Talking your way through a flight stopover in English

Travelling is great fun – but it can also be stressful, especially if you need to transfer flights. Whether you have an hour between connecting flights or a 24-hour stopover on your way across the world, there are lots of things you can do to make the time between flights less stressful, and even enjoyable.

We’ve compiled a list of tips and English phrases to help you deal with both short and long airport stopovers.

Finding the right terminal

Some airports have multiple terminals and it can take some time to travel from one to another. When you get off your flight, ask:
“Is this the correct terminal for my connecting flight?”
If you need to get to another terminal, ask:
“Could you tell me where the terminal transfer is and how long it will take?”
Depending on the airport, the transfer might be a small train, a bus or a moving walkway and can take anything from five to 20 minutes.

Checking your flight time

Flight details can change at the last minute, so do check for any changes or delays. When you arrive in the terminal, ask:
“Where are the departure boards?”
You can then find your flight and check the departure time.

Finding your gate

It can take up to 15 minutes to get from the departure lounge to your gate, especially if you are travelling with heavy luggage or small children. Once the gate numbers for your flight appear on the departure board, it’s time to start looking for directions to your departure gate. These are usually displayed prominently on signs around the terminal, but if you’re in a rush, try asking:
“How do I get to Gate 55?”
Staff should be able to help you find the quickest route.

If you have a longer stopover of a few hours, you’ll have time to check out the airport facilities. But it can be difficult to work out what those facilities are – and where they are located. Here are some suggestions for making the most out of your time.

Find a sleeping area

Some airports have sleeping areas for travellers with a lengthy stopover. Ask:
“Is there a sleeping lounge or sleeping area?”
“Does the airport have any sleeping chairs?”
You may find yourself getting onto your next flight refreshed rather than stressed out.

Find the airline lounge

Most airlines will have a passenger lounge. Use of the lounge is often free of charge for passengers with a premium ticket, but other passengers can buy a day pass. The extra cost can be a good idea if you are faced with a lengthy stopover as these lounges often have free Wi-Fi, complimentary hot and soft drinks, comfortable seating, reading material and washing facilities.

Luggage lockers

Wandering around the airport with your bags can get tiring, so if you’re going to be stopping over for more than a couple of hours, do ask where the luggage lockers are located. The lockers normally charge a flat fee for a 24-hour period.

Don’t be strapped for cash

Stopovers can be tricky if you don’t have the right currency. While larger purchases can be paid for by card, you may find you have to withdraw some cash to pay for smaller items like drinks or snacks. Try to withdraw a small amount of local currency beforehand to avoid the large ATM charges.

Stay in touch

If you’re used to being connected, an airport terminal can be a hard place to be since there is often very little mobile signal. If you want to let family and friends know how your journey is going, ask for the following:
“Where are the telephones?” – Airports still have public telephones on-site. They’re generally close to the toilets and many allow you to use credit or debit cards as well as local currency.

“Is there Wi-Fi?” – The airport should have a Wi-Fi hotspot. Occasionally these are free, but more often there is a small charge to connect.
Find the places of interest

Wandering the duty free shops can get boring – and expensive – especially after a few hours. Some airports have other places you can go – you just have to find out where they are. You can ask:
“Where is the Chapel?” – Any airport you visit will have a chapel, whether for prayer, reflection or a few moments quiet rest.
“Are there any exhibitions?” – Airports frequently have exhibitions, especially if the city where they are located has recently had an anniversary or a big event.
“Is there a museum?” – Some older airports have museums on site and even vintage aeroplanes.
“Is there a children’s play area?” – If you’re travelling with kids, finding something to keep them busy with is essential. Airports generally have a play area for small children with extra seating for parents and baggage.

Do you want to learn more? 8 Airport questions you need to be able to answer in English.