How to Check Into a UK Airport

Okay, so you are a first time flyer and know little about what to do from when you arrive at the airport to boarding that plane. Read on and find out.

UK airport rules only.


  1. Image titled Check Into a UK Airport Step 1
    Arrive on time! This is probably one of the most important steps in this article. You need to arrive 2 hours before you are due to fly. Even if you know you are delayed, arrive before the time stated on your booking confirmation.
  2. Image titled Check Into a UK Airport Step 2
    You made it to the airport. Now, before you head for check in, you should have to hand: - Your passport, your flight ticket, your booking confirmation (in case of a problem).
  3. Image titled Check Into a UK Airport Step 3
    Find the computer screen (TV like) that will tell you where to check in. At most UK Airports these will be signposted. Generally, each flight will have 2-3 check in desks to keep queues down.
  4. Image titled Check Into a UK Airport Step 4
    Get in the correct queue. If you are unsure, ask an airport attendant.
  5. Image titled Check Into a UK Airport Step 5
    Queue patiently, and when you arrive at the desk, greet the check-in clerk and hand over your flight ticket with your passport.
  6. Image titled Check Into a UK Airport Step 6
    If you have any baggage to be checked in, after he/she has checked your documents, you will be asked to place these on the conveyor belt one at a time. NB: Most airlines charge for checking in baggage so please, to help yourself, check before you go. If it says 15kg, stick to 15kg. If it says 20kg, stick to 20kg or you may need to pay extra at check-in!
  7. Image titled Check Into a UK Airport Step 7
    Providing that your baggage is within the correct weight range, you will then say goodbye to your suitcase (until you land at your destination) and it will be labelled with an identification tag, which will have a code that matches one which will be stuck on your passport cover (to track your luggage) and other info like a "HEAVY" tag or "TRANSFER AT" tag.
  8. Image titled Check Into a UK Airport Step 8
    The clerk will then give you back your flight ticket, passport and a boarding card with a seat number.
  9. Image titled Check Into a UK Airport Step 9
    You should now proceed to security.
  10. Image titled Check Into a UK Airport Step 10
    When you reach the security clerk, follow the instructions of the attendant. They will help you meet the requirements of that specific airport. However, 2 rules which are followed at all airports are: your carry-on baggage weighs no more than the specified weight (your airline will tell you once you have booked online), and that if you are taking liquids in your hand baggage, you place them in a resealable plastic bag, with only 100ml or less containers, making sure the bag is not to full. Take your coat off and if you have steel toe cap shoes take them off and put them through the X-ray. If you have a laptop or any other electronic items with you, take them and your liquids out of your bag and place them in a tray. Then when you are called to go through the scanner walk through at a steady pace. If it bleeps, you will be asked to step to the side and be metal detected and searched.
  11. Image titled Check Into a UK Airport Step 11
    When you have successfully cleared security, check the time. Then check your boarding card which will show the time that you should be at the gate. It will also tell you which gate you should be at. If it doesn't, refer to the computer screens in security and the departures lounge which will tell you which gate to proceed to at what time (like the ones that told you which check-in desk. It usually says things like 'Wait in lounge' and 'Proceed to gate' or nothing usually until the run up to your flight.
  12. Image titled Check Into a UK Airport Step 12
    If you have time to spare, check out the shops. For special tax-free discounts, you will need to show your boarding card. (Please bear in mind that it can take up to 60 minutes to walk from one side of the airport to another depending on how large/busy it may be.) There may be shuttle services and there will be boards telling you where to go.
  13. Image titled Check Into a UK Airport Step 13
    Once you are at your gate, look at a computer screen and it will say your carrier, the flight number and the destination and if you are to wait (no colour), board (green) or if the flight is closing (red). There may or may not be a queue, so when you are asked to come forward, hand over your passport and boarding card, have them checked, and board the flight.
  14. Image titled Check Into a UK Airport Step 14
    Once you are on board, you can ask to be shown to your seat if you are unsure. Place any hand baggage in the correct overhead locker, or under the seat in front of you (under the seat in front of you is usually more convenient)
  15. Image titled Check Into a UK Airport Step 15
    Take your seat, but only put on your seat belt either when you are asked or when your row is full (it saves you to keep standing up when people need to get past you)
  16. Image titled Check Into a UK Airport Step 16
    Fasten your seat belt so you are comfortable, and whilst you wait for everyone else to board, read the safety leaflet first and then read the in flight magazine. When asked to do so, pay close attention to the in-flight safety demonstration (this may be in-person or on a film). If you fall asleep keep your seat belt on and keep it visible at all times.
  17. Image titled Check Into a UK Airport Step 17
    Sit back, relax, and enjoy the flight!


  • Read the follow up article - What to do on arrival at a foreign airport!


  • Beware that some UK airports, e.g. Norwich, charge airport development fees on all outgoing flights, for Norwich airport this is £5 per adult, £3 per child (16 or under) and infants are exempt.
  • You could be subject to charges of up to £15 a kg if you go over your baggage allowance - either be prepared, or have a lot of cash on you (most airports accept card, but just in case - have cash!) They do not accept cheques.

Things You'll Need

  • Your passport
  • Your flight ticket
  • Your booking confirmation

Article Info

Categories: Air Travel