Facing a 12-hour flight in economy class? Don’t fret – these simple steps can make you journey more endurable.
CHOOSE YOUR SEAT OR CHECK-IN EARLY
Exit-row and bulkhead seats are the most prized, but many airlines won’t let you book them until the day of the flight. To snag these seats, check in online on the day you’re travelling or show up early at the counter. Cathy Pacific and Singapore Airlines let you reserve extra-legroom seats for a fee. If you can’t get one of these, book your seat ahead of the flight either through your travel agent or the airline. Log onto seatguru.com or seatexpert.com for a better idea of choice seats, and make sure to avoid the seats with their backs against the lavatories and in the far back because they don’t recline fully.
DON’T TRAVEL DURING PEAK TIMES
If you’re flexible about time, choose flights in the middle of the week and during mid-day when planes are likely to be less full. Times to avoid: Thursday afternoon and evening, all day Friday and Monday morning.
CARRY ON AS LITTLE AS POSSIBLE
Travelling light has a couple of advantages. First, you can save yourself previous legroom by keeping the space in front of you free. And second, you can take your time boarding – others can fight for space in the overhead bins. Trust me, you can still cram in a small backpack or tote into a packed bin.
BUT BRING THE COMFORT ESSENTIALS
A horseshow-shaped pillow and eye-mask can make all the difference when it comes to sleeping on board. An extra pair of socks lets you kick off your shoes and a lightweight jumper or shawl will keep you toast warm. (Blankets are too bulky.) Before you leave, don’t forget to update your MP3 players, which will save you from the in-flight entertainment system.
This might seem like a no-brainer, but plenty of people board planes in ridiculously elaborate and uncomfortable clothing that are no designed for long-haul flights. Dont’ become a slob, but stretchy and breathable are the way to go.
PACK YOUR OWN MEALS
Let’s face it: a homemade sandwich beats an in-flight meal any day. If you don’t have time at home, grab something from a cafe before you board. Bring a granola bar or apple for snacking – just make sure to eat what you bring before you land (especially fruit), lest you get nabbed at customs. Otherwise think about pre-ordering a special meal, these come at no additional cost and just need to be booked at least 24 hours in advance. Choose from religious (Hindu, Muslim, kosher, etc), medical/dietary (bland, diabetic, gluten-free, low calorie, non-lactose, vegetarian, vegan, peanut-free, etc) and other (child, baby, seafood, meat, raw, etc). The best part about having one of these meals is that they are always served ahead of everybody else on board, so you don’t have to agonisingly wait for the little trolley to reach you; only to discover they are out of the fish! And, more importantly, these meals are often of a much higher and tastier quality then their run-of-the-mill brethren.
INVEST IN NOISE-CANCELLATION HEADPHONES
Three hundred American dollars might seem a lot to pay for Bose Quiet Comfort noise-cancelling headphones. But if you’re a frequent flier, it’s an investment you won’t regret, Goodbye roaring engines, across-the aisle conversations, and yes, even that screaming baby!
MIND YOUR MANNERS
Being polite to flight attendants usually means better service, especially in Asia (with the glaring exception of mainland China). That beleaguered flight attendant won’t forget your attitude when you make a special request like changing seat.