Long-haul flights are a necessary, but often stress-inducing part of the travel experience for Australians.
And while many of us look like we’ve just been pulled through a hedge backwards as we disembark after an overseas flight, take note of the flight attendants who’ve accompanied you on the journey. They always look fresh and well rested. What’s their secret? Here are ten flight attendant tips for a comfortable long-haul flight.
1. Stick to your schedule and be on time
If there’s one thing being a flight attendant teaches you over the years, it’s how to stick to a schedule. There’s no hitting the snooze button in this industry. You are up, dressed, and off to the airport like clockwork. There’s something in that for all of us. Give yourself plenty of time to shower and finish your packing, order a taxi or Uber, get through airport security, and make it to your gate at a leisurely pace. It will get the journey ahead of you off to a relaxed start.
2. Invest in a comfortably sized carry-on bag
We’ve all been there — waiting in the gate lounge like runners at the start of the Sydney City to Surf. Only this is no fun run; it’s a race for the aircraft to secure a place for our overhead luggage, and only the fittest and most agile will come up trumps. OK, that’s taking it a step too far, but the competition for overhead real estate on a full flight can be fierce. And due to OH&S requirements, most airlines no longer permit flight attendants to assist passengers to heave their bulging carry-on luggage up into the lockers. The ideal scenario is to travel with a carry-on bag that fits under the seat in front of you, and leaves enough room for your feet to sit flat on the floor comfortably. That way, if there’s no space above you, you have a Plan B.
3. Cleanse your space
Turn-around times for aircraft these days are tight and while the cleaners do their best, there’s nothing worse than having to live with the previous seat occupant’s crumbs, smears, and general detritus. Bring a small packet of biodegradable wipes and give the tray table and armrests a quick spruce up. Direct a gentle breeze from the overhead air vent across your personal space and you’re ready to take up residence.
4. Drink plenty of water
Water is the source of life, yet it’s doled out sparingly on most flights and generally comes in small disposable plastic bottles — another drag on the already struggling environment. Carry one or two good quality, refillable water bottles, fill them up at the airport after passing though security, and take regular sips throughout the flight. A trend amongst flight attendants these days is to pop a herbal teabag in their water bottle to give the H2O some extra zing.
5. Maintain good circulation
The health benefits of maintaining good circulation on board an aircraft are widely cited (avoiding DVT is one of the biggies). Most of the time flight attendants get to move around at will, but at least two thirds of the rest of us are hampered by those occupying the seats closest to the aisles. Even for the crew there’s a fair bit of sitting involved, and some bring a tennis or spiky massage ball to improve the circulation in their legs (which have the body’s biggest muscles). Slip one shoe off (but keep your sock on) and place the ball under your foot. Roll it backwards and forwards for five to ten minutes, then swap feet and repeat.
6. Have a happy meal
In order to make it taste somewhat palatable to the broadest possible audience, airline food is often heavy on salt, sugar, and fat — basically everything you don’t need on board an aircraft. According to our source, at least half the flight attendants on board your flight will have brought their own food with them, rather than consume what is about to be served to you. That says it all really.
Fresh salads, wholesome sandwiches, and nuts and trail mix will aid digestion at a higher altitude and give you energy rather than zapping it. A small cooler bag will keep your provisions fresh and lively. Another trick of the trade is to order a vegetarian or low-fat meal option when you book your flight. It’s bound to be better for you.
7. Treat your skin
Flying is tough on your skin; the high altitude and pressurised cabin can dry it out much faster than at ground level, while wearing a face mask has the opposite effect. It traps warm, moist air around your nose and mouth, often resulting in irritated skin. Look for a travel moisturiser that contains humectants or emollients; they draw in atmospheric moisture and hydrate your skin in the process. Also invest in a good quality hydrating spray, lip balm, and hand cream. Many flight attendants apply something as simple as paw paw cream around the nostrils and upper lip to soothe the effects of wearing a mask and avoid redness and irritation.
8. Hold off on the alcohol
As responsible servers of alcohol (i.e.: the gate keepers to the drinks trolley), flight attendants have a thorough understanding of the effects of too much of a good thing at 38,000 feet. Generally, nothing will dehydrate you faster than too much alcohol, and its effects may be magnified on board an aircraft given the reduced concentration of oxygen in the air and your body’s drive to compensate for that. Limit yourself to a glass of wine with your meal, and you won’t disembark with a raging headache and a taste in your mouth akin to licking the bottom of the budgie cage.
9. Carry spare smalls
Surprisingly, even flight attendants aren’t immune to missing bag syndrome. Crew bags stowed in the hold do occasionally go astray, and you won’t find a long-haul FA who doesn’t carry a clean set of underwear and an emergency toiletries bag with them on board the aircraft. Also opt to carry any medication with you, along with a doctor’s script. A spare phone charger will also be worth its weight in gold in a cold case situation.
10. Pack a good attitude
And finally, travelling is hugely rewarding, but it can also be exasperating — particularly in peak periods. Flight attendants are there to make the journey as comfortable and safe as possible, not to bear the brunt of your frustration. Stand out from the crowd by being courteous and respectful. It will be hugely appreciated by your crew and will set you up for a great holiday.
Do you have any suggestions to add to our list of tips for a comfortable long-haul flight? We would love to hear from you. Please leave a comment below.
The stock images used in this story are for illustrative purposes only. A mask mandate is currently in place for passengers and crew on all flights to and from Australia, and in Australian airports. Additional images: Envato
About the writer
Adam Ford is editor of Top Oz Tours and Travel Ideas, and a travel TV presenter, writer, blogger, and photographer. He has travelled extensively through Europe, Asia, North America, Africa, and the Middle East. Adam worked as a travel consultant for a number of years with Flight Centre before taking up the opportunity to travel the world himself as host of the TV series Tour the World on Network Ten. He loves to experience everything a new destination has to offer and is equally at home in a five-star Palazzo in Pisa or a home-stay in Hanoi.