What to Expect at the Airport

Airports are crazy places. Generally they're exceptionally busy, and the larger ones in the country can be quite big and confusing. Often the security measures can also be quite intimidating. In this article we'd like to walk you through the process of what to do between the time you arrive at the airport and leave your destination airport.


Essentially what you need to do is go through the following process.

  1. Check-in for your flight
  2. Hand over any luggage that would need to go into the aircraft hold, if you are travelling with luggage
  3. Pass through the airport security gates to the departures hall
  4. Find your boarding gate
  5. Board the plane and fly to your destination
  6. Once arriving, you need to pick up any bags that you checked (if you did so), and then you're on your way!


Okay, so here's each step in a little more detail:

Checking In:

We require that our passengers check-in before a flight. At this stage you will be asked some important security questions about what you're carrying with you on board our aircraft. We'll also provide you with a boarding pass, which you will have to present to the airport security staff in step 3.

Checking in can be done in one of three ways:

  1. Using the online check-in facility on our website
  2. Using the self-service kiosks at the airport, or
  3. By visiting our check-in counters at the airports

Check-in closes strictly 40 min before your flight departs so it is essential that you get to the airport with enough time to check-in before hand. We highly recommend arriving at the airport at least 90 min before you fly to ensure that you have enough time to go through all the procedures.

Online check-in is available through our website. You will receive an email from us when online check-in opens, which is 24 hours before your flight departs. The process is pretty simple, where we'll just ask you a few important questions and make sure that you have a seat assigned if you didn't pre-select one. You will then be presented with the opportunity to download your boarding pass, print it out on your printer, or have it sent to you via email. Online check-in closes 4 hours before the flight departs.

Self service kiosks can be found in the departure halls of SA's bigger airports. This touch-screen machines look a little like ATMs and are situated near the check-in counters at the departure halls. To check-in using one of these machines you simply have to tap on the FlySafair icon and follow the easy prompts. Your record will be identified using your booking reference number - the six character code that is quoted at the top of all your emails. This check in option opens 2 hours before the flight departs and closes 40 min before the flight departs.

Right at the bottom of this article is a list of the airports we fly to and where you can find our check-in counters. Our check-in counters are clearly sign-posted with bright blue and pink signs.

Notes on checking in:

  • To check in you will need your booking reference number
  • We do not require presentation of the credit card used to purchase flights
  • Be sure to ask the check-in assistant any questions you may have about how to move through the airport or find your flight - our teams are there to help.


Checked in Luggage:

If you've selected to travel with a checked in bag, you have to hand the bag over to us at the check-in stage. Your bag will be tagged with a sticker to identify it and then gets passed through the airport's security screening facilities to ensure that it's safe to be transported aboard an aircraft. If you're unsure about what you can pack in your bag, be sure to read our luggage policy.

If you choose to check-in online or using the self service kiosks you can proceed directly to our bag drop queue. This is a sort of express queue where you can simply drop your bag for tagging and processing, because you've already been checked in.

If you choose to check in at one of our counters, our staff will take your bag from you at this point.

Notes on checked luggage

  • Be sure that your luggage is within the required size and weight restrictions
  • Make sure that you have not packed any dangerous goods into your luggage
  • Ensure that you have no valuable items like cash, jewelry, expensive perfumes of personal electronics in your checked luggage
  • It's a good idea to have a lock on your luggage
  • It's a good idea to have your luggage wrapped at the airport to protect it from scuffs


Airport Security:

Once you've checked in and handed over your luggage it will be time to go through the airport security. Signs will indicate where the entrances to the departure halls are, but if you are unsure, please ask our staff who will gladly direct you.

At the airport security you will be required to pass your hand luggage through an x-ray machine where it will be checked for dangerous goods. You will also be required to pass through a metal detector.

At the security pass, the officer will ask you for your boarding pass which will then be scanned. You can then make your way to the metal detector. First you will be required to put all your hand luggage and personal items like keys. cellphones, wallets etc through the x-ray machine. Try to remove all metal items from your person and place them in the trays provided by the team.

Stand at the entrance of the metal detector. Once you are clear to do so, the officer on the other side will call you to walk through. If you do not hear a beep you may continue to collect your luggage on the other side.

If the metal detector does beep you will need to be patted down. Do not worry - these detectors are very sensitive and they go off often, so there is no need to be concerned or embarrassed if this happens to you. Simply stand to one side and an airport official of your same sex will come and pat you down.

The airport official should ask you permission before patting you down and will ask you to raise your arms when they do so. You have the right to refuse to be touched by the airport official in which case they are required to bring a hand-held metal detector wand to scan your body for any metal items.

Once you're on the other side of the scan it's time to gather all your belongings again and head off to find your gate. Be sure to keep your boarding pass handy.

Notes on airport security:

  • Make sure that you understand the rules around dangerous goods at airports
  • Liquids like a cup of coffee, or tube of moisturiser, are allowed in your carry on luggage when flying domestically in South Africa
  • The officers may ask to inspect any strange or unusual items in your luggage
  • People travelling with laptop computers are required to remove them from any bags and put them through the x-ray separately


Find your boarding gate:

Boarding gates are identified by a letter and a number - for example A12. These will be printed on your boarding pass. If you checked in online there will be no boarding gate reflected on your boarding pass and you will have to consult the informational monitors at the airport.

Please note that while is seldom happens, boarding gates can be changed, so it is very important that you keep an eye on the informational boards.

Boarding for your flight will close 15 min before the flight departs and if you miss this cut-off you will miss your flight - even if you can still see the aircraft through the window, so make sure to be at the gates on time. The time boarding starts will be indicated on your boarding pass.

Even if you have some time to kill and want to visit a restaurant, shop or airport lounge, it's a great idea to go and locate your boarding gate first. This way you will know where it is and how long it will take you to get there.

The airports have clear signage indicating where the gates are, but if you feel overwhelmed or get lost, make sure to ask someone for directions.

Notes on boarding:

  • Boarding closes 15 min before your flight departs
  • Make sure you know where our gate is
  • Have your ID handy when you board
  • Check that the number reflected on the screen above the boarding gate is the same as the flight number on your boarding pass
  • Feel free to ask our staff any questions


Boarding the Aircraft:

Once boarding begins our teams will scan your boarding pass again, and tear off a section leaving you with the stub. They will also check your ID, so make sure that every passenger has their ID, birth certificate, drivers license or passport ready at the boarding gate.

Passengers will then either be directed down a chute to the aircraft, or you will be shown onto a buss that will take you to a remote parking bay for the aircraft. Keep your boarding pass handy to show the crew aboard the aircraft.

Once you get to the aircraft you will be greeted by one of our friendly cabin crew. They will ask to check your boarding pass to do a final check  that you are indeed on the correct flight. They will then direct you to your allocated seat.

Make sure to put all your belongings in the overhead bins or under the seat in front of you. Settle into your seat and put your seat belt on and then sit back and relax. Our crew will take it from there.

Notes on boarding:

  • Keep your ID and boarding pass handy until you reach your seat
  • Boarding closes 15 min before your flight departs



On instruction from the crew and after the seat-belt sign has been switched off, you will be invited to disembark the aircraft. Make sure to take all of your personal belongings with you and head for the exit. 

You will then be directed to the terminal building on foot, via or chute on on a bus. Once inside the terminal, follow the signs to the luggage carousels where you can collect any checked in luggage you may have. Once you've got your bags, you can proceed through the exit into the main terminal.


We hope that this article has been helpful and we look forward to having you on board one of our flights. Please know that our staff are there to help you, and be sure to ask them any questions you may have throughout any stage of the process. 


Airport Details:

OR Tambo - Johannesburg

Our flights depart from the domestic terminal, Terminal B. The departures hall is on the upper level and we have counters 145 - 153. These are situated close to the security gates that open onto the domestic departure hall.

Cape Town International Airport - Cape Town

All departures in Cape Town are on the upper level of the terminal. We have counters 114-120 which are to the far right when you come up either of the two main escalators.

King Shaka International Airport - Durban

Check in counters for departures are on the lower level and we have Counters 37 – 42.

Port Elizabeth Airport - Port Elizabeth

We have Check-in counters 1-5

George Airport - George

There aren’t counter numbers, however check in counters are on your far left-hand side when you enter departures.

East London Airport - East London

There aren’t counter numbers, however check in counters are in front of you on your left hand side when you enter departures.



Have more questions? Submit a request