Long-haul flight hacks: how to make your journey first class

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Georgie Young
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With long-distance travel getting ever longer, we round up the best travel hacks to upgrade your journey to a first-class experience

There’s something truly magical about stepping off a plane on the other side of the world to when you stepped onto it. Less magical, however, is the plane journey you’ve had to endure to get there. 

Advances in technology have allowed planes to travel ever further without stopping, and Australian airline Qantas is leading the transcontinental charge. Last year, they unveiled their 17-hour mega flight from Perth to London, and they’ve followed it up by successfully completing test flights from New York to Sydney that will have passengers on board for a whopping 19 hours, with plans to test an even longer flight from London to Sydney next month. 

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Sitting on a plane for such a lengthy period of time presents passengers a unique set of challenges. While airlines do offer fantastic first and business class seating options (the best we’ve seen is Etihad’s three-room suite The Residence that comes with a double bed as well as a $41k price tag), for most of us, having a flat bed and an unlimited supply of champagne on board is just a dream. However, there are some things you can do to make your flight a much more pleasant experience. Whether you’re a first-time flyer or a veteran of the skies, we’ve collated some long-haul flight hacks and tips to help you to have a first-class flying experience while seated in the economy cabin.   

Selecting the perfect seat can help combat post-flight fatigue

Before you fly

A DIY first-class flight starts with some first-class preparation. This is really important as the risk of developing deep vein thrombosis increases two to three-fold on flights lasting for more than four hours. Reduce the risk and ease your mind by popping an aspirin before your flight. Equally important is syncing your body clock to your destination’s time zone. The on-board environment will dim and brighten the cabin lights and serve meals in accordance with the time at your destination. Ease your transition by setting your watch or phone clock to your destination’s time zone a few days before you jet off. 

Bag the best seat

Websites such as SeatGuru are handy as they allow you to check out the aircraft layout in advance, but choosing the perfect seat is ultimately about what you find most important on the flight. Want to be able to stretch your legs as and when you want? The aisle seat is for you – but it does come with the burden of being woken up every time the person next to you wants to use the loo. Intending to conk out for the next twelve hours? Bag the window seat, but make sure to nip to the bathroom before everyone settles in for the journey. Avoid screaming children by sitting away from the pillars that separate the sections as this is where families with small children tend to be seated. 

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Food, glorious food!

In-flight meals haven’t always got the best rap, with quality varying from flight to flight and airline to airline. Most long-haul flights come part and parcel with in-flight meals, but if airplane food isn’t your cup of tea, make sure to stock up on snacks at the gate. If you don’t want to wait for your meal when you’re on board, order a meal with dietary requirements. Special request meals are almost always served first and will help you to avoid getting hangry mid-flight. 

Skincare in the sky 

Create your own first-class toiletries bag by gathering together travel-size versions of your favourite skincare essentials in a cute and portable pouch. Flying seriously dehydrates your skin, so be sure to pack a moisturiser that works for both your body and your face and apply it religiously. To bring a slice of spa-style bliss with you, roll a little of this Flight Therapy oil by Aesop over your temples for an instant hit of relaxation. Pack a lip balm to keep your lips from cracking, and don’t forget eye drops as they’ll keep your eyes feeling nice and refreshed. 

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Let me entertain you 

Gone are the days when in-flight entertainment was a choice of two crusty old films. Pack some noise cancelling headphones and explore the wealth of TV and film choices available on the in-flight entertainment system, or, failing that, stock your phone with all your favourite music before you fly – just remember to bring a portable charger to avoid running out of juice. More and more airlines are offering customers the opportunity to buy in-flight wifi, but if you’re keen on having a digital detox while you fly, pack yourself a good book (check out our list of the best in-flight fiction here) or a notepad and amuse yourself the old-fashioned way. 

Avoid alcohol

There’s something ultra glamorous about the idea of having a couple of glasses of champagne while soaring through the clouds. Long-haul flights might seem like one of the few situations where day drinking is not only acceptable but positively encouraged, but the reality of drinking while flying is a whole different ball game. The higher altitude on board means that there’s less oxygen in your blood, meaning that you’re likely to feel the effects of alcohol much more quickly. What’s more, the dry plane environment combined with the dehydrating effects of alcohol leads to you rapidly becoming dehydrated, and it goes without saying that being hungover on a plane is less than ideal. Avoid the headache and drink plenty of water instead. 

An eye mask and neck pillow are essential in helping you to drift off

How to snooze in-flight

The environment on-board an economy flight isn’t exactly optimised for sleeping – from the upright seats to the gratingly-loud engine noise. We cannot stress enough the importance of purchasing a good quality neck pillow before departing – it can be the difference between a refreshing nap and a trip to the chiropractor when you arrive. Dismiss the myth that if you dress well you’re more likely to get an upgrade in favour of some comfy clothes instead – and don’t forget to pack some fluffy socks to keep your feet cosy as they swell at higher altitudes. Finally, blend in with the long-haul professionals by pulling on an eye mask and ear plugs before bedding down for the evening. 

Images: Getty


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Georgie Young

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