I was in transit over thanksgiving and reached India yesterday night. It was fun as well as really tiring to make the long journey. I had accumulated some miles using Chase UnitedPlus card and so spent it on getting a free ticket to India. The itinerary was really crazy with United flying me from SFO -> Chicago O’hare -> Munich -> Mumbai (Lufthansa), meaning a total of more than 22 hours of flight time and more than 5-6 hours of layover time in between. I am going to keep writing about places I visit and restaurants that I check out while in India but some pointers on tackling such long flight below:
1. Always try and book Economy Plus if available.
Lucky enough for me, my flight until Munich was a united flight and they offer to provide Economy Plus seats for about 90$ more compared to the economy seats. Unless you are rich and famous and can either afford a Business class/First class seat or charted planes, the rest are cramped into these small seats known to mankind as economy class. I have always had problem travelling in these seats because being 6 feet tall and a bit heavy, there is no room for any kind of movement for me. My knees start hurting after rubbing continuously against the seat in front of me and very rarely I had the chance to get onto the exit row seating. However, this time round, I paid in advance for the Economy plus seating and OMG it is really a plus!!! The seats seem much more spacious and there is enough legroom left even after stuffing my carry on backpack below the seat in front of mine. I would never travel on regular economy again on these longer flights if Economy Plus is offered on them. Right after enjoying these seats, my flight on Lufthansa airlines from Munich to Mumbai had no such separate class and I had to endure the hell for 8:30 hours before my legs could breathe again.
2. Please try and wear comfortable clothes on long flights.
I know this is always implied and why would you not wear comfortable clothes you might ask. However, I have seen many people dress up for their travels. A person sitting next to me was wearing jeans and formal shirt on a fricking 9 hour journey!!! Dude’s gonna have some serious rash issue when he lands. I would really recommend simply shorts/trackpants/pj, a T-shirt which is loose enough, flipflops and a jacket. The reason I say flipflops is because a. they are easy to take off and wear back during TSA screenings and b. your legs will thank you and smell much better than being stuffed inside socks for a long duration of time. I for some reason feel really cold within an airplane and so a jacket/hoodie helps me to stay comfy and also I can bring down the hood over my eyes when I want to sleep.
3. Carry a hand sanitizer if possible.
Airlines are getting clumsy with their cleanliness and I wonder if the person travelling in my seat before me left germs around. I really like the idea to use it before meals get served.
4. Walk around or stretch every few hours.
I normally prefer travelling on an aisle seat so as to be able to stretch my legs and walk around every few hours. Nowadays, almost all major airlines provide some sort of video which goes over stretching and exercising while on the aircraft for long duration. Trust me, DVT (Deep Vein Thrombosis) is no laughing matter and especially older people should take care and avoid sitting in the same position for longer durations. Also, if you are flying a middle eastern airline, normally they have juices/drinks/sandwiches at the back for you to grab after that short walk 😉
5. Stop watching movies a month or two before you depart.
I know this idea might sound really crazy but when you have a flight for more than 18 hours and with restricted mobility, the best options are either to sleep or to watch the in-flight entertainment. I am not able to get proper sleep because of the hum of the plane’s engines and because I had not been watching movies, I had tonnes of movies to pick from. Normally, its boring to watch the same movie again and the movies that United/Lufthansa had were fairly recent hits.
6. Invest in a good noise cancelling headphone
I would highly recommend purchasing a good noise cancelling headphone with airline adapter. The headphones that some airlines offer really suck big time and might be broken as well. I had to hold on to my cord in a specific position for the left side of the United provided headphone to make any sound. It was really frustrating and irritating!!
7. Try to avoid caffeine and drink water. Also I would say don’t grab alcoholic drinks while in flight.
8. Grab a neck pillow available at some airport stores or online so as to not hurt your neck while sleeping. The pillow that the airline offers are not at all good for prolonged usage.
9. Smile and be courteous to others around you
Seriously to make a flight enjoyable for yourself and to others around, smile and be courteous. If you want to switch seats or ask someone not to push back their seats or want more water/fluids, etc try to be reasonable because shouting and screaming will get you nothing. Sometimes, smile gets things done!
10. Get WiFi if available on your flight. Provides more entertainment options and the speeds are not that bad. I had to pause for it to finish buffering videos on youtube and then watch those but trust me accessing WiFi while on flight is really worth the money spent.
On an unrelated topic, I had Air India flight from Mumbai to Ahmedabad and oh boy the aircraft sucked. The engines made this huge noise for the entire duration of the flight (50 minutes seemed like ages) and also the tray tables were broken and so were some of the seats!!! The interior of the aircraft seemed like some third grade cheap motel room. However, what struck me the most was how helpful and kind the air hostesses were. I mean with the cheap airline tickets it seems that every Tom, Dick and Harry in India flies instead of taking train or buses. I saw some really annoying and stupid people on that one flight but the air hostesses were really patient and handled the customers well. In one case, one of the hostess went out of her way and helped an old lady walk up to the restroom holding her hand and comforting her. I truly believe that Air India is really functional because of people like this cause their aircraft really is the lamest one I’ve ever been on.
Will keep posting from India but for now Alvida!