For no other purpose would we subject ourselves to sitting, virtually motionless, for eight, ten, or even fifteen hours at a time, but long-haul flights can be a lot easier with the application of a few, simple tips.
Your business travel long-haul flight survival guide
Choose the right seat (for you)
Higher classes are always going to be roomier and more comfortable, and we’ll go over them, but if economy/coach class is what fits the budget, there are still great seats… and terrible ones.
Sitting just behind a bulkhead is often an excellent way to get a little extra legroom. Some airlines charge a little extra for these seats, calling them ‘economy plus,’ or similar, and it is worth the extra fee. An added bonus is that there is no one to recline their seat-back in front of you, so you have more space for laptops too.
Sitting just in front of a bulkhead is a no-no in most cases. Seats sometimes don’t recline, so when the one in front of you does, you wind up staring at a seat back a few inches in front of you. You’ll often be in front of the restrooms as well, so you risk unpleasant smells, and the people lingering (awkwardly) beside you, waiting for the facilities.
Exits present similar opportunities and pitfalls. Sit just in front of an exit, and your seat won’t recline. Sit just after them, or in them, and you’ll have the bulkhead space, but often without the extra fees. If you choose an exit seat, be sure to note whether there are double-exits, and avoid having one behind you.
Front or back?
This choice is mainly a matter of preference. Sit near the back of the plane and you’ll often (not always) board first and have assurance of space in the overhead compartments. You’ll (usually) be last off the plane though, so that’s a trade-off.
Sit near the front and you risk being last to board and there being no overhead space, forcing you to check you carry-on. On most long-haul flights this is a rarity, but it does happen. On the upside, you’ll be among the first off the plane.
Upper class or upgrade
By choosing to pay extra for an upgrade, or to buy a business or premier class ticket in the first place, you almost guarantee a great seat. You’ll get priority boarding and disembarking from the aircraft, have more legroom, storage space, and so on.
You will still want to choose something away from the restrooms perhaps, or your preference of a window or aisle seat, but the rest is a no-lose situation… hence the extra cost.
Dress in layers that allow you to regulate your own temperature, rather than relying on the in-cabin heating and cooling. Keep your pockets empty during the flight to increase comfort. Finally, wear slip-on shoes. Not only are these better for quick security checks, but you can slip them off during the flight to keep your feet cool and dry.
Bring (posh) snacks
Before you board, make sure to set yourself up with some snacks… and they should be a little indulgent. Think of it as a reward for your patience and endurance.
For you, that may mean gourmet popcorn, high-end chocolate, or some biscotti – or it may mean a canister of cut veggies or a couple of fruit smoothies (for liquids, you can bring in an empty container or two and fill them with something purchased on the concourse).
Don’t forget to bring a few non-sugary snacks too, especially if you are in economy class. In higher classes you will have more food available, better choices, and higher quality. In economy class you can have the same thing, but you’ll have to provide it for yourself.
Power up devices
Before you leave for the airport, and again in preparation for boarding, make sure all of your devices are fully-powered-up. You may have charge ports on the plane, but you may not, so best to be safe and ensure as much life in them as possible.
You may also want to invest in a portable charger or backup power cell. These can be quite small, and extend your available battery life through and even beyond the flight time.
Reset your watch or phone
Once on board, set your watch or phone to the time of your destination city. This will get your mind thinking in terms of where you’re going, will help you know when it’s best to eat or try to sleep, and all of this will help reduce the shock of jet-lag.
The cabin is quite dry on most aircraft, and so you’ll want to keep hydrated throughout the flight. We recommend you go easy on alcohol and soft drinks, instead choosing water or juice. They hydrate better and you’ll avoid an uncomfortable feeling of bloating from carbonation.
Lotion for your skin in a good idea too. Not only will it help against itchiness and a tired appearance, it can also be quite refreshing to put some on a couple of times during a flight.
Start your trip rested, if possible, but also bring a pillow (regular or travel) and light-weight blanket (usually provided in upper classes) so you can get in a really comfortable nap.
Earplugs and eye masks are useful too. Nothing cuts the boredom and burden of a long-haul flight like being comfortably unconscious for four or five hours of it.
Plan your entertainment itinerary. Scan for a couple of films or programs you might like to watch, maybe a game to try out (on-board trivia is a favourite), or save up a few favourite podcasts to listen to. It can be a great time to read a novel, too.
Not only will this entertain you in the moment, but anticipation of it will help to speed the trip along, giving you something on-board the plane to look forward to.
Finally, remember to get up for a quick walk every hour or two during the flight. This will help prevent blood clots and cramps, and will also help you clear your head. If you can find an open space near the bulkheads, you might even be able to stretch a bit. A good toe-touch really helps reset the body for another film or chapter in that novel.
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