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Domestic Flight vs. International: What Are the Differences Between the Two?

  • avatar
    Jonathan Chum

If you are in the process of booking a plane ticket, you're probably going to encounter a few times that could be unfamiliar to you. One of the most common terms you will see is domestic flight. A lot of people are wondering what a domestic flight is.

So, what is a domestic flight? A domestic flight is a flight that does not leave the borders of the country. It is easier to explain the meaning behind a domestic flight by comparing it to an international flight. We are going to cover:

  • What you will need for a domestic flight versus an international flight
  • What the flying experience is like on a domestic flight versus an international flight
  • Any additional hassles you may have to go through on an international flight

We will call upon all of our flying experience to go through these differences, so take a look at some helpful information below.

What Do You Need on a Domestic Flight Versus an International Flight?

Getting on a plane is not like stepping on a bus or hailing a taxi. You have to arrive at the airport a couple of hours in advance for your flight. In addition, you also have to have everything you need. If you are flying domestic, you need your boarding pass and a photo ID, at a minimum. A lot of people use their driver's licenses as their photo ID.

If you are taking an international flight, this is not going to be enough. In order to fly internationally, you have to have a passport. Your passport is evidence that your country of residence is allowing you to leave. If you would like to fly internationally, or across an international border via land, you need to have a valid passport. Even if you have booked an international plane ticket, you will not be allowed to board that plane without a passport. Furthermore, most airlines will not even let you reserve a ticket without a passport.

In some situations, you may also need a visa in order to fly internationally. A visa is usually issued by your country of arrival. You may need to apply for this ahead of time. Depending on where you are going, and how long you are staying, you may need to get your visa approved before you leave. Essentially, a visa is your country of arrival allowing you to enter.

What Is it Like To Fly on a Domestic Flight Versus an International Flight?

The check-in process for an international flight is usually longer. First, the vast majority of airlines will not allow you to check in for an international flight online. This is because they need you to present your passport and fill out paperwork before they provide you with access to a boarding pass. The security screening process may also be a bit more in-depth, with more random checks taking place for international flights, particularly those that cross oceans.

Even though this is not always the case, international flights are usually longer purely because you are flying farther. Therefore, you may receive one or more meals as you fly. Of course, the higher your class is, the better the food will be. You may also have access to inflight entertainment. Even though you may also access in-flight entertainment on domestic flights, it is more common on longer flights, such as those that go overseas.

You may also be asked to fill out an arrival card for an international flight. This is evidence of where you're coming from, where you are staying, where you are going during your stay in that country, and who is going to be with you. You may want to have a pain in your pocket so that you can fill this information out easily. This will make it easier when you land.

What Is it Like When You Land?

After you land on a domestic flight, you wait for people in front of you to get off. Then, you disembark, head to baggage claim (if you checked any luggage), and continue on with your day. For an international flight, this process is going to be a bit more involved. Before you are allowed to had to wherever it is you are staying, you have to go through the arrival gate and customs.

The arrival gate is where you will show your passport and visa to the border agent. They are going to ask you why you are in the country (such as for vacation or business), whether you have brought anything with you, how long you are saying, and where you are staying. These agents are usually friendly and simply want to make sure you know where you are going.

The customs process is where you declare anything you have brought with you that has to be declared. Different countries have different policies. Usually, when you go through customs, there are signs everywhere letting you know what you have to declare. If you have these items, make sure you declare them before you leave. If you have something to declare and do not do so, you could be subject to significant penalties.

Keep These Differences in Mind When Flying

Ultimately, there are a lot of differences involved if you are flying domestic flights vs. international flights. Remember that domestic flights are flights that do not leave the country. International flights are flights that go overseas. You should always provide yourself plenty of time at the airport. That way, you can go to the check-in process without having to worry about missing your flight. If you are flying internationally, you need to allow yourself extra time because you will have to check in at the airport instead of online. Remember that you also need a passport if you are flying internationally. Depending on where you are going, you may also need to have a visa before you leave. Think about these differences the next time you fly.