Today, you are going to learn everything you need to know to survive the airport in English.

I remember when I first arrived in Japan. I understood some Japanese but couldn’t speak very well and I was really worried about going through airport security. I wasn’t sure what questions they would ask or what I should say. It can be really nerve wracking. I didn’t end up in jail, but it did take a while because of some misunderstandings and I want to make sure this doesn’t happen to you and you can fly through security and start Enjoying all that good stuff like food, beer, sightseeing and meeting new people.

May I see your passport/ticket/boarding pass?

This is usually at the airport check in counter. These days you can get a paper ticket or an eTicket. Either way, you need to show it to the person behind the counter along with your passport. You can just hand it over to them without saying anything, or you can say something like “here they are” or “Here you go” They will check everything and hand it back to you after a few seconds. They usually give you a boarding pass at this point too.

Are you checking any luggage/Baggage/Bags?

Once again, this will be at the check in counter and when they say check, they mean for the airline to store under the airplane for you during the flight. This is usually for big stuff like suitcases or massive bags. Once again, you need to give the stuff to the staff, or put it on the little conveyor belt, so you can just do it, or you can say something like “I’d like to check this please?” or “Just this please”. If you want to take the bag into the plane with you, this is called carry on luggage and they might ask you “Do you have a carry-on bag?”

Did you pack these bags yourself?

These questions are really important. They are checking that you know exactly what is in your suitcase and that no-one else has had chance to put something in there that you don’t know about. This is all about security. Hopefully, you are not an criminal and you have not done anything wrong, so when they ask “did you pack these bags yourself” you can say “yes I did” or “That’s right”. When they ask you about leaving your bag unattended you can say things like “No, I haven’t” or “They have been with me the whole time”

Would you like an aisle or window seat?

When checking in, if you haven’t already done it online, you will be allowed to choose your seat on the plane. Usually there are 2 choices, an aisle seat, you know, the one near the walkway, or a window seat, which is obviously next to the window. Some people prefer to sit at the back of the plane while others prefer a seat in the middle. It’s up to you. Just remember to say please and thank you to the lovely person who is helping you. Manners cost nothing!

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Can you put all your personal belongings in the plastic tray, please?

The next stage is usually to go through security at the airport. This is where they will scan your carry on luggage and belongings. You will hear them say things like “Can you put all personal belongings in the plastic container, please?” or “Please remove your shoes and belt and electrical items and place them in a separate container.” You don’t really need to say anything but you need to do what they said. Take out any laptops/iPads/electical goods from your bag and put them in a tray. Put the bag in a different tray. Put your jacket, shoes, belt, wallet and other personal belongings in yet another tray and you will pick them up again after they have been through the scanner.

Could you step through the scanner please?

This is the part where you walk through a weird door that scans your body. If there are no problems, you can pick up all your stuff that has been through the scanning machine. If there is a problem, the alarm will go off and the security staff might say “are you wearing any metal items” – This always happens to me because I always forget to take off my watch. They may also say “Excuse me, sir/madam, since you have set off the security alarm, we need to search you.” You don’t really need to say anything, just do what they are asking you to do. With any luck, you will be free to continue in no time.

Documents, please?

When you get to immigration on the other side, the person behind the counter will ask to see your travel documents. This is usually your passport, visa and other travel documents. When you give them to the officer, you can say “here you are” or “certainly”. Other questions they usually ask at this point are things like “what is the purpose of your visit” and you need to tell them why you are travelling there. Short answers like “tourism”, “study” or “business” are usually fine. It is normal for them to also ask “Where will you be staying” and you just need to give them the address of the hotel, or whatever. Keep your answers short and polite and eventually they will stamp your passport and you are free to go through.

Anything to declare?

The last stop is usually customs. This is after you have collected your luggage and you are about to leave the airport. This question “Anything to declare” is basically asking if you have any items in your suitcase that you may need to pay tax on or things that are restricted. If you do have such items, say “yes I do” and show the items you need to declare. If you don’t have anything like that, you can just say “no” and carry on with your journey. If you are not sure, you can let the customs officer examine your bags and they will tell you.

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