airline’s ticket counter) and they will help reunite you with your belongings.

Flying can seem overwhelming at first, and for so many people who have phobias or anxieties about flying it can seem daunting. But just know that airports (like AVL), airlines, pilots, air traffic control, and many other staff all work together to make flying a safe and enjoyable experience. So, when you fly for the first time relax, have fun, and enjoy your flight.