Words to Travel With, Part 2: Airports

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13 December, 2018

Ask one hundred people whether they love to travel and most of them will probably say yes. Discovering a new place can be fun and exciting. But getting to that place is often a lot less enjoyable.

Flying is a popular travel method. But airports can be frustrating places. Having to speak a foreign language in an airport can add to the frustration.

Today, we will share some English phrases that can help you survive any airport experience!

ID and boarding pass

Let's begin with check-in.

At an airport, check-in is where you go to let the airline know that you have arrived. At check-in, you can also get your boarding pass. The document has your flight information on it. It is proof that you purchased the flight. You cannot get on the plane without one.

Many airports offer two ways to check in: through a machine or with an airline employee. Here is what you'll be asked if you get your boarding pass from the employee:

Hello! May I see your ID?

Your ID is your identification, such as a passport or driving document.

You can answer, "Sure" or "Here you go" and give the person the document.

If you use the machine, you can enter the ticket or reservation number you received when you purchased the flight.

Checked bags and carry-ons

At the check-in area, you can also check your bags. This means giving your bags, also called luggage, to an airline employee to be stored during the flight.

Bags you give to the employee are called "checked bags," "checked baggage" or "checked luggage."

Here's the question airline employees ask to find out if you want to check bags:

Will you be checking any bags today?

Or, they may say it this way:

Do you have any checked bags today?

You can answer yes or no, and tell them how many:

Yes, just this one.

They will then tell you to put the bag on a machine to measure the weight. Here's what they will say:

Please place your bag on the scale.

But some bags are small enough to fit in the passenger area of the plane. The bag you keep with you on the plane is called a "carry-on bag" or simply a "carry-on."

Sadly, there are times when your carry-on does not meet weight or size restrictions. In such cases, you'll hear something like this:

I'm sorry but your bag is too heavy. You'll have to check it.

I'm sorry. Your bag is too big. You'll have to check it.

Going through security

OK, so you've finished at the check-in area. Now it's time to go through security. In line, you may hear a security employee announce this to the crowd:

Please have your IDs and boarding passes out.

That means have your documents ready to show the security person.

Security workers also check bags and other belongings. Sometimes, you have to place such things in a plastic container called a "bin."

Security workers may ask if you have any liquids, foods or medicines:

Are you traveling with any liquids?

Layovers, missed flights

OK, you made it through security with ease. Congratulations!

Time to go to your gate – the seating area where you wait for your plane to board. At the gate, here's an announcement you might hear:

Attention passengers on flight 95 to Chicago: Your flight has been delayed due to weather conditions. The new departure time is 5:45.

So, your flight is delayed three hours.

But, let's say Chicago is not your final destination. You are supposed to fly another plane from Chicago to your final destination. That is called a "layover" in American English. You might also hear it called a "stopover."

The delay means you will miss your flight out of Chicago. But don't worry! Just let the person at the airline counter know:

Hi, I missed my connecting flight to Los Angeles. What should I do?

Airlines generally have solutions ready, such as putting you on the next flight or putting you in a hotel for the night.

At customs, immigration

After an international flight, you will be directed through customs. That is where government officers approve or reject entrance into the country.

The customs officer will ask for your passport and may or may not have questions. Here are five common questions you might hear at customs:

What is the purpose of your trip?

How long do you intend to stay?

Can I see your return ticket?

Where will you be staying?

What is your occupation?

Preparing this information before your trip will help make the process easier. For example, if you're staying with a friend or at a hotel, have the person or hotel's name and address ready.

I'm Alice Bryant.

Alice Bryant wrote this story for Learning English. Caty Weaver was the editor.



Now, let's hear your story!

If you have used English at an airport, what words and phrases did you use? And, which words and phrases from today's program will help you most on your next trip?

Write to us in the comments area. We'd love to hear from you.

From today's program:

check-in (n.)

check in (v.)


boarding pass



check (v.)




checked bags / luggage / baggage

carry-on bag / carry-on








connecting flight


layover / stopover




Words in This Story

frustratingadj. causing feelings of anger and annoyance

reservationn. an arrangement to have something held for your use at a later time

ticketn. a piece of paper that allows you to travel on a vehicle, see a show, or participate in an event (a plane ticket is also called a boarding pass)

phrasen. a brief expression that is commonly used

luggage – n. the bags and suitcases that a person carries when traveling

destinationn. a place to which a person is going or something is being sent

countern. a piece of furniture with a flat surface that workers and customers stand on opposite sides

occupationn. a person's job or profession