When one of the ‘mystery guests’ (people sat next to me) complained on my recent flight to Bangkok that he did not have a window seat, his wife simply told him he should have done his research! It set me thinking that there are a few things that as I do as the self-confessed resident airline geek at Experience Travel to make things a little more comfortable when travelling in long-haul economy. On this particular flight, I had done my research and managed to get a seat without one in front and had unlimited leg room. Here’s a few tips…
1) Route and flight times
Depending on where you’re flying from you may be able to get direct flights to your main destination in Asia – I must admit that I prefer to do this an ‘get it all over in one go’ whilst others are happy to have a stopover, often in the middle east, to break up the journey. I also prefer to have a late-night flight from the UK when flying east as even though I may not sleep on the flight I find that it’s great to arrive in the late afternoon, check into the hotel, have a meal and go to bed at roughly the right local time. On the return journey, a day flight means that you have the potential to arrive home in the early evening and get ready to flop once you have started your unpacking.
2) Choose your seat
It varies across different airlines but if you have booked directly with them it may be possible to select specific seats sometimes with or without an additional cost. But which seat to choose? How do you avoid sitting in a row with no window? The good old Internet comes to the rescue and there is one main site I tend to use once I know which aircraft I am travelling on – Seatguru. These have colour-coded seat maps which suggest the best seats to choose (e.g. bulkhead and extra leg-room) and also to avoid (e.g. limited leg-room or recline and being close to the lavatories or a noisey galley).
3) At the airport
Arriving early if possible not only avoids stress but also may also give you the opportunity to check-in and try to secure a last-minute exit seat and also to start your holiday a little earlier. You may want to do some shopping, go for a meal or perhaps spend a little money for an airport lounge that includes drinks and snacks and is usually a bit more relaxing than the main seating areas.
As well as the usual suggestions of wearing layers as the same flight can be very warm and quite cool at different times and getting up and stretching your legs, I recommend you bring a few small items to make life more comfortable. An eye-mask can help you sleep, particularly if you are near a bright galley or have a neighbour watching their TV screen or using their light to read. Ear plugs can also be useful to reduce the noise of people talking or babies crying and I also use my own earphones as you can hear the entertainment a lot better than using the ones the airlines give out. One favourite trick I have when managing to get an exit row or another seat with nothing in front is to make sure there’s a couple of items of clothes stuffed in my hand luggage to make it softer when I use it as footrest to stretch out after take-off and before landing.
Ok, this is not strictly related to the flight or airport but I suggest it’s a great idea to arrange a transfer from your destination airport to your accommodation in advance. Although it may cost more than getting a public taxi or using public transport, there’s nothing better than a person with a friendly smile holding a board with your name on it and taking care of everything when you are likely to be pretty tired and a little disorientated after the flight.