Random thoughts from Pencefn

…. an engineer, singer and photographer living in Scotland

Air Travel – Travelling with a first time air passenger (I)


Over the years I have travelled extensively by air both within the UK, across Europe and further afield.

Over the past few days I have taken a short break in Copenhagen with a friend who has never flown before. Until now I had not realised how much I had taken the progress through an airport for granted. This has raised several questions in my mind, and thoughts about how illogical an airport can be.

The Outward Journey

We flew out of Heathrow – first find your way from the tube station to the correct terminal – Terminal 3 in our case. Now when you get to the top of the escalator – near. Zone A is to our left where Virgin check-in desks are located, but we were flying with SAS Scandinavian Airlines. To the right of the lifts from the underground walkway from the Piccadilly Line is a display screen. SAS check-in is in Zone E. Now find Zone E, but once inside how to check-in, remember I am travelling with someone who has never flown before. At the SAS area there are a lot of people, mainly because the Qatar Airline check-in is between the SAS check-in desk and the SAS ticket desk. Opposite is HMR&C VAT refund desk. Find a SAS representative and ask, which worked and we proceeded to check-in although presented with the e-ticket printout all the check-in clerk wanted was our passports. Security questions answered, our bags were handed our to the tender care of the Heathrow baggage handlers.

Question – how do you explain to someone who has travelled by bus and train why check-in is required. We have a ticket why is a boarding pass also required? Think about it? Have you been flying regularly over the years since the days of paper tickets? Remember when the boarding card had a pocket for the ticket which was taken off you when boarding? How does this equate with e-tickets – and on-line check-in?

Now to pass through security. Do they want to see passport and/or boarding pass? Answer – Boarding Pass. Travelling SAS business class meant we could use the Fast Track security channel. We went straight through to the shopping area in Terminal 3 to the SAS lounge. The reception also wanted to see the boarding pass to allow us entry.

A comfortable wait in the lounge over we headed to gate 9. Now looking in the lounge, how do you know how far a walk is required. For those of you who know Terminal 3, will appreciate it is a short walk, but what if we had been flying with Air Canada (whose passenger can also use this lounge). Some of the gates they use are a 10 minute (or longer) walk away and the assumption is made that you have already seen the sign with walking times in the main Departure Lounge shopping centre.

Arrival at gate 9, Boarding Pass and Passport needed this time, and a wait in the holding lounge. Boarding was chaotic – the door to the air bridge was opened and it was a free-for-all. Only after 20 or so people had headed to the aircraft was an announcement made. No pre-boarding to families, elderly or those of limited mobility; no boarding by seat row. Definite minus mark for SAS here. Another minus mark to the cabin crew – most of you will now be familiar with a boarding pass check as you enter the aircraft.

So how many times was the passport and boarding card checked:-
Passport – twice (at check-in and entering the gate lounge)
Boarding Pass – three times (at security, entering the SAS lounge and the gate lounge)

Upon arrival at Copenhagen – now to navigate the way out of the airport. Follow signs to arrivals and baggage reclaim. But wait passport required. Once passing through passport control you are now airside mixing with departing passengers. Where is the way out. Found it between the exit from the security check area and the obligatory shopping area that it is most airports.

Following through bags were on belt 4 – where is belt 4? Found it. Now to get the bags. My travelling companion was concerned that anyone could pick up your bag and walk off with it. Fair comment – in 15 years of air travel I have only once had my bag picked up by someone else – at the old Terminal 1 in Toronto – and they put it back once they have read the tag. What about bags not arriving – only three times that has happened to me. Each time it was on the next plane on that route – twice in the UK when heading home and once in North America, when flying into Atlanta. The last occasion was scary as it had my paperwork for a three week business trip in it and the power supply for my laptop.

Now finding our way out of the airport to the train station. From the baggage hall (T3) at Copenhagen airport to the station is a straight 100m walk, but once again the signposts are not clear to the first time user.

In Copenhagen it was a simple case of a short walk to our hotel, except I could not find it initially (and it was raining), however I saw it in the corner of the main square. So it shows even if you have been somewhere before, you can get lost.

The thoughts on the return journey to follow……..

Author: Stewart

An instrumentation engineer who enjoys photography and singing. Working in the West of Scotland; a member of St Mary's Cathedral Glasgow and Southwark Cathedral; and a volunteer guard/signalman on the Ffestiniog Railway in North Wales.

3 thoughts on “Air Travel – Travelling with a first time air passenger (I)

  1. Pingback: Air Travel – Travelling with a first time air passenger (I … | americantoday

  2. Have once experienced lost bags – they didn’t arrive until nearly the end of a two-week holiday! Fortunately we were on a ‘house swap’ and our partners were able to a) supply necessities for first night until we could go shopping next morning b) show us where nearest shops were thus saving us time and hassle! Boarding is usually a scrum in my experience – concept of queuing patiently seems to go out of the window!

    Original comment posted by Sue on Facebook

  3. Pingback: Air Travel – Travelling with a first time air passenger (II) « Random thoughts from Pencefn

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