I’ve taken enough domestic and international flights since I moved to Oz to know a thing or two about the differences between the flying experience here and in America. Is flying just aggravating everywhere? Is security as strict in Australia as in post-9/11 America? Here is a point-by-point comparison and which country’s system I prefer for each.
America: You must take off your shoes and put anything made of metal along with electronic devices in the security tray. Liquids can be no more than 3.4 oz. I have never received the wand or been pulled aside for “further inspection” by security personnel.
Australia: You keep your shoes on and take out electronics — security here seems to be a little less strict about metal, though you may have to remove your belt. Liquids can be no more than 3.4 oz. I have been pulled aside for closer inspection. Must be the olive skin.
I prefer: Despite the extra security concern I apparently aroused in Sydney International, getting to keep my shoes on is something I really enjoy. Especially when my feet are smelly. TMI?
America: Varies by airline, but generally up to three hours before an international flight and two hours for domestic.
Australia: Ninety minutes for international flights and only 45 minutes before domestic. Other carriers offering cheap Australia flights may only require you to arrive 30 minutes before departure.
I prefer: Come on…Australia. Less time wasted.
America: Depends on the airline, but you often board in zones and children, families and business class go first.
Australia: Airlines usually board one half of the plane, than the second. No differentiation between families and the general population.
I prefer: Australia.
America: Usually some kind of snack or drink for free, then meals to buy. A movie screen or individual television (unless you’re on United) is normally available.
Australia: It varies by airline, but I find it’s rarer to get snacks, drinks other than water or in-flight entertainment of any sort. You can sometimes rent devices for a fee.
I prefer: America. Because I want to be fed and entertained.
America: I’ve flown into and out of airports in the New York and Philadelphia areas a lot. These cities are much bigger than Sydney. They are more hectic and staff are more overworked. This has led, in my opinion, to some very gruff workers who do not think the customer is always right. Airline flight attendants can also be a bit curt, and the image of in-shape, nice-looking staff went out the window a long time ago.
Australia: On the whole, the staff are more pleasant and less likely to jump down your throat. Airline flight attendants tend to be younger.
I prefer: Australia.
America: Long lines. Mean-looking staff.
Australia: Long lines. Mean-looking staff.
I prefer: America. Neither country offers a completely pleasant customs experience, but I get less scrutiny in my home country. Plus, on my last trip home, the official who stamped my passport smiled and said, “Welcome home.”
How have your pre-flight and flight experiences varied in different countries?