I recently got back from the Middle East, where I flew Etihad’s awesome business class product. Throughout my two week trip, I stayed at nice hotels and had a great time overall. So it was only fair that I got stuck in economy class during the 16-hour flight back home. It wasn’t planned that way – I was set to fly back in Etihad business class along with my parents and grandmother, while my sister was in economy. Well, my parents being the selfless saints that they are, felt bad about my sister being the only one in economy and insisted on trading with her. I couldn’t have that, so I gave up my seat instead.
Only, she thought I was lying when I told her the gate agent said he couldn’t print a new ticket but we could switch seats onboard. She assumed us switching was against the rules somehow. So I asked the flight attendant to tell her she’d been upgraded and while she walked back to my seat in business class, I would sneak into hers. It worked out well. Except, now I was facing the longest flight I’ve ever endured in economy class. It wasn’t so bad, though, once I got comfortable. I thought I’d share some tips for surviving a long flight in economy class in case you ever find yourselves in this situation:
1. It’s all about the footrest. What I discovered during my 16-hour flight in economy class is that it’s all about getting comfortable and the key to getting comfortable is to have some sort of footrest. That’s right – it’s not so much about legroom or recline but rather positioning your feet at a comfortable angle. I make it a habit to put my laptop bag under my seat, which worked out really nicely because placing my feet over the bag created the perfect footrest/foot cubby. Once I found a comfortable way to position my feet and recline my seat, I was practically on an angled flatbed seat and slept for 7 hours straight. This is by far the most sleep I’ve ever gotten on any flight, including those in business class.
This works really well if your laptop bag has a hard case. At one point, I put my purse over the bag for added height but that was actually uncomfortable because my feet kept sinking into the bag. Also, a few folks have pointed out to me on Twitter and Facebook that this only works if you’re short. As a 5’3 girl I can’t really speak for tall folks on this, so feel free to chime in.
2. Dress for winter. Except for maybe Asian carriers, airplane cabins are always freezing cold. Those flimsy airline blankets do nothing to help you stay warm in a virtual arctic zone. Even on the business class flight to Abu Dhabi, where I had a warm blanket and pajamas, I was shivering most of the flight. On the return segment in economy class, I wore a sweater, jacket, and bundled up with a scarf. It went a long way in keeping me warm and comfortable enough to doze off for the majority of the flight. I highly recommend bringing a jacket and even a scarf on a long-haul economy flight. It goes a long way in making the flight more comfortable.
3. Bring an amenity kit. A few airlines have begun distributing amenity kits to economy class passengers, but unfortunately Etihad isn’t one of them. If I had known in advance I’d be flying economy class, I would have brought my own amenity kit with a toothbrush, floss, moisturizer, and an extra pair of socks to stay fresh throughout the flight. Luckily, my mom asked the flight attendant for an extra toothbrush and brought it to me, which I appreciated. If you count the time you’re awake, 16 hours is like two days. You don’t go two days without brushing your teeth, washing your face or changing clothes, do you? Being able to do at least a few of these things can help you survive a long flight in comfort.
4. Give your immune system a boost. Several studies have dubbed Airborne ineffective in battling the common cold. Maybe it’s the placebo effect, but I’ve had multiple close calls with colds and taking Airborne helped. On this particular trip, I was constantly surrounded by crowds of people and the #1 tip I got before I left was “bring Airborne and take it daily.” At the very least, I would take it on the plane because 80% of the time after I get off a flight, I get a cold. So whether it’s Airborne or Vitamin C tablets, give your immune system a boost when you’re flying long-haul economy class. There are more people around and more germs to combat. Preparing for this can help you (literally) survive a long-haul flight in economy class.
5. Pharmaceuticals? I’m not a fan of prescription or over-the-counter drugs. I’ll go months with a cold before I take anything stronger than Nyquill. But I know not everyone else has these reservations, in which case it might not be a bad idea to bring a non-habit forming sleeping pill to help make a long-haul flight pass quicker.
6. Bring a Snack. “But they serve food on the plane” – yes but the term “food” should be used loosely here. There are limited food options in economy class and the last thing you want is to end up with leftovers from the prison chow hall that are so bad you end up eating “biscuits” for lunch. I’m not a picky eater and actually like airplane food – but the food on my Etihad return flight to San Francisco was inedible. I actually opened the package and almost passed out from the smell alone. A small bite of the Saag Paneer and I almost gagged.
This isn’t a dig at Indian food – I know what Saag Paneer is supposed to taste/smell like. This wasn’t it. The salad was so terrible, my Indian seat mates and I just passed our trays back to the flight attendant. When I asked for a snack, she brought us biscuits and apples, so we ate those until dinner time. Dinner was edible, but if it hadn’t been, it would have meant more biscuits and apples for me. Don’t get caught in this: Stock up on snacks in case the food during your long-haul economy class flight turns out to be terrible.
I’d love your feedback on this – what tips do you have for surviving a long-haul economy class flight?