Making Your Flight More Comfortable

Cramped airline seatsWhen you are booking for a long-haul flight, you will look at price, and locations; but you should also ask, how can you be making your flight more comfortable? It is utterly awful to spend 10 or 12 hours with your knees jammed into the seat in front while you secretly jostle for a bit of space on the armrest; a really uncomfortable journey will leave you exhausted and jaded and cost you 2 days of full enjoyment at the other end! How comfortable your flight is will largely depend on the pitch (distance between seats) and the width of the seat, and this varies significantly between airlines and plane types. Of these, pitch is the most important unless you are not tall -by which I mean, short!.  (I am 1.76m or 5'9 1/2" ). I recommend that you will want at least 32" pitch, and more is much much better. Here is a site which lists the pitch and width of seats in economy class, on a vast range of planes, listed by airline.  Other major factors affecting seating comfort are the angle to which the seats recline, and the actual construction of the seat. It is not easy to find out the recline angle, but generally you will find that budget airlines will give you little recline so that you will spend the entire trip with your chin falling open every time you fall asleep. Use a neck pillow to overcome this. Budget airlines may also have hard or shiny slippery seats, but this is not a rule - Air France generally has hard uncomfortable seats. I generally find that the Middle Eastern airlines (Emirates, Etihad, Qatar) and the Australasian airlines (Qantas, Air New Zealand) have comfortable seats, but note that the pitch varies according to the plane type. A very significant factor in making your flight more comfortable, is minimising the number of stops. If at all possible, one stop is best. Each stop adds about an hour in descending and regaining flight altitude, as well as the time on the ground. In addition, at every stop you have to gather your bits and pieces, walk miles, go through security, wait for your connecting flight, re-board, and fight for overhead locker space. There are 4 more things making your flight more comfortable which are entirely within your control. 1. The amount you carry on will haunt you. I strongly suggest that you only carry a medium-sized handbag, and do not make it heavy. You will hate every moment of hauling a handbag and a neck pillow and a heavy computer or carry-on bag and maybe some duty-free for the miles and miles of walking required in most modern airports. Only carry one medium-sized handbag! It should just hold your purse, travel documents, maybe an iPad, a phone, and a change of panties and t-shirt. Do not pack cosmetics or liquids except for a pencil eyeliner and lip pencil! They will just involve you in endless packing and unpacking at every security gate. 2. What you wear really does matter. Your body expands at altitude, and you are likely to find that your feet swelpzz98449_black_default_tl and your tummy may become a bit distended. so do not wear clothing which is tight, especially  around the waist. Wear slip-on shoes, because you may be required to take them off at security screening. You will have to walk miles and miles, so wear flats. Your feet will thank you. Personal note - I find bras to be uncomfortable after hours and hours in a plane seat, and  often wear a light weight teddy (not a corsetry one), as this does not have the back strap and under-the-boobs edge. You can get inexpensive ones at Target or Walmart, and as a side-benefit, you will feel glamorous as well as comfortable! Planes can be very cold, so wear or carry a cardigan or light jacket. If you are going from summer to winter, pack your coat in the top layer of your suitcase. You will be able to get it out before you leave the airport, and they are a pain to carry. 3. It is tempting to eat every drink and plate of food you are offered on long haul flights, simply to relieve the boredom. If you eat lightly and be very moderate with alcohol, you will suffer less jet-lag. Also some people become constipated because of sitting for so long and eating too much, so - be prepared. 4. Finally - shower at your stopover halfway! If you possibly can, find a pay lounge, or if you are in business class, there will be a shower in your lounge. There is no other more important tip than this. Even if you are tired and cannot be bothered, take a shower. It is truly amazing how it refreshes you and gets rid of that grimy sweaty sticky feeling, and makes the blood flow in your skin again. Once you have tried this you will never not shower again at the stopover. I change my shirt and underwear, believe me, it is worth the slight bother. Business Class. If you can travel business class, do it. This is the ultimate step in making your flight more comfortable! I can not bring myself to pay for a standard business class ticket to Europe, now that I am paying my own way! For example, business class return from Perth to Paris with Emirates costs somewhere between about $8,000 and $12,500. However, there are 'bucket shops' such as alphaflightguru which do offer business class returns for about $3,000 on this route. I have talked to them but not used them so far, but I have a friend who has and she had a good experience. There are also cheaper fares using more indirect routes and lesser-known carriers. For example, I am (reluctantly, because travelling with my brother who insisted!) flying business class from Perth to Paris in April with Scoot to Singapore then Air Vietnam to Hanoi and Paris, returning with Air France to Saigon and Singapore the Scoot to Perth. I expect it to be a dreadful trip because of all the changes, but the cost is about $3,200. Oh well.
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Emirates lie-flat bed
If you are (gloriously) travelling in business class, you should feel entitled to a seat which converts to a completely flat bed which is not in the middle of a row.  There is no other real reason to pay the extra to travel business class; the better wine and food and more obsequious service are fringe benefits but believe me, it is all about the seat!  You need to ask about this, because some airlines do still have business class seats which are three abreast and/or have only a moderate recline. I had a very annoying trip on Emirates some years ago in this situation, although to be fair Emirates no longer flies this configuration on long-haul flights. Another business class tip - if you are flying Qantas on a 747, ask for one of the upstairs window seats. You get a large top-opening locker between the armrest and the wall, so you can always reach your various bags and shoes. And it acts as a roomy bench for all those annoying cups, tissues, headphones, magazines and books. Most importantly - be relaxed and enjoy it. Flights do get delayed, and no point in getting upset; would you really want to fly on a plane which has a problem, or fly into excessively bad weather?    
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