f) Then they will print out your ticket, usually circle information on it including your departure gate (if known), give it to you along with a ticket for your luggage (sometimes not always but usually at the bigger airports and for bigger destinations), point you to the departures area, and tell you to have a nice flight. The time they will give you for boarding is usually about an hour before flight departure but sometimes a bit less. Usually, though, an hour for big long-haul flights like yours even if they're broken up in stages.
g) Then you have to kick around basically and wait for your flight. There are two parts to an airport basically:
h) The first is the outside, ticket, general milling-about, everyone's families saying goodbye, etc. area and then there is the departures hall. The departures hall, or area, is where all the flights leave from and only ticket holders can be in this area for security reasons. As soon as you get your ticket, and depending on whether or not you're saying goodbye straight away to family, etc., find out where this area is and don't leave it until, say, an hour before because you need to go through security, sometimes emigration control, then gates as well can be to hell and gone on the other end of the terminal. The sooner you get into the departures hall the better, really.
i) As you go into the departures area, there will be a person behind a desk that will ask for your passport and ticket (or usually just the ticket but sometimes both). You will also get a little plastic bag to carry all your liquids in for the plane. This is a security procedure that came about with all the hijackings about ten years ago so they're very fussy about it. Anything that's liquid and, I think, a maximum of 70ml has to be put in this bag. I also include things like asthma pumps, any medication and so on.
j) After you get your passport/ticket checked, you then go through to departures via a security area. These usually involve long and tedious lines so, again, make sure you have enough time. A lot of airports in America, too, I think, make you remove your shoes but generally just follow what everyone else in the line is doing. A lot will be regular travellers from that terminal so just follow their lead (especially if they're in a business suit). Belts, any metal items (keys, change), cell phones, laptops, anything like that, and also your jacket, shoes, etc., are then all placed in a little plastic tray that you can grab as you come up to the detector machine. You pop all your stuff in the tray and there are loads of people milling about that will then swing it through the x-ray thing. Then you will be asked to wait and then move forward on the instructions of an airport official. You go through the detector and then come out the other side, grab your stuff that should have come through at the same time as you did, get your shoes on, etc. and head on your way. Occasionally, for whatever reason, they may select you to run a metal detector over. Don't take this personally. They say it's a random selection and I do believe that but, like I've said previously, for some reason they seem to target young men. Like I say, though, don't take it personally. Just be polite and helpful and everything will be cool.
k) Once that's done, then you're free to mill about until your flight. I usually check where my gate is although sometimes these don't come up until about boarding time. If you don't know, calculate a rough time estimate for how long it would take you to get to the farthest gate. A lot of big airports again give estimated distance times to them but again it depends on the airport you're flying out from. You can use the rest of your time to get things like a bottle of water if you want it (for security reasons, you can't get water outside the departures area, or rather, they won't let you take it in so remember that). Any duty free, like cigarettes, a bottle of whisky for your girlfriend's dad or whatever - all that you get during this time. Also, grab something small to eat. I don't know why but it just makes flying easier and seems to help with airline food as well (although, frankly, airline food is awesome and I love it - a lot of people bitch about it but it's fantastic as far as I'm concerned).
l) And then your flight will come up on the board and be called and you head for your departure gate. This will usually be a seating area full of people all waiting, then they call the flight, you all line up according to the rows they call (so, they always start with business and first class and then people in wheelchairs, sometimes those with infants and so on). After that they go for blocks of rows, so, rows A through J and then K through T or however it goes.
m) Then you go through another ticket desk where someone takes your ticket and runs it through a machine, checks your passport, gives you the ticket stub, and again tells you to have a good flight and points you to the gangway you'll be using. You might occasionally again get emigration/immigration around here who might pull you over to check your passport but again, no big deal and nothing personal. You might also have to go through extra x-raying depending on where you're going to and from. Like in some countries, for instance in Africa, they don't say but I guess they don't really trust the locals to do things properly so the airlines have their own security at boarding. You also get this with flights to America from the London airports as well but in that case I think just an extra security precaution. Probably won't happen but it might so don't be alarmed or anything. For these they usually select random people as well so, once again, nothing to get phased about.
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