Mar 18th, 2018, 12:00 PM

Surviving Long Flights

By Chanet Smith
Image Credit: Flickr/ Benson Kua
Conquering long flights, economy-style.

It’s a glorious moment booking tickets to a far-away destination, whether that place is home or a vacation spot. The night before your flight you spend some time packing your suitcase, and even more time trying to get it under that 50-pound weight limit. The next morning rolls around- you get up at five in the morning for nine a.m. flight, and all the glory and excitement dies down because the next 15+ hours to come are often brutal. Dehydration, crying babies, freezing cold AC, bacteria and germs, no leg space, arm-to-arm with strangers, swollen hands and feet, and plane food are just a few of the pleasant surprises of plane travel. The average economy chair is 32 inches of leg space and if you’re the standard traveler, economy is where you're sitting and first class is where you're dreaming of. Luckily, there are a few ways to survive these long flights.

If you’ve ever looked up @passengershaming on Instagram, you’ll see that some people get way too comfortable with their plane travel. Don’t be that person that sprawls onto your neighbor or drools onto your food tray. Figure out how to fly comfortably and classy at the same time.

Image Credit: Instagram/ passengershaming

Everyone has their tricks for making time pass faster. Start your flight off with just listening to music, and ease into the first episode/movie after the first hour. After they serve that first drink and snack, try to force yourself to sleep (or take melatonin). If that fails, continue watching downloaded movies or start browsing what they have on the plane TV (if there is one). If you’re on a good airline, they will usually have a lot of good movies that are just released so you can plan your flight around catching up on some movies that you missed in theaters. Try to watch how much time you’re spending watching a screen in one sitting though, as most people generally max out around the second or third. Download some offline games before you leave, or plan out a few hours of work that you want to accomplish. The more you plan out your flight time with things to do, the faster the time passes.

Some must-haves for traveling on long flights are:

  1. A comfy neck pillow
  2. Comfy pants
  3. Fuzzy socks or slippers
  4. A toothbrush
  5. Lots of water
  6. Facial hydration (rose water, lotion)
  7. Snacks
  8. Download Netflix/Amazon Prime movies or TV shows
  9. Spotify playlist

To sleep on the plane, the window seat is your best bet. Bring a neck pillow and make sure you have a blanket. The most comfortable position is to curl into a little ball and sleep against the window. If you've been cursed with longer legs, stretch your legs out underneath your seat as much as you can, and prop a few plane pillows against the window wall. The best flights are empty flights, and you can sprawl across the whole row.

Image Credit: Flickr/ BVstarr

The prime seat in economy is the window seat. The pro to having window seat is the best sleeping options. The con is trying to get out to use the restroom. British Airways conducted a study and revealed that "80 percent of its passengers consider it acceptable to wake a neighbor for a bathroom break, but 40 percent say this is only reasonable once during a single flight. For flights longer than around eight hours, however, that's a pretty big ask. A third of those questioned said they would be willing to climb over a heavy sleeper to avoid waking them, and according to 54 percent of those, the correct etiquette is face to face." The best way to climb over your sleeping neighbor if you're too shy to wake them up is climbing over the legs one leg at a time, and keeping as much distance as possible. Push back on your headrest if you need stability. 

There is nothing good about the middle seat. All you get is both armrests taken by your neighbors and no personal space. If you're a constant bathroom goer, sit in the aisle, but risk your feet and legs getting torn up by the food cart. Those flight attendants seem to have no mercy. And of course, in an ideal world, you'd board an empty plane and have the whole row to yourself to sprawl out.

Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons/ Christopher Doyle

Always bring snacks on a plane. On certain airlines the food can be decent, but more often than not, it's not the greatest. Then there are the cheap airlines that do not serve water for free. You always have two options for the main meal. They generally consist of a main hot plate, two or three little sides like fruit and salad, a little dessert, and some type of bread and butter/cheese. It's not the flight attendant's fault for the horridness of the food, so always be thankful when taking your packaged dinner. However, the airlines overall can care less how you eat as they are saving every penny on their food service. In 1987, American Airlines saved over $40,000 by eliminating one olive from their first class salad. This started a spiraling downhill of the food services on many airlines; therefore, always prepare some of your own snacks and goods for your flight. Even if it's just chips to munch away on during your Netflix download binging, your flight experience will have at least one positive moment. If you have food allergies or preferences, you can notify your flight beforehand and get a different meal. Generally, these meals are better than what is usually served. Some airlines provide a small menu with foods and snacks that you can buy for a hefty price inflight.

Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons/ Liadmalone

Yiro Wu, a flight attendant for China Airlines, usually makes flights from Taipei to LA twice a month. The usual flight is 12-15 hours depending on conditions. Her must-haves for her flight are an eye mask and earplugs “for a good sleep,” she says. “The hardest thing (as an attendant) is trying to stay awake while your clock tells you to go to bed.” She gets short breaks, as the attendants switch off staying awake and attending to passengers.

Attendants and pilots make these flights numerous times a month. She says the attendants generally pass their time “chatting, gossiping, and gossiping about the mean passengers.” They’re close with their fellow attendants because they spend these long flying hours together without phones or anything to do. She spoke for all attendants when she said she hates “when passengers pee on the toilet seat and, even worse, when they miss the bowl and drizzle on the floor. Or when passengers stick their feet out in the aisle in the dark so I can't see them. Then I scratch my knees (on the cart) as I walk by.” There lies heavy irony in her last statement, as it’s known as a passenger how ruthless flight attendants are when they smack your leg or knee with their carts as they’re passing by. Another attendant, Cami Wong, says that she hates how dry planes are and how much bacteria is locked on board. She says, “My biggest pet peeve is when someone is sick on the plane. I usually take a lot of EmergenC to avoid getting sick.” She brings EmergenC and her rose water humidifier with her on all her flights.

Long flights are never easy and rarely enjoyable. Maybe it’s a time to disconnect and catch up on some tv series or work. If you’re lucky, you can sleep through the whole flight. Everyone has their must-haves for flying, but the common things are a nice neck pillow, an eye mask, comfy clothes, and preparing Netflix downloads. and if all else fails, take some sleeping pills and wake up at your destination. Yet, it's a small price to pay for the overall experience of being able to travel across the world. Once arrived at your destination, the entire past 15+ hours seems to feel very insignificant in comparison to the overall experience of what is to come.