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Explorer C

im hoping someone can give me some helpful tips to calm the anxiety with this one.  this will be my first time flying (and alone might i add) at the end of the month for work, im 21 but have had little to no interactions with airports. Also ive heard southwests boarding is different when you check in online and it places you by how early you check in. is the boarding very hard to understand or confusing when you get there for new flyers? and would there be anyone to help assist me around the airport so im not completely lost? i think the airport gives me more anxiety than the actual plane does.



Aviator A

I don't know if this will help you, but I am probably never as relaxed and excited as I am when I am about to board a plane.  It may sound crazy but for me it's the feeling of freedom.


Here is the Southwest link for boarding:


If you're traveling alone I personally don't feel like it's worth getting worked up about boarding, it's a pretty straight forward process.  Traveling with my family can be a little different because in an ideal world we'd like to sit together but it's not guaranteed with Southwest 😞


Give yourself plenty of time at the airport then you can go explore before it's time to board.


I'll stop there, I'm sure you'll get tons of tips but let us know if you have more questions.


Have fun!!!!



Customer | Home airport DCA


Aviator A

Congrats on your first flight.  I remember my first - Chicago to New York when I was 9.  I was stoked.


The SW process is pretty easy. First you check in to get your boarding position. If you can do it EXACTLY 24 hours before flight time, you are likely to get a good one - someting better than say B30.  First all A spots board in order of their boarding positions A1 to A60. Then Bs board in the same way, followed by Cs. When you get on the plane, you can sit in any seat that is not occupied by a person or is being saved for another person.  


It really is that easy. You won't have any trouble.


Hint: be sure to get to the airport and gate  in plenty of time so you can be in line when your boarding group starts to line up.


Adventurer A

Hello amorley135,


Usually, a SWA agent announces/describes the boarding process at the gate, so it’s easy to follow along, and once you’re on the plane, you can take any empty seat you like.


Likewise, the check-in process when you first enter the airport is designed to be easy to follow, whether you are checking in a suitcase or not. There are plenty of signs with instructions on how to follow along. The key thing is to arrive with plenty of time to spare.


Basically, most of the airport experience has been very carefully designed so that it’s easy to follow along. Pretend that you’re a sheep, and just follow the herd, and you’ll be just fine. 😄


Being that this will be your very first flight, I would recommend that you select a window seat, so you can better observe the wonderful experience of air travel. Note: if you sit in the wing area, your view of Earth below will be obstructed by, well, the wing  😉 so you may wish to avoid it. There is a useful website with information on the pros and cons of different seats on different aircraft, if you have time you may want to check out:  seatguru  [dot]  com.


Your boarding position will impact the seat choices you’ll have once you get on board, and the boarding position is affected by when you check in for your flight. It’s wise to set your smartphone alarm and make sure to check in exactly 24 hours before your flights (or, to get automatically checked in, purchase EarlyBird).


You might like to explore in advance the websites for the specific airports you will be flying into and out of, because there may be interesting things to do and see there, both outside and inside the secure area. Some airports have small but very unique museums/memorabilia, art exhibits, and even yoga/relaxation rooms!


It can get very cold during flight. Decades ago, airlines used to offer small/thin blankets for passengers to borrow, but that’s very rare on domestic flights nowadays. Southwest doesn’t offer blankets, so I’d suggest that you wear warm clothes or bring your own small blanket in your carry-on bag. Even if you find that it’s not too cold during the flight, you can always use the small blanket as a cushion for extra padding on the seat.


Depending on the length of your trip, you may want to bring some food or snacks onto the plane, because Southwest does not offer food-for-sale service on board. You may also wish to bring to the airport an *empty* water bottle that you can take through the security check-point and then fill up for free at a water fountain once you’re in the boarding-gate area --or you can pay exorbitant amounts of money to purchase a water bottle once you get past the security checkpoint; please keep in mind that EVERYTHING is more expensive in the secure boarding-gate area, and even MORE expensive once you’re on the plane where a bottle of beer may cost you $7.


Last suggestion: install on your smartphone in advance the Southwest App, which you need to have installed before you can enjoy the in-flight entertainment (some of the SWA onboard entertainment is free, some of it costs $).


I remember how alien the experience was to me when I went on my first flight. I remember being anxious, and I must say, Southwest has a unique, laid-back culture, and I wish that SWA had been my first experience.


I’m sure you’ll be fine. Please come back and share your airport/flight experience.


Enjoy your flight!


Aviator A

Actually, the TSA security process at the airport is much more complicated than anything

that  Southwest does.


Hints: you can't carry (CORRECTION: PAST THE TSA CHECKPOINT) any liquids/gels in sizes greater than, I think, 3.4 ounces. Think water, shampoo, toothpaste, etc. All your liquids need to  fit in a quart size baggie. You can carry bigger sizes in checked baggage.   Don't carry  a gun or anything sharp on board.  Once I mistakenly tried to carry a screwdriver -- a no no.


At a ticket screening point, you will need to show a TSA agent your identification (think dirvers license) and your boarding pass and then  (see below)


You will need to go thru a computerized body scanner. You will need to remove your shoes, and jacket and ALL  non clothing items (think wallet, watch, rings, necklaces, EVERYTHING in your pockets, etc).  I find it easier to remove all these itmes and put them in jacket pockets after passing the ticket screening point and before I get in line for the body scanner.  The scanner will see EVERYTHING that looks unusual. Your jacket and any carry on bags will go thru an X-Ray screener. TSA is looking for hidden weapons, explosives, etc. 


This may be a bit much (I think the above gives you what you need), but here's the full blown TSA description:


One thing about checked luggage at Southwest, if you check l  luggage, make sure it does not weigh too much. Your first two checked bags are free, but any bag that weighs more than 50 pounds will cost you $35


Adventurer A



With all due respect, I believe you are misinforming when you state “you can't carry (on the plane) any liquids/gels in sizes greater than, I think, 3.4 ounces”.


You can bring into the plane a lot more than 3.4 ounces of liquids. You can bring to the airport an empty bottle and fill it up with water once you’re past the TSA security checkpoint, or you can purchase an expensive bottle of water once you’re inside the secure area and bring it on the plane.


I always bring a 16-oz bottle of water on the plane, and I keep it in the seat pocket (not in the carry-on that goes in the overhead compartment that gets shut right before take-off). Taking a couple of sips helps me equalize (i.e., “pop”) the ears during take-off when there is a change in air pressure.


Southwest flight attendants hand out a free cup of water or soft drinks during flight, and I truly enjoy the amenity, but I also like having my own water bottle, which I can sip from during take-off and landing. 🙂


I know you meant "into the TSA security checkpoint" instead of "on the plane," but this post is for the benefit of a first-time flyer, so these details may be important. 😊


Happy flying!


Aviator A

Touche. Ya got me.