The Thoughts of Chairman May... on how to cope with long-haul international flights

Hopefully some Useful Info on how to survive long-distance flights

During my six year career with IBM travelling all over the world I've learned through experience what makes long-haul flights more comfortable and enjoyable, so I thought I'd pass on my knowledge. Who knows, the trip you make enjoyable may be your own!

Travel Kit

Depending upon the distance involved and class of travel, the airline may supply you with an in-flight amenity pack to smooth the edges on your flight. Typically you'll get something if you're flying over ten hours in Economy or six hours in business. However, this varies wildly from airline to airline: for example on the Auckland to Los Angeles run the amenities pack supplied by United Airlines in Business Class was the same as what QANTAS supplied in Economy!

As most people travel Economy, the airlines may not give you a pack with all the goodies in it. But that's no reason why you can't make a pack of your own - after all, you're going to be stuck in your seat for several hours, so you may as well be comfortable!

Item Comment
Amenities bag Try and get a roll-up one - I recall the Body Shop has some good ones. A bag with mesh pockets and plastic inner-lining is good.
Toothbrush and toothpaste Sounds trivial, but believe me: having freshly-cleaned teeth really makes a world of difference after sitting in your seat for almost twelve hours on a trans-oceanic run! No need for anything big.
Deodorant Seldom in airline packs, which is a shame. Remember, you've been sitting in the same clothes for the last few hours, and there's no showers on aircraft yet...
Minature "eau de toilette" spray or bottle See above. Can be a useful substitute in an emergency. Make sure that you either have this stored in a plastic bag or the cap is fastened VERY tight, as this stuff when it leaks appears to have the same effect as paint-stripper on stuff in your bag.
Earplugs QANTAS and Air New Zealand give these out on trans-Pacific flights, but they're great anytime you want to get some sleep. The cabin gets surprisingly noisy.
Nasal spray, eucalypt oil or similar decongestant inhaler I don't know whether it's just me, but I find the dry air of airliner cabins tends to dry my nasal passages out and make breathing difficult. Having something that YOU know will clear your tubes with you is definitely recommended, especially as there's a BIG pressure differential between cruising altitude and ground level - and from personal experience being unable to equalise airpressure in your sinuses is sheer bloody agony.
Blindfold Sleeping, for the purpose of.
Disposable razor, and minature aerosol can of shaving foam For men on overnight flights, being able to remove the scrub off your face prior to landing is a good option and really helps you to feel better. I recommend against using shaving creams though - in my experience, the dry air in the cabin turns normally smooth liquid shaving cream to a sludgy sticky wallpaper paste by the time you get your razor to your face...
Moisturiser Aircraft cabins get notoriously dry atmospheres, so a small tube of cream will help keep your skin from drying out too much. QANTAS at one point gave out a "Misting" spray in their Business Class packs, which is very refreshing - don't know if you can get it on the ground, but is worth looking for.


What's the best seat to get for a long flight? Forward or aft? Aisle or window?

Row seating

I've found that in terms of row seating in Economy it's best to see if you can get an "exit row" - that is, a row next to one of the emergency exits. On the major long-haul aircraft types (B747/767/777, A340) this is normally wider than the standard row in order to facilitate getting out in an emergency, so there's more leg room. Be aware that there will be tighter restrictions on what cabin baggage you can put on the floor, as well as some airlines (American ones usually) insisting that you be physically fit etc in order to assist evacuation in an emergency. Having said that, it's still a good deal for the legroom.

Surprisingly, the extreme aft of the cabin has its good points. There's virtually no-one behind you, and you're close to the toilets. The latter takes on new meaning after all the liquids you consume on the flight, as well as refreshing yourself before landing!

Sometimes an airline operating 747 aircraft will have the upper deck in Economy Class. If you have the option, take it - especially if you want a window seat, as you have a side bag compartment right next to you and you don't necessarily need the overhead bin. Much more convenient!

Window vs. Aisle

When considering whether to get a window or an aisle seat, you need to take into account:

For flights at night, or over large bodies of water, you should try to get an aisle seat for comfort. Typically you won't be able to see much out the window anyway, especially if you're flying over solid cloud cover.

Miscellaneous flying tips

Mayfurr's rule of Preflight Gastronomy: Never eat curry or other heavily spiced dishes within twelve hours of long-duration international flights.
At best, you'll be a major contributor to methane gas in the aircraft, and at worst you'll be fighting your way over your passengers and up the aisles in frequent desperate attempts to get to the lavatories!

Mayfurr's Rule of Carry-on Luggage: Never take stuff onto a plane as carry-on luggage that you wouldn't be happy lugging around an airport for three hours. Sure, you might want to save a wait at the baggage claim, BUT especially these days do you want to lug half your stuff around on your shoulders while you wait to board, or are in transit? Despite the increased risk of hitting excess baggage charges, stick as much as possible in your checked luggage so you won't have to carry it around the terminal. You'll also receive the gratitude of your fellow passengers, as you won't be the one holding everyone elseup on disembarkation.

Mayfurr's Rule of On-board electronic devices: Always take spare batteries for your CD player etc, and always charge your laptop battery. Airborne duty-free shopping generally don't sell batteries... and for laptops, you want to be sure that you can power the thing up for Security to prove it's not a bomb!

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Copyright 1996, 2003 Terry Knight.
For more information contact: Terry Knight