The Anatomy of a Flight
Navigate the Experience
Planning your trip
Airlines provide safe, efficient and affordable air travel, connecting communities across the globe. Our members are working hard to enhance the passenger experience and make air travel better for everyone. Planning a trip is easier than ever and technology enables greater access to tools available by each carrier. With just a few steps, you can help ensure that your trip will be seamless and more enjoyable from start to finish.
24 hour checklist
Passengers can take many steps in the 24 hours before departure to ensure they have a smooth travel experience.
Booking Your Flight
Children, Pets and special assistance
Your Boarding Pass
Airlines offer multiple options for passengers to obtain a boarding pass. Once you check in online, a boarding pass can be printed, or downloaded to your phone, either by email or through the airline’s mobile application. Upon arrival at the airport, passengers can also print their ticket from a self-service kiosk, or have it printed by a ticket agent.
Seats may be reserved at the time of booking and changes can be made when checking in for your flight. Some airlines do not assign seats, but rather boarding positions.
Boarding Time and Group:
Some flights, particularly international, begin boarding an hour before the listed departure time. For most flights it is recommended that you arrive at the gate and ready to board at least 45 minutes prior to departure. Check with your carrier for information related to minimum processing time expected for your flight.
If this symbol appears, you are approved for expedited screening, so proceed directly to the TSA Pre✓™ lane at security.
Look for icons indicating the services provided during your flight, such as Wi-Fi and meals for purchase.
A gate agent will scan the bar code when you board the flight. For those with mobile boarding passes, scan the bar code on mobile scanners in security and at the gate.
Passengers are eligible for check-in online or through their mobile device 24 hours before departure to save time and bypass the ticket counter at the airport. Online check-in allows for selection of other amenities as well, such as available upgrades and access to the airport lounge or advance payment of services like onboard Wi-Fi and priority boarding.
Ticket agents are available to assist with check-in, rebooking, baggage check, passengers traveling with infants or pets and customers with special travel needs.
Airline kiosks provide passengers a quick way to check-in, change seats, select available upgrades, print boarding passes and check luggage.
Checking Your Bag:
Airlines are constantly working to advance technology and develop innovative processes to improve your travel experience, including delivery, self-baggage tagging and home printed baggage tags. Consult your carrier for the most current information on baggage checking options.
Members of loyalty programs and airline credit card holders often receive a discount or complimentary checked baggage, however, if there is a checked bags fee, it can be paid for during online check-in and taken immediately to a baggage drop area upon arrival at the airport. Additionally, passengers may check bags with an agent at the ticket counter, at a kiosk, or at the curb.
Airlines provide information regarding baggage policies and packing recommendations on their websites. Before travel, know the size and weight restrictions for checked and carry-on bags, as well as restricted items. There may be a fee for checked bags, and in most cases, there is a fee for an overweight bag. Members of loyalty programs and airline credit card holders often receive a discount or complimentary checked baggage. If you have special items like golf clubs or skis, consult your carrier for guidelines and options for checking.
For the safety of passengers and airline crew, some tools, sharp objects, sporting equipment and most weapons are not allowed in carry-on or checked baggage. Review TSA’s list of prohibited items
and pack accordingly.
Airlines and the TSA continue to make security screening improvements, ensuring that all passengers experience a safe and secure trip. Pre✓™ provides expedited screening for eligible individuals. Other security lanes accommodate families traveling together and passengers with disabilities.
What to Carry: 3-1-1
The TSA places restrictions on liquids, aerosols and gels and prohibits some other items from entering the secure area of the airport to ensure passenger and flight crew safety. Each passenger is allowed a single, clear, one-quart bag with liquids in three-ounce or smaller containers.
Remember 3-1-1: 3-ounce bottle; 1 quart-sized, clear bag; for 1 bag per passenger.
This expedited screening lane is available for TSA Pre✓™ and CBP Global Entry members, members of the military, some airline customers and others as determined by TSA agents.
Passengers in this lane do not need to remove their shoes or laptops. For information on enrolling in Pre✓™, visit the TSA website. On the day of travel, if a Pre✓™ symbol is at the top of your boarding pass you can proceed right to the Pre✓™ lane.
At some airports, airlines provide a separate security lane for loyalty program members, airline credit card holders, flight crew and those who purchase or upgrade to a business or first class seat. To take advantage of this option, contact your carrier for more information.
provides assistance to travelers with disabilities and medical conditions, arranging for a Passenger Support Specialist upon request. Passengers are encouraged to contact the TSA 72 hours in advance of travel to make arrangements.
Family and medical lanes are provided at some airports for those who require liquids in excess of the 3-1-1 rule. Medications, baby formula and food are allowed in containers larger than three ounces. It is recommended that these items be labeled, and passengers must notify the security officer of possession at the beginning of the screening process.
In the Terminal
Airlines are working together with airports around the world to provide a comfortable and convenient customer experience and expand amenities while traveling. Airport maps with dining and shopping options can be found throughout the terminal, online or using an airline’s mobile application and some airports have their own mobile applications.
Safety is the number one priority for our member airlines. They also work hard every day to accommodate each customer’s travel needs, investing in their product to improve service and passenger comfort.
Taxi & Takeoff
Airlines work to ensure safe operations and on-time arrivals. While passengers go through the check-in process, security screening and board their flight, ground crews are working behind the scenes to provide you with an efficient and pleasant journey.
Air Traffic Control:
Operated by the FAA, the current air traffic control system uses ground-based technology to provide safe navigation for all aircraft traveling through U.S. airspace. The FAA is in the process of modernizing the system and airlines have already invested hundreds of millions of dollars to evolve to NextGen, a 21st century satellite-based system that would further enhance safety, reduce carbon emissions and improve customer satisfaction by reducing delays and cancellations.
New Airport Technology:
Improvements in airport infrastructure result in increased safety and efficiency, such as advanced runway technology, lighting and surface detection equipment. Other improvements include new taxiways, bridges and ramp expansion. Airlines have also invested in the digitization of pilot in-flight manuals to allow quick access to flight, systems and performance information.
Thousands of employees work daily to provide mechanical support, conduct safety inspections, de-ice planes, fuel planes, deliver catering, direct aircraft on the tarmac and quickly move bags and other cargo items through the airport network.
Baggage Claim & Customs
Upon arrival, travelers collect checked bags—and if traveling internationally, go through customs.
Boards and Carousels:
Airline employees and airport signage indicate your flight’s designated baggage claim carousel. This information may also be available through your airline’s mobile application.
Sophisticated, high-tech baggage handling systems enables the airline to track your bag from departure to arrival. You may even be able to track the bag yourself through your airline’s website or mobile application. If you requested baggage delivery, it will arrive at the destination of your choice - hotel, home or other location – within the allotted timeframe offered by your airline.
If you have any concerns regarding your checked baggage, airline employees in offices near the carousels are available to assist you.
All U.S. citizens and international visitors are required to pass through customs inspection upon arrival. Required paperwork is usually handed out in-flight for completion prior to landing. It is the responsibility of each passenger to provide proper documentation, make declarations and meet all entry requirements. Some airlines have invested in self-service kiosks at U.S. points of entry to reduce customs wait times.
Global Entry and NEXUS:
Upon re-entry to the U.S., members of Global Entry and NEXUS scan their passport and fingertips at a kiosk, make customs declarations and answer a few on-screen questions to receive a receipt. Once processed, travelers are directed to baggage claim and the airport exit.