Skip to main content

Enjoying Long Flights

Enjoying Long Flights


How to Enjoy the Longest Flights in the World

In 2017, Qatar Airways launched one of the longest airline routes with its 17-hour, 30-minute flight between Auckland and Doha. Not to be outdone, Qantas responded with a 9,000-mile nonstop flight between Perth and London, and Singapore with a nonstop Newark-Singapore route, which will take just under 19 hours. (Yes, you read that correctly.) From booking to boarding and deplaning, here are coping strategies we've learned from hundreds of thousands of miles of air travel each year.

How to Choose the Right Flight

Plane type matters: Routes with frequent service are often flown on multiple types of aircraft, so check before booking. The Boeing 777 is a beautiful plane, but the Airbus A380 is significantly quieter in the cabin, and the ride is so smooth you barely feel it.
Newness matters: Latest-generation aircraft have made significant improvements with cabin humidity, noise levels, pressurization, and lighting. The air on the Airbus A350 is recycled every three minutes so it’s not that stale, disgusting plane air we’re all familiar with. The models to look for right now: the A350 and Boeing 787.
Double-check seating configurations: Avoid waking up your slumbering neighbor (or getting woken up yourself) by booking all-aisle-seat premium cabins. Configurations can vary within a fleet—for instance, Qatar Airways’ 777s don't have all-aisle business-class seats, but its 787s, A350s, and A380s do—so check the cabin maps before you decide, either direct with the airline or with services like SeatGuru.
Red-eyes are not always best: Pick nighttime flights only if you think you’ll sleep well or have a lie-flat bed. Otherwise, shoot for a daytime flight. It's less miserable to be uncomfortable when you're not painfully tired as well.

The Seat Selection Strategy

White noise tolerance: The seats nearest the engines are going to be the loudest, so sit far away from them for a quiet flight.
Bulkhead before exit row: Why? Exit-row seats can have less padding, which can be a bigger inconvenience than sitting near galleys or lavatories.
Reconsider the back row: Seeing seat 84A on your boarding pass isn’t as bad as it seems. You’re most likely to get an empty seat next to you by picking a seat towards the very back of the cabin, in a row with at least three seats.
Do your homework: Consult sites like SeatGuru and Routehappy to steer clear of dud seats and ensure you get the latest interiors, the newest seats, and that you're sitting as far from the lavatories and galleys as possible.

Before Heading to the Airport

Dress for comfort, not looks: since no airline, airport, or Uber driver has ever managed to maintain a consistent temperature, wear sweats when flying internationally, even in first and business class—sideways glances be damned. At the very least, if you are given the pleasure of airline pajamas, use 'em.
Workout before flying: Fit in a preflight workout to counteract the effects of being sedentary. Your exercise high will get you through TSA, and it’ll fade in time for easy in-flight sleeping.

As Soon as You Board

Hack your legroom: Even if you're not 6-foot-7, you should make every half-inch of legroom count. Sometimes the seat-back pockets are full of magazines that take up space. Use them as a foot rest for better circulation.
Reset your mental clock: Get ahead of jet lag by changing your watch or phone to your destination’s time zone as soon as possible.
Take control of your environment: Don't like that stale plane smell? Spray your favorite scent, aromatherapeutic or not, on a scarf or blanket. Purchase noise-canceling Bose QC35 headphones, or put on earplugs as soon as you board. The more you're in control, the better you'll feel.

The Dos and Don’ts of Eating on Planes

Stay hydrated: turns out that hydration plays a huge role in preventing jet lag. Most people do everything to avoid the plane bathroom, but it's healthier in the long run to keep a steady intake of water. Dry pressurized cabins exacerbate dehydration, dehydration exacerbates stasis of water in the body, and stasis exacerbates jet lag. Purchase a large bottle of water prior to boarding, and ask for refills routinely. Water in, water out.
Do eat: Even though airplane food can be saturated with sodium, you shouldn't starve yourself. Plus, plane meals are a nice way to pass the time. Some airlines with strong culinary cred: Turkish, Emirates, Singapore, and Air France.
Don't wake up for breakfast: Airplane breakfasts are almost always disappointing. Instead of waking up an extra 90 minutes before you land, skip it and get the extra rest instead.
Do speed things up: Many airlines offer premium passengers a lighter, quick-service meal (like a salad or sandwich) at the beginning of the flight in lieu of a full meal. Go that route, and you’ll get to bed sooner.
Do order ahead: You’ll get served first—and be guaranteed your choice—if you request a special meal when you book, whether that means vegetarian or halal.
Don't eat all the salty snacks: Two words: dehydration and bloating. Instead, pack raw nuts and Numi tea bags, which hardly take up any space.
Do think twice before you drink twice: Caffeine and alcohol are both dehydrating and disrupt your sleep patterns. Limit yourself to one—which is enough to help you relax (or perk up). Then balance it out with twice as much water.

How to Stay Entertained

Investigate the Wi-Fi situation: Choose airlines like Lufthansa or Etihad that have reasonably priced Wi-Fi without expensive data caps.
Don't depend solely on in-flight entertainment: Before your trip, browse your airline’s website to determine how many movies you should load up on your iPad—most carriers have lists of what's playing on board. For binge watchers, Netflix recently changed the game by letting you download an expansive selection of movies and TV shows for offline viewing.
Power up: Make sure all your electronics are completely charged before you fly, just in case the in-seat power ports don't work—you'd be surprised how often this happens. Bring a power bank, like the Anker PowerCore 20100, which can simultaneously recharge two gadgets—multiple times.
Permission to disconnect: Being on a plane is one of the only times I don’t feel guilty for not working. Try reading a book.

Avoid Getting Sick

Spritz every few hours: Using a sinus spray can help you fight viruses and bacteria, keep you from feeling dry, and make it easier to adjust to pressure.
Wipe that tray: Your seat-back tray table is said to be more germ-infested than the airplane bathroom, so clean it off with a baby wipe or a squirt of an alcohol-based hand sanitizer before settling in.
Rethink the amenity kit: Travelers can be more reactive to new or synthetic ingredients when dealing with the stress of travel. Instead, use products with just a few natural ingredients like coconut oil, shea butter, or almond oil.

Make It All Look Easy

Got a long layover? Pick an airline with a full-service lounge so you can get a coffee and a shower before your next flight. Most international carriers have their own lounge or contract with another carrier's lounge services. If you take a nap, don't forget to set an alarm.