"Pilots take no special joy in walking. Pilots like flying." - Neil Armstrong
Welcome on board – part 1: Airplane Travel Planning and Ticket Purchase
Written by: Ivan Stojaković.
Although we are reaching the end of 2020 as a part of 21st century, it is surprising how many opportunities which make our everyday life easier we miss because we are uncertain about usage of new technologies in all segments of life, including the need for transportation from point A to B, regardless of reason for travel. So we find ourselves in situation where we need to travel by air, which is generally perceived with fear and discomfort, not only from flying but from the whole procedure of planning up to effectuating of a trip, which in the end leads to the choice of another means of travel. Here we primarily target persons who travel by plane for the first time and those who still feel repulsion towards planes, airports and this mean of transport in general, despite many air miles under their belts. In order to minimize these situations and hopefully preclude them entirely, we will try to simplify and explain procedures and processes from planning an air travel, which include getting information about flights and airlines, prices and ticket purchase, luggage preparation and packing, transfer to airport and procedures prior to boarding, description of the flight itself up to disembarking an airplane, going through procedures at the airport when we reach our destination and finally up to a moment when we leave an airport and finish our journey by plane.
Our first step is planning and buying tickets. When you decide about your destination you first have to check whether there is an airport in or in vicinity of your chosen destination and also which airport is closest to your location as the starting point of journey. In order to facilitate at least one element in planning, you need to know that starting point of your journey in Croatia can be one of the seven airports in Zagreb, Osijek, Pula, Rijeka, Zadar, Split and Dubrovnik. However, as certain airports are dependent on summer season, sometimes it is better to rely on ones which are larger according to number of flights i.e. year around offers or the ones which have transfer connections from Zagreb that can fly us all over the world, year around. As flights are not offered every day for all destinations from every airport, before we start searching for a ticket it is good to know are we tied to a certain date of travel or are we flexible. In order to comprehend this easily, let us take an example of a trip to our final destination of city/airport Frankfurt in Germany.
Just a hint before searching and buying a ticket… Many people who haven’t travelled by plane yet think that in order to buy a ticket it is necessary to go to an airport or an agency which is related to a habit of buying bus or train tickets as more available and accessible means of transport. We live in times of PCs, smart phones and internet and we are literally connected to a whole world via different communication channels, platforms, applications and internet sites. Therefore, all airlines are offering us possibilities through their and operators’ sites to inform ourselves about all flight schedules, tickets costs, special offers and discounts and everything that airlines offer as part of their service. Our advice is, whenever it’s possible, to search and chose tickets directly on internet sites of airlines which are potential flight operators at airport of your choice and those information are also available at web pages of airports where you can find listings of all airlines which operate (fly) at a certain airport. So it is important to distinguish that an airport is not an operator which is a common mistake. The airport is a business entity which manages operations including everything related to reception and dispatching of passenger and cargo planes, reception and dispatching of passengers, luggage and goods and all procedures for safe handling of ground and proximate airspace traffic. Airline i.e. operator is the one to sell you a ticket and to enable a transport of you as well as your luggage. Also, operator is the one in charge of most segments of travel which are crucial for your choice. Often people are led with a thought that base of an airline is also an airport itself and vice versa. Thus an International Airport Zagreb (MZLZ) is often interconnected with our national operator Croatia Airlines and although its base is at this airport, they are two separate business entities. Also this airport (MZLZ) is a base to a private Croatian operator Trade Air, although nobody is connecting this operator to this airport as it is not mentioned in public and known as much as Croatia Airlines. Now as the main difference between airport and airline is clarified it’s time to get back to our destination – Frankfurt. For flight from Croatia we may choose one of the above mentioned airports depending on proximity or traffic accessibility from your location. To simplify, we will plan our flight from Airport Zagreb. First, we will inform ourselves about airlines operating at this airport by going to their page www.zagreb-airport.hr. After researching we will find out that two airlines are operating the flight from Zagreb to Frankfurt, German Lufthansa and our Croatia Airlines. Next step is to visit the pages of an airline we wish to fly with. These two companies as well as many others are members of Star Alliance and there is a possibility each one offer flights of another one on their pages. To make it easier and to skip any possible language barriers we will search for our ticket on pages of our national airline www.croatiaairlines.com/hr
In destination column as a departure airport we will chose Zagreb and arrival Frankfurt. We will choose one way or return ticket, date and number of persons travelling. Next step is the flights offer where it is advisable to pay attention to the choice of tariff which includes only hand or/and checked luggage. Hand luggage stays with you throughout the journey, a rucksack or a smaller bag which meets required dimensions- up to 115 cm and 8 kg. Maybe you need to take more luggage, larger bag up to 23 kg. In aviation terminology this is called checked luggage, which is handed over to airport service upon arrival at the airport and picked up by you at your destination upon disembarking from the airplane. When you choose your option (tariff), flight date and time, a final cost of one way and return ticket is shown which includes all taxes (except reservation). Follow the instructions on screen and enter all data required. By accepting terms and conditions you reach the end of ticket purchase which is verified by entering an acceptable credit or debit bankcard. If you do not use internet and you have no one to help you with it, you can book and buy your ticket by calling a phone number listed on operators web page. In that case you will receive an offer payable at the bank, post office or via internet or mobile banking. The same procedure is followed for purchase/reservation of ticket via email. When you have successfully bought your ticket you will receive it as electronic ticket in your email. Most importantly, you do not have a physical ticket; you have been sent a specific code which together with your ID is a valid ticket. You can always print it yourself if you want to feel secure you have “a ticket on you”. It is good to know that code comes in combination of letters and numbers, e.g. O5GJ3V as well as numerical designation for example 8312302947363. Now when our ticket is ready and journey roughly planned, it is time to wait for “a day to soar to the heights”, under or above clouds depending on our flight altitude and weather conditions that day.