Flight coping




You can try and pretend otherwise, but frankly there’s no way of making a long flight to the other side of the world enjoyable. Unless you’re sat at the front of the plane bathing in a pile of your own £50 notes, then you’re likely to be cramped up in a small seat for longer than you’d really like to be. That said, it is possible to alleviate some of the misery, make the journey more tolerable and fight the jetlag...


Go West

For some reason, jetlag is almost always worse flying from west to east than east to west. No-one really knows why, but the body just seems to prefer it that way.  In jetlag terms, if you’re booking a round the world trip, you’re far better heading across the Atlantic first. 


Break the journey

Of course, the easiest way of avoiding a hellish 24 hour flight is to not have a 24 hour flight. Stopping off somewhere on the way to Australia or New Zealand makes sense on so many levels. It’s a chance to explore somewhere new, allow your body to adjust gradually, and work the first stretch of the journey out of your system before tackling the next. This, of course, is where a round the word ticket comes in.


Arrive at the right time

When booking your flights, take a look at what time they’ll arrive. Getting into Sydney at 6am and then forcing yourself to stay up for the whole day so that your body clock gets in sync is absolutely horrendous. Arriving in the afternoon or early evening means you get to expend that second wind of excitement that comes from arriving somewhere new, then go to bed at the right time. It’s worth seeing whether there’s an alternative flight that arrives at a better time...


Check in online

Get online a couple of days before you fly and check in through the airline’s website, and it’ll spare you a fair bit of time and stress at the airport. More importantly, you’ll be able to pick what seats you want, and hopefully some of the best seats are still available. Where those best seats are depends on the airline and the type of plane they’re using. But colour-coded diagrams can be found at Seatguru.com, highlighting the best and worst seats. The emergency exit rows tend to be best for space, but many airlines now charge extra for the privilege of sitting there. The seats behind the bulkheads are theoretically good too – they’ve got extra legroom. But this is often where families with young children get sat. You’re running the risk of being in screaming kid central.


Sneaky seat tricks

One of the best tactics if you’re travelling as a pair is to track down a row where three seats are placed together, and reserve the seats on either edge. The middle seat between you has instantly become one of the least appealing on the plane, and thus is less likely to have anyone in it. More space for the two of you to spread out in – hoorah. If the plane is pretty full and someone is sat there, you simply offer them one of yours so you can sit together. You’re no worse off than you would have been if you’d picked two together anyway. For solo travellers, everyone seems to have their own tactic. Mine is to target the least appealing seat on the plane, and try and sit myself next to it. No-one, for example, wants to be in the middle of the middle aisle at the back of the plane. So I tend to pick an aisle seat in the middle aisle towards the back. Unless the plane is full, I’ve a good chance of getting two seats to myself.


Come equipped

Most airlines will provide an eye mask for night flights – they’re really handy. But ear plugs are rarely included and they’re just as important for blocking out the outside world. You’ll also want to bring loose-fitting clothing that’s comfortable to wear and a few easily removable/ addable layers. Air crews seemingly like the plane to be either roasting hot or fridge-like, so you may need to add or subtract depending on circumstances. Never rely on the in-flight entertainment system working/ having decent films either – an engrossing book or two will make the flight far more enjoyable.


Maximise your space

It’s amazing how many people will accept the clutter in the seat pocket in front of them as something to be tolerated. A sensible pre-take off move is to take it all out and throw it in the overhead compartment. It sounds silly, but this can buy you an inch or so of leg room.


Fight the recliners

People who instantly recline their seat and keep it that way for the duration of the flight are sub-human scum. If they’re going to do that, then the gloves are off – prepare for war to protect your leg room. The first tactic is to be prepared. If you see them about to recline, shove your knees up hard into the space they’re going to recline into. They should take the hint when they hurt their back. If this doesn’t work, or you miss your window, either ask them to perhaps recline only half the way or do everything in your power to make them uncomfortable. Continually latch and unlatch the table, rummage around in the seat pocket, spread out a nice broadsheet newspaper so it tickles their head and aggressively jab the seat-back screen whilst pretending to adjust the volume.*


Drink sensibly

Yes, they may hand out free booze on the flight, but overindulging in it is likely to make you feel far worse. Dehydration is one of the worst aspects of flying – not to mention contributing factors to jetlag – and there are few worse things for dehydration than alcohol. If a couple of glasses of red wine help you relax (and thus sleep) then so be it, but getting off your chops purely because the drink is free is an exercise in stupidity. Also make sure you get plenty of water down. Cabin crews will rarely provide enough, so don’t be afraid to go to the galley and pester for more – ask for a large bottle if possible, and that spares everyone the annoyance of you continually going up to ask for small glasses.


Close your eyes and doze

Even if you’re someone who just can’t manage to sleep on planes, there’s a lot to be said for going through the motions of sleeping. Spending a couple of hours in a semi-sleeping trance can do the body and brain a surprising amount of good. The trick is to stop worrying about whether you properly get to sleep or not, and just sit back with your eyes closed in as relaxed a manner as possible. Switching off counts for a lot, even if you can’t fully nod off.


*Yes, this is childish, but shooting is too good for these selfish types.