People who say  flying long distance is relaxing are either flying high on Valium or Business Class. Probably both, washed down with bottomless champagne and endless attention. (Covet)


I like flying (the start of a new journey, the excitement of going home) but there’s nothing relaxing about being squashed into a metal box with thousands of other people, each with their own curious bodily functions peccadillos (a cute name for the woman next to you who sighs deeply until you talk to her or rather have her talk at you.)

I can’t save you from the guy in 34 B and his one-man throat Acapello band that makes you push your earplugs so deep into your ear canal that you start hearing white noise (a pleasant alternative you note). Nor can I rescue you from the screaming brat, two rows down, or the brat’s parents who appeases it with constant sugar treats and then wonders why it is running up and down the aisles at 11pm. And no, that shrug and sad face won’t suffice as an apology Mr Parent.


If only travel insurance policies protected you from human stupidity or recognised that it’s actually a crime against your personal comfort levels (I would even say dignity) to have to sit within earshot of someone who gets drunk, passes out and snores so loudly that you consider giving him (its always a him) a painful tonsillectomy with your dinner spoon (the stainless steel kind). So no, I can’t save you from your fellow passengers but I can give you some tips to help you save off those other flying pains – hunger, boredom and, worst of all, the dreaded middle seat.

1) Check in online

I almost can’t believe I am including this one. It should be obvious right? Apparently not. I can’t believe how many people still stand in the long Disneyland inspired queue that is specifically reserved for economy class citizens. Especially when online check in lets you choose your seat and meal option, instead of leaving it to the great sky Lottery (yes chicken is still very popular.)

2) Don’t be so eager to board

For some reason people are so eager to board these long metal germ tubes that they miss out on a key opportunity – to choose a better seat. I learnt this trick when I was allocated the dreaded middle seat and was having heart palpitations just thinking about it. So I decided to hang back and hover around an empty seat, pretending to wait for the toilet or refill my water bottle. Of course I was actually waiting for that final passenger to sit down and confirm which seats were still open. The next time I did one better – I became the final passenger, which meant I could easily walk down the aisles and scan for a better seating option without fear of someone claiming their seat later on. Proof: On my recent leg from Dubai to Cape Town, this trick rewarded me with three free seats all to myself. You should have seen the envy on the couple in the jam-packed row next to me. (Hopefully they find this blog and score the next time.)

3) Be special

I am glad that you are a friendly, easy-going person in real life, but this is no time to punt that side of yourself. Be unique and particular not general and flexible. That is to say you really need to develop a “special diet”. Why? Because special meals get served first and fast. The more particular (some would say difficult) you are, the faster they come. Go figure? Either way you will thank me for me becoming a lactose intolerant vegan when your meal comes before your hunger pangs. Okay so maybe not this combo as you might still have hunger pangs afterwards, but even an Asian Vegetarian meal is special and usually quite tasty too.

'Where are you headed?' 'Oh, I'm just here for the food.'

4) BYO earplugs

This is not a hygiene issue; it’s a timing one. I don’t know about you but I’m always down to the last 10 minutes of the most gripping movie (it takes a few duds to find the “sleeper” surprise) when they come and yank my earphones away. I used to hide mine under my hood of my puffy jacket, which I would inevitably be wearing because they had already yanked my blanket away. The easier option is to bring your own earplugs so you can keep watching until the plane empties and the air hostesses kick you out.

5) Let airlines reward you

Airlines should reward you for the discomfort you endure at the economy end of the scale. So let them. Make sure you know what you are entitled to and then claim it. So for instance I always fly Emirates (no, I am not getting money to punt them). They just happen to have the best prices and fly pretty much everywhere. It took me too many wasted miles before I finally joined their rewards programme but dang, I’m glad I did. In silver class, I get to use their airport lounges in Dubai and I know for a fact that they only bump up their skywards members. You got to be in it to win it, as they say. But it’s not just about rewards programmes. Airlines are obliged (or feel obliged) to take care of you in transit too. Most airlines will give you a food voucher when you fly into their hub (So Dubai for Emirates and Singapore for Singapore Airlines, etc) and stay longer than 6 hours. Some will even give you a hotel room if you meet their criteria (usually longer than 8 hrs and in a certain class fare). So be sure you ask/find out what you are entitled to. Why walk around like a zombie through Dubai duty free for eight hours, coveting food you can’t afford and lounge chairs you can’t occupy, when you can sleep in a hotel bed for a few hours or get a free meal (usually valued at $25) at one of the restaurants . If you are really sneaky/smart, you’ll soon learn to claim both benefits. I just did. So do your homework and get rewarded for your efforts.

My final advice for is to use any and all of these tips or, better yet, throw money or miles at the problem and fly business class. It’s just a better class of cutlery (which I am yet to use).

Musing on how jet lag makes you feel grounded and flighty at the same time. 


Categories: TravelUSA

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