Long Haul Flight

On March 24 Qantas launches nonstop flights between London’s Heathrow Airport and Perth in Western Australia.

Not only will it be the longest flight in the world operated by a Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner, but it will be the first historic “Kangaroo Route” from the 55-hour, nine-city, four-day hopscotch across continents it was when it began in 1947, to a 17-hour, nonstop zip Down Under.

Although 17 hours beats the current speediest travel time of 21 hours (which includes a Dubai stop) between the two cities, it’s bound to be a sitting marathon for passengers at the back of the plane. It’s not even the longest flight in the world – Qatar Airways’ Doha-Auckland, United Airlines’ Los Angeles-Singapore, and Singapore Airlines’ Singapore-San Francisco routes all have slightly longer flight times.

Despite the excitement of making such a momentous journey in one fell swoop, passengers onboard will have to face discomfort.

Treat yourself

The eastbound London to Perth route for the Qantas flight is timed at 16 hours and 45 minutes, while westbound tops the charts at 17 hours and 20 minutes. If there’s a trip to pull out all the stops to make yourself comfortable, it’s this one.

Pack a pair of plush (but disposable) hotel slippers to change into – they’re loose and comfy to relax in, and mean I can walk around the cabin in them, while keeping my compression socks (obviously you need compression socks on)

To keep items at hand without having to get up and access the overhead locker all the time, prepare a small zip case before boarding, stuffing it with your earbud headphones, phone charger cord, small comfort items like body lotion, lip balm, wet wipes and face masks – plus a pen for filling out landing documents. Hook it, using a carabiner clip, to the top lip of the seatback pocket in front of you, and revel in the clear floor space saved for your feet.

Take your time

When you consider the flight length, doing everything at a leisurely pace is to your advantage. Inflight meals may feel rushed on most other routes, but there’s no reason to hurry up on a 17-hour nonstop.

You may eat the salad and main dish when the tray arrives, but remove the dessert and save the coffee cup so you can pretend you are getting a separate service later on – maybe as watching my fourth film.

Note – this is even more important for those stuck in window seats, who may have two sleeping passengers blocking the way to the aisle and, therefore, supplies of drinks and the Anzac biscuits Qantas stocks as snacks.

Mind your health

Similarly, those in middle and window seats shouldn’t rush back to their seat after a loo break. The precious minutes up and out of your seat count for your health, in terms of staving off the possibility of deep vein thrombosis (DVT).

Not that you host an impromptu stretching class in the rear galley (although go for it if you want), but do stretch that two-minute toilet break into 20 minutes, and do basic DVT-prevention exercises, like pointing your toes to stretch your calves and drawing the letters of the alphabet with your foot to move your ankles. Muscle activity – even something as simple as a slow, easy walk down the aisle – is what keeps the blood flowing.

This goes hand in hand with ensuring that you stay hydrated by drinking plenty water before, during, and after your flight, which should also aid in mitigating symptoms of jet lag. Occasionally get odd looks for wearing it, I keep a new, disposable medical face mask folded up in the bag, just in case seated near a chronic cougher. What’s the fun of having travelled all that way to spend the time at your destination miserably sick?

Watch your belongings

Boredom and the persistent discomfort of a long flight can lead people to do crazy, petty things.

Guard your little pieces of comfort. Put your book or the airline magazine on top of the pillow and blanket on seat when you step away – if only to underscore that the seat, including its space and amenities, are reserved for you alone.

Stay away from the moving map

Inflight entertainment has massively improved in the last five years, and now almost all long-haul flights will feature complimentary, on-demand programming totalling thousands of hours. Some systems even allow for passengers to create individual playlists of movies and TV shows as they browse the selections.

There is one channel you should stay away from, however: the “moving map”, displaying fun facts like current altitude and outside temperature as it highlights the elapsed flight time and hours left to go.

Yes, it’s fascinating but a watched pot never boils and it makes the hours pass slowly. If anything, the channel only serves to remind that you’re stuck on the plane, paying to sit upright in awkwardly minimal personal space for what amounts to almost two thirds of a day.

Embrace the rhythm

Think for a moment of how you might spend 17 hours of a normal weekend day. Eating, napping, snacking, enjoying entertainment, chatting with others, and going for a walk may all feature in your activities.

Abbreviated versions of these can all be accomplished on on a lengthy flight so there’s no need to simply pick two, like eating an inflight meal and hoping to snooze away the rest of the flight.

Your body isn’t used to such a simple plan, so embrace your regular rhythm as much as possible and come to terms with the thought that you may pass the hours doing many things, perhaps including turning a stranger into a friend, or watching a film not on your must-see list, or finding pleasure in the simple act of slowly rolling your shoulders.

Suresh Shah, Pathfinders Enterprise



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