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I'm an Aussie who likes wandering all over the world but keeps coming back home to paradise and my family. If you are reading this on one of my travel blogs, I hope you enjoy reading them as much as I enjoyed creating them. If you are reading the Diabetes and weight loss blog - I hope it helps in your battle with the beast. Cheers, Alan

Monday, February 26, 2018

Surviving Long-haul Flights in Cattle Class

Some of my international flights 

As an Australian who likes to see the rest of the world most of my outbound and homecoming flights are 8-14 hours. As I pay my own way and I am neither wealthy nor in a position to churn credit card points all of my flights in the past have been down the back in cattle class, also known as coach or economy. 

I have decided to change that in the future. After my most recent long haul from Victoria Falls to Johannesburg to Perth to Brisbane I decided this septuagenarian will no longer fly economy on any flights longer than five hours. Consequently I am presently actively researching the cheapest business class choices from my home airport to the world for my coming trips to the Baltics and Balkans. 

Those countless hours down the back have led me to develop some standard procedures for long flights. If you are still stuck in cattle class I hope these tips help reduce the pain on your future travels. 
  1. Dress for comfort, not fashion. You won't be able to change or shower for half a day or more. Make sure you are not being met on arrival by anyone who would care about your appearance. In that case try to arrive a day early and meet that person the next day.
  2. Wear slip-on shoes. That makes it much easier if you need to remove them in security and also easy to take them off on board because your feet will swell at altitude on a long flight. Wear thick socks or slip the shoes back on for walking the aisles but watch where you step in the restrooms or you'll have damp feet.
  3. Do not get an exit row or front row seat. You usually get additional leg room in those but the price you pay is narrower seats with fixed armrests. Instead look for seats with empty seats next to them; hopefully you will be able to raise the armrest and stretch out. I often check seat allocations at the last minute at the gate lounge and try to change if the seat beside me has been allocated.
  4. Get an aisle seat. Yes, you'll be disturbed occasionally when those beside you need to get out, but it's far better to have the freedom to move any time you wish. There is also a good chance the seat next to you will be empty. The aisle seat also allows easier access to the overhead lockers when you need something. 
  5. If the aircraft has a centre section choose it for your aisle seat. In the centre section the other passengers also have the choice of waking the person on the other end of the row to get out. There is also a better chance of a vacant seat - or  even two or three - beside you.
  6. Without becoming a nuisance or annoying I try to get to know the people beside me well enough to remind them politely to use the restrooms before going to sleep. That is not always possible, but can reduce the number of times they disturb you after that.
  7. Set your watch and your brain to destination time as soon as you are comfortable in your seat. Think in that time from then on. That will help with jet-lag on arrival. For example, if a meal is served after take-off and it is breakfast time at your destination, think of it as breakfast regardless of the time where you are or what is on the menu. Do the same in reverse going home.
  8. Sleep on the flight if you can but don't get stressed if you can't. I rarely can. Watch movies, read or just doze if you can. I take a netbook or tablet with lots of movies and music stored or on flash drives in case IFE is no good.
  9. Most long-haul airlines provide a free eye-shade, pillow and blanket. Check if that is the case; if not take an eye-shade and small cushion or blow-up pillow. Good earplugs can also aid sleep.
  10. Walk the aisles every few hours to minimise the possibility of Deep Vein Thrombosis.
  11. Do not plan anything important on arrival day or evening. Just relax, look around the place, and try to stay awake until after dinner before going to sleep. I deliberately plan my flights to arrive the day before any important meetings.
  12. Pressurised air conditioning is drying. Drink water or soft drinks for good hydration. Some people reckon you should avoid alcohol on long flights. I don't; instead I avoid alcohol in excess. A glass of wine or two helps my digestion and sometimes helps me sleep. But I never drink to the point of inebriation. 
Bon voyage. I hope your next long-haul flight is relaxed and stress-free.

Cheers, Alan