I’ve been on long haul flights* since before I was walking, and since then have ventured on many an international trip. I’ve learnt a lot over the years about how to survive a long haul flight in Economy class. Note that these things might not all feature in your typical ‘how to fly’ sort of post, but for your entertainment, here are 6 tips.
*‘Long haul’ in this post means at least 10 hours.
Accept the fact you won’t get much sleep
Even if you’re like me and can ‘sleep anywhere’, ‘anywhere’ is slightly different on a plane. But I’ve found that if you just accept that fact that you will not be getting a full night’s sleep on your flight, then it’s okay when you don’t. If you’re expecting to sleep the entire way, and then don’t, it’s a lot harder to take. If you do get more than a few hours of sleep, then it’s an amazing accomplishment and you’ll feel great about the whole situation. It’s one of those ‘expect the worst and you won’t be disappointed’ situations.
Watch as many movies as you can
Okay, maybe don’t watch all of them, but definitely watch the ones you want to see. If you watch them first thing when you get on the plane, then you’ll get more and more tired as the flight goes one, increasing your chance of getting a little bit of sleep. However! Prepare to get a little frustrated at movies that are darkly lit. In a darkened plane (apparently other people are getting their sleep, or at least pretending to, and all the lights are out), it’s very hard to see dark-lit scenes, even with the brightness of the screen turned right up to nearly white.
Make friends with the stewards
Smile sweetly, talk to them as they pass by. You’ve got at least 10 hours, you might as well make new friends. I’ve discovered that if you’re nice to the stewards, you might get free stuff.
We were in Economy (as always) and a steward took a liking to us because we were from New Zealand. Near the end of the flight he came to our seats, gave us Quick Passes to get out of the lines faster so we had more time in Sydney (we were just spending the day there before getting an evening flight to NZ), and he gave as Business class packs…just because. All because we talked to him, said ‘thank you very much’ when we gave us food and drink. Being nice gets you free stuff, my friends! (Also, and more importantly, you should be nice anyway…not because you’re getting free stuff, but because you’re a nice person.)
If you’re not a sleeper, find someone else who isn’t either
That guy/girl over there fidgeting? Yeah, they can’t sleep either. Challenge them to a game on the in-flight entertainment. Yup! You can do that! You just pop in their seat number, and boom. Endless competition with a stranger on a plane. If you’re lucky, maybe you’ll become friends and not game enemies. Then you actually speak to each and not destroy each other’s battle ships. The possibilities from there on in are almost endless. Some suggestions of things to do: try to sneak into business and/or first class. First person in wins.
See who can make it from one end of Economy class to the other without running). If you’re really ambitious, try drawing a moustache on a sleeping passenger…without getting caught by those other people who aren’t sleeping. Offer to help the stewards by throwing sweets around the cabin for the people. People love sweets. Grab as many sick bags as possible. Draw faces on them and pop them back into the seat pockets. All of these things are great bonding activities for you and your newly found friend.
Free drinks? Drink them
Long haul flights provide food and drink. It’s a part of your ticket. Sure you’ve previously paid for it…but at the time it feels like it’s free. If you can stomach it, eat all the free food, drink all the free drinks. If you are getting tired, but know you won’t sleep, drink coffee. This of course, may make you a little bit crazy, but then it would be prime time to find a stranger to play games with.
Also, on a more serious note, if you’re feeling a bit queasy and blergh, drink fizzy drinks. They settle your stomach. Coke, Sprite, etc. Just note, drinking lots will make you need to pee, so if you’re in a window seat then keep in mind that you’re going to be doing a lot of climbing over people and probably angering them.
Remember that your destination awaits
If all else fails, just keep in mind that you’ll be off the plane shortly (ish) and can put your feet on solid ground once again.