How to Survive a Long Haul Flight in Economy


So you missed out on a large lotto win again and have no option but to book that long flight in economy class. Once upon a time, a long haul flight was considered to be eight to twelve hours. These days the ultra long haul flights of around fifteen to seventeen hours plus are becoming more and more common. The old boy scout motto of “Be Prepared” has never been more relevant! Here are some essentials to help you survive your trip.

And don’t forget in these “Covid Pandemic ” times that you will need to make sure you pack a few extra items in your hand luggage such as hand sanitizer and a face mask! ​

Black Headphones

1. Never ever get on board without good quality earplugs or headphones. 

The worst possible scenario is spending 12-17 hours in an enclosed space surrounded by screaming babies,

or shrill, hysterical, overexcited toddlers or teenagers? Put those ear plugs in, take a deep breath and relax in relative peace and quiet.

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   2. Take a small separate bag in your carry on luggage.

In this bag have all the little knick knacks that are essential to have during the flight such as ear plugs, an inflatable pillow, a pen, an eye mask, a reading book, etc. and then stow your larger bag with items you won’t need on the flight in the overhead locker. This will give you more leg room. You don’t want to be competing with your bag for somewhere to put your feet.

   3. Must have ‘throw away’ slippers

Getting comfortable is your number one priority. Take those clunky shoes off and pop on disposable hotel type slipper / scuffs

that you can pick up for a couple of dollars at the $2 shops. We hope that the flight attendants will do their best to keep the

bathrooms clean, but you don’t want to take the chance of stepping into, who knows what suspicious looking liquid, on the

bathroom floor in your compression socks. Yuk!

   4. Preselect your seat.

It is a good investment to pay the extra needed to preselect your seat on a long haul flight and doing research here is well worth the time you will spend. Go to ‘SeatGuru’ or one of the other airline seat websites that shows seat maps and reviews of the plane you’ll be flying on.

If you need a wall to lean on when you sleep and enjoy seeing the landscape unfolding below

you, choose a window seat. The down side of window seats is that you will have to disturb or

climb over the two other people in your row to get out to go to the bathroom or stretch your

legs. Keep in mind that sometimes window seats can feel a bit claustrophobic, especially on

the limited legroom budget airlines.

If you need to be able to stretch out from time to time, and get up and wander around at your

will, and have the guarantee of only having to contend with one neighbor on the arm rest,

then an aisle seat is for you.The down side of the aisle seat is that when you finally manage

to fall asleep sitting bolt upright and you then get bumped and knocked by people wandering the aisles or your row companions wanting to get out of their seats to go to the bathroom. Grrrrrr!

Nobody, ever, as far as I am aware, selects a middle seat unless they are travelling as a family group!

Be very careful of the exit row seats and bulk head seats which offer extra legroom. They don’t suit

everyone. Often they are at the front of the cabins where the families with babies are seated in bulk head

seats for the drop down bassinets. Usually all of your hand luggage has to be placed in the over head lockers, at least for take off and landing.


The arm rests do not usually go back in these front row seats, so there is no chance of stretching out if you happen to get an empty seat beside you.Usually your table and entertainment system is stored in or near the armrest. This can take up some of the width of your seat and some people find the swinging arm tv system and table top awkward.  

Emergency rows further down the plane can be a good selection. However, sometimes these seats do not recline. Sometimes,however, it is the seats in front that don’t recline, which can be a plus so you don’t have to contend with the issue of the passenger in front virtually lying in your lap.  Check all these features out carefully to make sure these seats will suit you before you book.

Another thing to be aware of when you are doing your research is the seats proximity to the toilets. You may be faced with a constant stream of passengers waiting to use the bathrooms, hovering around your seat and the constant whooshing noise of the toilet and opening and closing of the doors. Not very restful!

Preselect your seat on those long haul flights (Photo by kaboompics )

   5. Do Battle for the empty seats!

You’ve boarded and are in your assigned seat, elbow to elbow with the strangers in the neighboring seats. Don’t start putting things in the front seat pockets or get too comfortable yet. Be alert to any empty rows or seats!

When the flight attendants start closing the overhead lockers you know the large majority of passengers are on board. If you’ve spotted suitable empty seats, now is the time to make a dash for them. Sit still and quiet. Try to be invisible, and either get out something to read to avoid eye contact with anyone or, better still, pretend you’re asleep. The worst that will happen is that latecomers will arrive and claim their seats. Ah well! It was worth a try.

The other thing that might happen is that the flight attendant will ask you to return to your own seat for take-off. If so, leave a book or personal item on the seat to lay claim to it and return there after the take-off has been completed. Having a row of three seats to yourself or an empty one beside you is pure luxury on a flight of this duration.

   6.Bring your own portable pillow and eye mask!

The pillows that the airline supply are fairly useless. When you rest your head on them they flatten out to nothing! Bring your own pillow. An inflatable neck pillow or a small cushion takes minimal room in your carry-on luggage but on a long haul flight it is well worth making room for it.

If you should manage to get lucky and get an empty row of seats to lie down on, an inflatable footrest works brilliantly well. It is perfect as a pillow in this situation, as you can blow it up to the height that best suits you when you are lying down. No amount of airline pillows suit this purpose. If you’re also using it as a footrest, for hygiene reasons you’ll want a pillowcase or cushion type cover for it.

  7. Must have a warm layer

Even if you’re flying from one tropical destination to another (lucky you), you still need to be prepared for the air conditioning on the plane to be freezing. The airline usually supplies small blankets but you may also need a sweat shirt, cardigan, shawl etc to keep you warm and cosy. It can’t be stressed enough how important comfort is on these flights.

   8. Must have a water bottle.

Don’t rely on the flight attendants to constantly be topping up your plastic or paper cup with water. The cup itself is a nuisance, as it has to stay on your table top. Bring your own water bottle which you can keep in a convenient place and keep hydrated. The flight attendants will top it up when required if you ask nicely.

   9. Your health & well being

Some disinfectant wipes are a good idea to wipe the tray table, arm rests and remote controls as a precautionary matter. Consider having a medical nose and mouth mask in your carry on. They don’t take up any room and if you should find yourself sitting near someone who is coughing and sneezing it might help ward off the germs! You want to be in top shape when you arrive at your destination and as they say- “prevention is better than a cure.”

   10: Medications to help you sleep.

Some people take sleeping medication to help get to sleep on the flight. Everyone seems to have a different recommendation. Some swear by melatonin. Some use an antihistamine or Dramamine. Whatever you do you must trial the medication before you fly to ensure it will work for you and you don’t have a negative reaction to it.

So good luck with your flight. Be as well prepared as you can and remember “this too shall pass!”

Must have your own  Water Bottle
Sleeping Pills


       *Completed Seat Selection

       *Warm layer- jumper, shawl, etc

Small bag to hold-

        *Noise-canceling headphones or earbuds

        *Eye Mask

        *Slippers *Pillow/ cushion

        *Blow up footrest

        *Water bottle

        *Disinfectant wipes & face mask

        *Medication if required

Extra entertainment

        *fully charged & loaded iPad, tablet, or phone WITH charger

        *book, puzzles, games.

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