A flight attendant’s secrets and techniques to surviving long-haul flights
Any air journey could be demanding, however dealing with down a long-haul flight could be particularly intimidating.
Should you prioritize sleeping or consuming, or each? Should you try and train within the aisle? Is it ever acceptable to take off your footwear?
Kris Major is a British flight attendant with 24 years’ expertise. He’s labored short-haul hops and spent 14-hour stretches within the sky. He’s endured journeys with an unenviable variety of layovers, and he’s change into an skilled in refueling through energy naps at 30,000 toes.
As the pandemic wanes and many people stay up for long-awaited long-haul adventures, CNN Travel requested Major for his suggestions and tips on surviving a number of hours within the sky.
If you’re catching an evening flight and also you wish to maximize sleep on board, Major suggests consuming earlier than boarding.
This is especially necessary if the flight is on the shorter finish of the long-haul scale: for those who’re touring from New York to London, for instance, at greatest you’re taking a look at round 5 or 6 hours sleep, so that you wish to profit from that relaxation time.
Major, who additionally represents European flight attendants and pilots as chair of the European Transport Workers’ Federation’s Joint Aircrew Committee, says it’s telling that the majority enterprise vacationers shut their eyes as quickly as they get on board.
“The seasoned travelers, after takeoff, you go down the cabin and you can see that they’re gone – they’ve covered themselves up and they’re asleep,” he says.
Still, Major admits that consuming earlier than flying isn’t all the time doable, due to lengthy safety traces and busy airport terminals. Even when you have the most effective intentions, you’ll be able to find yourself settling for a sad-looking sandwich as you run to the gate.
If you’re flying enterprise or top quality, you additionally is perhaps tempted to profit from foods and drinks provided on board – it’s exhausting to show down complimentary champagne, in any case.
But realistically, the cabin foods and drinks service can take an excellent two hours, so that you’re shedding priceless relaxation time – and your Business Class ticket ought to offer you entry to an airport lounge, so max out these services as a substitute, and board the aircraft well-fueled and able to relaxation.
If you’re flying long-haul, you’ll probably be provided multiple meal throughout the course of the flight.
Meal occasions begin to really feel a bit arbitrary if you’re crossing a number of time zones, however must you eat each time meals is obtainable to you? Or must you flip meals down for those who’re not hungry or making an attempt to sleep?
Major says passengers ought to do no matter’s proper for his or her journey schedule. If you’re exhausted, you’re higher off sleeping than forcing your self to eat dinner on the equal of three a.m.
“Most airlines don’t particularly plan their [food] service around the passenger and acclimatization and time zones crossing,” explains Major.
Airlines normally present pillows for long-haul vacationers, regardless of the cabin, however Major says bringing your personal eye masks, journey pillow and/or a blanket could possibly be a good suggestion relying in your preferences.
Eye masks are nice for those who’re making an attempt to sleep when the cabin lights are on, when you may favor your personal journey pillow to the airline model.
Plus, whereas it’s uncommon, there’s all the time the possibility that pillows are unavailable – one thing that could possibly be an enormous downside on a 14-hour flight.
“It happens,” says Major. “So I would say, cater yourself for your own comfort and your own needs as much as you possibly can.”
Many of us discover it troublesome to sleep on airplanes, whether or not as a result of unfamiliar noises or, for the cheaper seats, restricted leg room and upright positions.
Struggling to sleep on a protracted flight, understanding you’re going to pay for the misplaced hours if you land, could be an disagreeable cycle of fear.
Should you persist and preserve making an attempt, or hand over and watch a film?
Major says there’s no level making an attempt to power sleep, significantly in case your physique clock thinks it’s the center of the day and also you’re merely not drained.
But he cautions that it’s necessary to keep in mind what you’re doing on the different finish. If you’re going to be driving, for instance, or going straight to a gathering, it’s best to try to relaxation as a lot as you’ll be able to.
Crew relaxation areas exist on all airplanes, however what these relaxation areas appear to be will depend on the airline, plane and the size of the flight.
“If we’re going somewhere over, say, 13 hours, we need to have good rest areas,” says Major, who explains flight attendants ought to usually be entitled to breaks that permit for 90 minutes of sleep. That manner, they’ve accomplished a full sleep cycle earlier than they’re again to work.
“You need at least one sleep cycle scientifically to be of any use, to keep your ability to operate safely, your decision making processes, your communication skills,” says Major.
Flight attendants have to be alert all through the journey, so they’ll take it in turns to refuel through mid-flight energy naps.
Major says he finds sleeping in crew relaxation areas fairly simple, however he is aware of flight attendants who discover it robust to sleep in beds that Major calls “technically coffins.”
“There are some crew that really struggle with the bunks, they’re not pleasant,” says Major.
“You push yourself right in, so they’re long and thin, because they’re up in the aircraft, so there’s not a lot of space. They are like what you’d imagine you’d see on a submarine.”
Flight attendants will normally decide to get modified out of their uniform and into loungewear earlier than squeezing into the bunks. Major says he all the time packs a T-shirt and a few comfy lounge pants.
As he’s a senior flight attendant, Major will hold his tie on the outside of his bunk’s curtain earlier than he closes his eyes.
“So that if there’s any emergency whilst I’m in the bunk, they know exactly which one I’m in, even though there’s usually one designated for the senior,” Major explains.
We’ve all skilled waking up after a mid-flight sleep, groggily heading to the airplane toilet to clean up, and alarming your self if you catch sight of your exhausted reflection.
Major’s high tip for feeling refreshed following inflight relaxation may sound apparent, however he insists it makes a world of distinction.
“Cleaning your teeth is always the one that freshens everybody up the most,” he says, including that flight attendants will all the time have between 5 and 10 minutes to clean up earlier than they’re again on responsibility.
That’s sufficient time to dress, wash and, if it is advisable to, comb hair and refresh make-up.
Flight attendants will greet a returning colleague with a cup of tea or espresso. Then they’ll head off responsibility for their very own relaxation interval.
Sitting in the identical upright place for hours on finish is uncomfortable, nevertheless it’s not all the time simple to stand up to stretch. The seat belt signal is perhaps switched on, otherwise you may wish to keep away from disturbing your seat neighbor.
Major stresses that even simply wiggling your toes whereas sitting in your seat is worth it.
“Do move around in your seat, move your legs, do what comes naturally – wiggle, move, get the blood flowing if that’s what you need to do. For people that have got circulatory issues, talk to your doctor,” he says.
For many passengers, it is a controversial query as a result of considerations about smelly toes. But Major encourages anybody on a long-haul flight to take away footwear for consolation, and to assist their circulation.
Flight attendants don’t care, he says.
“We do it ourselves. I think most people do it themselves. It’s the right thing to do if you’re going on a long-haul flight,” he says.
“One would hope that you’ve had the common decency to have a bath or a shower and put clean socks or stockings or tights on before you get on the aircraft. That’s the only issue, if your feet smell.”
Major provides that it’s well mannered, for those who suppose there’s an opportunity of toes odor, to “go to the washroom and do something about it.”
But flight attendants, he says, are extra nervous about passengers protruding their toes into the aisle.
“On a night flight particularly, if you put your feet in the aisle and you’ve got dark socks on, we won’t see you, and we’ll trip over you, and it’s a bit of a nuisance for us.”
If you’re nervous about turbulence, Major advises that you simply attempt to sit close to the entrance of the plane.
“You could be standing at the front and feel nothing, and down the back they’re bouncing all over the place – the aircraft moves differently down the back,” he explains.
If you’re tall, reserving the emergency exit seat for the additional leg room could possibly be worthwhile, though Major says it’s price remembering “you can’t put your bags down at your feet or anything because it needs to be clear as an evacuation run.” Airlines additionally typically cost further for seats with leg room.
Major’s private alternative on a long-haul flight is reserving a window seat.
“That’s purely preferential, I can lean up against the bulkhead, pull my head down and go to sleep. Whereas you can’t when you’re in the aisle seats or the middle seat,” he says.
The center seat is rarely enviable, nevertheless it’s maybe significantly unappealing on a protracted flight. Major reckons it’s price paying further for the aisle or window, particularly “if you need to sleep on the flight.”
The manner we eat TV and flicks has modified drastically over the previous decade, however inflight leisure has largely stayed unchanged.
While many people nonetheless get pleasure from watching new film releases on board flights, it’s much less of a novelty than it as soon as was. Many passengers favor binging a pre-downloaded streaming present on a private machine.
“Most people self-cater flights now when it comes to entertainment,” says Major.
Your personal units are additionally an excellent back-up in case there are points with the in-flight leisure system, which Major admits “might not always be working.”
Flight attendants normally have handbooks that advise learn how to function the inflight screens, however they’re not all the time in a position to repair the issue.
“There’s only so much we can do on the aircraft to kick it back to life if it starts to play up,” says Major. “There’s very little we can do, apart from the usual scientific ‘turn it off, turn it on again.’”
Most plane immediately have USB charging sockets, however a conveyable charger might additionally offer you added piece of thoughts.
Major says in his expertise, crew aren’t paying an excessive amount of consideration to what you’ve opted to look at on board, however often he’ll touch upon a traveler’s alternative.
“We can use it as an ice breaker,” he says. “If I’ve seen a movie and it’s good, it’s something to use to strike up conversation.”
Major does recall as soon as noticing a Business Class passenger studying a e-book which included some graphic descriptions.
“The words were pretty pornographic although I couldn’t see enough to follow the thread,” Major says.
The man was studying the e-book fairly overtly, and made no makes an attempt to cover the contents.
“I was quite shocked,” says Major. “Turned out we were taking a group of sex therapists to a conference.”
Absolutely, says Major.
“On most flights, people forget that you get on the plane, you’re not going to eat for the first hour, at least – it’s probably going to be an hour and a half after takeoff before you eat,” he says.
If you’ve got a well being situation like diabetes, bringing your personal sustenance is especially key. It’s additionally necessary to pack snacks for those who’re touring with children.
Major has younger children of his personal, so he says he can reply this query each as a father and as a flight attendant.
“If you’re tense, your child will be tense, it’s as simple as that. If you’re stressed, and you’re feeling anxious, your child will be anxious,” he says.
Flight attendants are skilled at speaking children and fogeys by the flying course of, Major provides.
“Because we’re just generally very relaxed, we can calm them down very quickly,” he says.
When infants are crying, dad and mom are panicking and different passengers are sighing, Major says he’ll all the time deal with the scenario in the identical manner.
“I’ll make sure it’s audible for everyone else to hear, I’ll say: ‘Please don’t worry about it. Don’t worry about your child crying. It’s helping your child rebalance their ears. It’s the only way they can do it, through screaming. We’ve all been children, we’ve all cried, don’t worry about it.’ I’ll try to put the parents at ease. By putting the parent at ease, we can hopefully settle the child.”
Major says bringing favourite toys and blankets on the plane may assist calm a baby, because it helps the alien airplane atmosphere appear extra acquainted and comforting.
Those with a worry of flying are, in Major’s expertise, nervous about certainly one of two issues. Either it’s the “lack of control” and the “alien environment.” Or it’s worry of the airplane crashing.
Some persons are reassured by Major strolling them by the mechanics of the plane – explaining that unknown engine noises are regular, or that air journey is mostly very secure and there are various fail-safes in place.
Others would somewhat not know the ins and outs, they only want distracting. Major lately spent two hours on board a flight chatting with a nervous passenger within the galley, taking their thoughts off the scenario.
Even for many who aren’t typically afraid of flying, long-haul journeys current their very own set of strain factors that may drive individuals into panic mode.
Crying infants is perhaps seen as extra of an annoyance on a brief flight, however passengers can “freak,” as Major places it, in the event that they suppose that’s set to be their soundtrack for the following 12 hours.
Delays to any flights are irritating, however on longer flights, delays can all of the sudden hammer dwelling “the reality of distance and time,” says Major.
But Major says it’s necessary to keep in mind that “there’s always taxiing time built into the flight time.”
“You can make up time on long-haul a lot easier than short-haul,” he provides. “You can pick up a good half hour.”
Major’s by no means used an AirTag, however he understands the attraction – particularly for passengers who’ve handled a misplaced bag up to now.
Although it’s a distinct story when he travels along with his household, Major says he normally travels carry-on solely, even on long-haul flights.
That’s much less as a result of he’s nervous about shedding baggage, and extra for ease and velocity.
“On my own, I’ve got one bag that I can live for a week out of, it’s so finely tuned,” he says. “I fly with hand luggage only so I can get through the airport as quickly as possible.”
If you’ve bought a number of hours earlier than the following leg of your journey, it could possibly be price reserving a resort room to atone for sleep, says Major, who additionally advises stretching your legs and strolling round as a lot as potential.
If there’s sufficient time to depart the airport and get some recent air, that’s price doing too.
Major is aware of what he’s speaking about, he as soon as did a mammoth journey with a number of airport layovers, “from Cannes – Brisbane, Brisbane – Sydney, Sydney – Abu Dhabi, Abu Dhabi – Vienna, Vienna – Frankfurt, Frankfurt – [London] Gatwick.”
“When I got off, I was nearly dead,” he jokes.
The longest flight Major’s ever labored was round 14 hours. The longest scheduled flight at the moment in operation is Singapore Airlines’ New York to Singapore flight, which lasts 18 hours and 40 minutes.
Australian airline Qantas is getting ready to launch its extremely long-haul “Project Sunrise” flights, which might span upwards of 19 hours flying passengers from New York and London to Sydney, Australia. For flight attendants, Major says, that may contain working over durations in extra of 24 hours.
“You’re missing two nights of sleep,” says Major. “The impact of that we don’t fully understand.”
It’s nonetheless early days, says Major, and these particulars have to be ironed out. But he sees extremely long-haul because the “evolution of flying.”
“We’ve got the aircraft to do it now, so we need to find ways of doing it,” says Major. “And we will. There’s a lot of work going on to do that.”