You have now reached the airport, equipped with all the necessary items. Many years ago, air travel was almost like bus travel: passengers arrive, sign in and board the plane. Today, in light of international terrorism, the process is much more complex. There is a process called “security.” The first thing this process entails is getting in line for a security check. There, the agent will check your passport and ticket and will ask you a number of questions, such as your travel destination, who packed your suitcase, if you are carrying a weapon or anything that may look like a weapon, and any other question that may come to mind.
If you have a suitcase that you plan on checking in to the plane's cargo, you will be asked to go to the x-ray scanners and pass your suitcase through the machine. If the security officials find questionable items in your luggage, you will be asked to remove them from your luggage and leave them in Israel. (This is only true in Ben Gurion International Airport. Outside of Israel, there are no scanners for baggage and the security agent will decide to check a particular suitcase at his own discretion.) (In Israel, airport security is handled by the Ministry of Defense, whereas this is not the case outside of Israel. The first round of security on El Al is carried out by El Al personnel. On other airline companies, there is no overt initial security check, though there is a second round of security, which we discuss later.)
You finished the first security check and now approach the check-in desk of the airline. Here, you will present your passport and airline ticket and will receive your boarding pass for the plane. They will also weigh your luggage and if it is not overweight, you will deposit it for stowing away in the plane's cargo area. This is the time to consider where you want to sit on the plane: window or aisle seat? There is a difference between short flights up to five hours long and longer flights lasting over six hours. Consider the fact that if you chose to sit in a window seat, you will have to bother the passenger sitting next to you every time you want to get up. On the other hand, if you sit in the
aisle, you will have to get up every time your neighbor needs to get up, not to mention the dynamics of a row with three seats.
We recommend that you ask your travel agent to arrange your seat for you ahead of time. This is not always possible with all airlines, but when it is possible, you can request a seat ahead of time and not have to rely on the seat given to you by the airline check-in. Of course, the travel agent cannot guarantee that you will receive everything you request, but he will be able to choose something reasonable for you.
There are also health concerns involved when choosing a seat. The following is some information written by the Hadassah Medical Organization.
“Economy Class Syndrome” - Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT)
This is a syndrome that can occur during a flight. During the flight, blood clots may form, especially in the leg area. The syndrome can also cause clots in the lungs if blood clots become lodged in the veins there. This is most common in flights lasting over 12 hours.
Here are some tips for minimizing the danger of this syndrome:
ñ If your blood is not thin and you are allowed to take aspirin, you should take baby aspirin
(81 mg.) about half an hour before takeoff.
ñ Wear loose-fitting clothing and comfortable shoes during the flight.
ñ Avoid sitting cross-legged during the flight.
ñ Once every hour, stand up from your seat and walk along the aisle.
ñ If you are pregnant, request a seat near the aisle.
ñ Drink a quarter liter of water every hour or two, and avoid drinking alcohol, caffeine and salty foods.
ñ Keep some space between your seat and the seat in front of you so you can move your feet and ankles.
With your passport and boarding pass in hand, you now approach the second round of security checks. At this security check, your carry-on bag and your body will be checked. You will be asked to put your carry-on bag in the x-ray scanner and to remove any jackets, suits and hats. You will also be asked to take any metal objects out of your pockets and place them in a bin, which will also enter the x-ray machine. Afterwards, you will pass through a metal detector.
With a short prayer that the metal detector will not go off, you'll pass through. If you set off the detector, you will undergo a manual check. (Note that the metal detector at Ben Gurion Airport is less sensitive to the ones outside of Israel. For example, coins or watches will not set off the detector in Israel, but abroad will cause the machine to emit a long beep. If the watch or coins are easy to remove, it is easier to simply put them into a coat pocket. As for suspenders, it becomes more complicated. It may be uncomfortable to remove your suspenders in front of a crowd and hold up your pants with your hands. I found suspenders without any metal that had plastic parts and I use them whenever I travel out of Israel.)
You successfully passed through the second round of security and now approach border control. At Ben Gurion International Airport, any Israeli citizen can receive a plastic card with his fingerprint on it for this very purpose that will allow him to avoid the need to wait in line for his passport to be checked when exiting and entering Israel. You can find this card for free at the special desk to the left of the passport checking desk. If you have this card, all you have to do is go up to the machine on the left, swipe your card through the slot and place your hand on the machine according to the machine's instructions. The machine will print out a pass that you have to take with you to pass through the gate. If you don't have this plastic card, go to the passport control desk. The officer at the desk will check your passport, enter your name into the computer, see if your passport is up to date and that you don't have an order preventing you from leaving the country, and finally sign your passport.
This process is true for Ben Gurion Airport. Outside of Israel, the process is different. As I mentioned earlier, there is a difference when flying with foreign airlines. With El Al, when you reach the check-in desk, you will pass though the first round of security checks by El Al security personnel, who will check your bags. Afterwards, you will receive your boarding pass. After that, you will go through passport control, carry-on check and body checking. This round of screening is conducted by the local airport and the security agents, who are not always the most courteous of people. In some places, you will be asked to remove your shoes and place them in the bin to be scanned as well and to walk barefoot through the metal detector.
Each country has its own security regulations. In some places, following the security check, you will continue to the exit gate. In some airports, this security check takes place immediately adjacent to the exit gate. In such cases, after you pass through the metal detector, you will find yourself in the waiting lounge at your gate. On El Al flights, before the gate, you will undergo an additional questioning by the El Al staff. Finally, exhausted but satisfied, you will have reached the waiting lounge before boarding the plane.
Hoping that the flight is not delayed at all or by too much, we wish you a pleasant flight.
This might be the place to mention that in most modern airports, you must walk large distances to get from place to place. Elderly or handicapped people must arrange for a wheelchair ahead of time when ordering their ticket from their travel agent. This applies for your trip's departure as well as return. In such a case, a flight attendant will take you in a wheelchair and make the process easier for you.