Oftentimes, airlines and airports don't offer a straight route to our desired destination. So, we may need to stop at different airports and switch planes to continue our journey.
Take our trip to Japan, for instance. My wife and I had to make a stop in Singapore because Singapore Airlines didn't offer a direct flight from Jakarta to Tokyo.
The process of transitioning between flights can be tricky, especially if it's your first time. It's understandable to feel this way, as every airline and airport has its own set of rules for these layovers.
In this article, I'll share a step-by-step guide and my personal experiences with flight transitions. But before that, let's explore the most common types of layovers you might encounter during air travel.
Actually, there isn't a universally accepted way to categorize flight layovers. However, I'll outline them based on the experiences passengers typically go through. Let's look at these types:
The easiest layover involves passengers staying on the plane. This usually happens for operational reasons, like refueling on long flights.
Sometimes, if the plane needs more extensive work and it's going to take a while, passengers can leave the aircraft and wait in the airport.
The most usual type of layover is when passengers disembark and board a different plane. This can happen with the same airline or a different one.
In this article, I'll focus mainly on this third type of layover, as it's the one that tends to confuse passengers the most.
Now, let's discuss the main topic: how to handle a layover. I'll guide you through everything from buying your ticket to boarding your final flight to your destination.
The first step is to check in at your departure airport. For flights with layovers, it's best to check in at the airline counter. This way, you can get detailed instructions from the staff, particularly if you're traveling with checked luggage.
If your connecting flights are with the same airline, they'll commonly issue you multiple boarding passes for each leg of your journey. Your checked baggage will also be tagged to go all the way to your final destination.
For instance, when I flew from Soekarno-Hatta Airport to Tokyo via Singapore Airlines, I received boarding passes for both Jakarta to Singapore and Singapore to Tokyo.
However, if your layover involves switching airlines, you'll likely only get a boarding pass for the flight to your layover airport. You'll need to check in again there for your next flight.
Once you've checked in, the rest of the process is similar to boarding any flight. For a guide on boarding a plane, especially if you're new to flying, you can refer to the following article:
Upon reaching your layover airport, look for signs that read "Transfer" or "Change Planes." These will guide you to the transfer area. You'll find directions to either the transfer desk or directly to your next boarding gate.
If you already received your boarding pass for the next flight at your original airport, you can head straight to the boarding gate. If this is the case, you can skip ahead to the following step.
However, if you didn't get a boarding pass for your onward journey, your first stop should be the transfer desk. Here, airport staff will inform you about the necessary procedures.
At some airports, like Changi Airport, you can get your boarding pass right at the transfer counter. But at other airports, you might need to go through immigration and collect your baggage before you can check in at the regular check-in counter.
Therefore, visiting the check-in counter is crucial to ensure you're following the correct procedure, as different airports have their own rules for handling transfers.
This step is necessary only if you couldn't get your boarding pass at the transfer desk. If you already have your boarding pass for the next leg of your trip, you can move on to the next step.
For international flights, you'll need to go through immigration before you can pick up any checked luggage. On domestic flights, however, you can head straight to the baggage claim area.
After collecting your luggage, proceed to the regular check-in counter. There, you'll receive your boarding pass and check in your luggage for the next flight. With your boarding pass in hand, you can then head to the gate for your connecting flight.
If your next flight isn't for another 8 hours or more, you have the option to leave the airport and explore a bit. But if your wait isn't that long, it's best to stay in the airport area.
Once you have your boarding pass for the next flight, the final step is to make your way to the boarding gate. Check the information screens to find out which gate your plane will be departing from.
After locating your gate, all that's left to do is head there and wait for the boarding call.
These are the steps for transiting flights, whether you're staying with the same airline or switching to a different one. I hope this guide makes your first transit experience smoother.
Remember, some countries require a Tourist or Transit Visa for layovers. So, you need to have these documents ready before you start your journey.