By Patrick Murphy
Sure, United Airlines is kicking off teens from their planes for wearing leggings and knocking the heck out of Kentucky doctors who insist on keeping the ticket they paid for; and, okay, American Airlines employees are harassing moms with strollers. The social media world is rife with photos of knees in backs of airplane seats, complaints about baggage fees and carry-on fees and references to “chattel” and “steerage.”
For something that looks like it was really swingin’ in the 1960s and 1970s, in the twenty-first century, air travel has a bit of a bad reputation.
If you, passenger, are not in business class or first class, you can basically expect a cramped and crowded flight filled with hassle, discomfort, privacy-invasion, and extra-charges. And you almost never get peanuts anymore.
Still, when you’ve got to fly the friendly skies, you’ve, well, gotta fly the friendly skies. It’s still faster and safer (statistically speaking) than driving. And, in fairness, it’s better than walking, especially if you have baggage. (Which most of us do.)
So, in the wonderful world of flight, how do we make the most of our time? How do we make ourselves comfortable in a metal tube hurtling across the globe?
Glad you asked. Here are ways to make the most of your time in the air— to be more productive and/or to be more comfortable, especially if you’re a frequent flier. In place of staring at the tray table in the upright and locked position in front of you and focusing on the heavy breathing of the passenger in seat C…
1.) Read something. You can download a zillion public domain titles on Amazon’s Kindle app for free. You can subscribe to Texture and have 200-plus magazines at your command. You can slug an old-fashioned magazine or paperback (just mind the carry-on space) with you. The only thing that doesn’t work so well? An actual newspaper, because of the space restrictions in coach. You can download your company’s reports or the latest professional journal. The good thing about a flight is the chance to catch up on some uninterrupted reading. And if you don’t like reading, try crosswords, word searches, logic puzzles, or sudoku puzzles.
2.) Write something. You may or may not be able to kvetch through your in-box but you can type up some employee reviews or finesse a speech or presentation. Better yet, you can bullet journal your life into calm precision before you land; or you can journal or brainstorm. Free-association personal writing is good for creativity and mental health; and it allows you to recharge during what would otherwise be hours crammed in a tight seat wishing you had the window seat.
3.) This one is a no-brainer: Most American adults don’t get enough sleep. Sure, you’ve got precious little space to relax on a plane. Still, it’s guaranteed uninterrupted rest time. Try to think of the confines of your seat as a cocoon. You can enhance your sleep by bringing on a sleep mask, small blanket or scarf, slipper-socks, or even a neck-stabilizer or inflatable foot rest. Casually massage some essential oil in a sleep-friendly scent on your temples and wrists and mist your face with a spritz of water before-hand: and then? Add noise-canceling headphones, a white noise app, or earplugs. Turn the misery of coach into a spa and your trip becomes a benefit, not an endurance.
4.) Hydrate. According to the World Health Organization, humidity on airplanes is less than 20 percent. By comparison, most homes have 30 percent or higher humidity. Low humidity can cause discomfort to eyes, nose, and mouth: if you’re scheduled for a long flight, consider removing your contact lenses. And even for shorter flights, eye drops, bottles of water, and moisturizer can help provide some relief from the dehydrating conditions. It’s thought that one liter of water consumed per four hours of flight is a good yardstick for remaining hydrated while flying. Cutting back on caffeine and alcohol during long flights is also a good idea, as they contribute to dehydration. If you’re crossing time zones, it’s good to note that better hydration can help combat jet lag.
5.) Dress comfortably for your flight. Elastic waistbands, flowing shirts, and layers can make all the difference. Overseas flights can get uncomfortably cold: layers can even that out; trying to sleep in a tight seat with little leg room is made easier if you’re not in trousers you’re afraid to uncrease. Despite the recent United incident, leggings (women, please), spandex, stretchy fabrics, and relaxed shoes (slip-ons, slides, and flip-flops) make the confinements of coach or a long flight easier to bear, easier to sleep through, and definitely easier to manage in terms of airport security. Pack your belts, dress shoes, and structured pieces in your carry-on bag.
6.) If you’re a tall human, trade, beg, or pay upgrade for an aisle seat or the extra row. Flying is one of the few areas of life where short people gain their revenge; if you’re tall, do what you can to get a seat that is a little more gracious for your length. Your knees (and the passenger in front of you) will thank you.