March 22, 2023
A flight attendant’s secrets and techniques to surviving long-haul flights


Any air journey may be worrying, however dealing with down a long-haul flight may be particularly intimidating.

Must you prioritize sleeping or consuming, or each? Must you try and train within the aisle? Is it ever acceptable to take off your footwear?

Kris Main is a British flight attendant with 24 years’ expertise. He’s labored short-haul hops and spent 14-hour stretches within the sky. He’s endured journeys with an unenviable variety of layovers, and he’s change into an skilled in refueling by way of energy naps at 30,000 toes.

Because the pandemic wanes and many people stay up for long-awaited long-haul adventures, CNN Journey requested Main for his ideas and methods on surviving a number of hours within the sky.

If you happen to’re catching an evening flight and also you need to maximize sleep on board, Main suggests consuming earlier than boarding.

That is notably necessary if the flight is on the shorter finish of the long-haul scale: if you happen to’re touring from New York to London, for instance, at greatest you’re round 5 – 6 hours sleep, so that you need to take advantage of that relaxation time.

Main, who additionally represents European flight attendants and pilots as chair of the European Transport Staff’ Federation’s Joint Aircrew Committee, says it’s telling that the majority enterprise vacationers shut their eyes as quickly as they get on board.

“The seasoned vacationers, after takeoff, you go down the cabin and you’ll see that they’re gone – they’ve lined themselves up they usually’re asleep,” he says.

Nonetheless, Main admits that consuming earlier than flying isn’t at all times doable, due to lengthy safety traces and busy airport terminals. Even if in case you have the very best intentions, you’ll be able to find yourself settling for a sad-looking sandwich as you run to the gate.

If you happen to’re flying enterprise or top quality, you additionally could be tempted to take advantage of foods and drinks supplied on board – it’s laborious to show down complimentary champagne, in spite of everything.

However realistically, the cabin foods and drinks service can take two hours, so that you’re dropping useful relaxation time – and your Enterprise Class ticket ought to offer you entry to an airport lounge, so max out these services as an alternative, and board the aircraft well-fueled and able to relaxation.

A flight attendant’s secrets and techniques to surviving long-haul flights

If you happen to’re flying long-haul, you’ll possible be supplied multiple meal through the course of the flight.

Meal occasions begin to really feel a bit arbitrary whenever you’re crossing a number of time zones, however do you have to eat at any time when meals is obtainable to you? Or do you have to flip meals down if you happen to’re not hungry or attempting to sleep?

Main says passengers ought to do no matter’s proper for his or her journey schedule. If you happen to’re exhausted, you’re higher off sleeping than forcing your self to eat dinner on the equal of three a.m.

“Most airways don’t notably plan their [food] service across the passenger and acclimatization and time zones crossing,” explains Main.

Airways often present pillows for long-haul vacationers, irrespective of the cabin, however Main says bringing your personal eye masks, journey pillow and/or a blanket may very well be a good suggestion relying in your preferences.

Eye masks are nice if you happen to’re attempting to sleep when the cabin lights are on, when you would possibly desire your personal journey pillow to the airline model.

Plus, whereas it’s uncommon, there’s at all times the prospect that pillows are unavailable – one thing that may very well be an enormous drawback on a 14-hour flight.

“It occurs,” says Main. “So I might say, cater your self on your personal consolation and your personal wants as a lot as you probably can.”

Many people discover it tough to sleep on airplanes, whether or not because of unfamiliar noises or, for the cheaper seats, restricted leg room and upright positions.

Struggling to sleep on a protracted flight, realizing you’re going to pay for the misplaced hours whenever you land, may be an disagreeable cycle of fear.

Must you persevere and hold attempting, or quit and watch a film?

Main says there’s no level attempting to pressure sleep, notably in case your physique clock thinks it’s the center of the day and also you’re merely not drained.

However he cautions that it’s necessary to keep in mind what you’re doing on the different finish. If you happen to’re going to be driving, for instance, or going straight to a gathering, you must try to relaxation as a lot as you’ll be able to.

Flight attendants on long haul flights are provided with spaces to rest. Here's a photo of the crew rest area on a Boeing 787.

Crew relaxation areas exist on all airplanes, however what these relaxation areas seem like is determined by the airline, plane and the size of the flight.

“If we’re going someplace over, say, 13 hours, we have to have good relaxation areas,” says Main, who explains flight attendants ought to usually be entitled to breaks that enable for 90 minutes of sleep. That approach, they’ve accomplished a full sleep cycle earlier than they’re again to work.

“You want at the least one sleep cycle scientifically to be of any use, to maintain your means to function safely, your determination making processes, your communication expertise,” says Main.

Flight attendants must be alert all through the journey, so they may take it in turns to refuel by way of mid-flight energy naps.

Main says he finds sleeping in crew relaxation areas fairly simple, however he is aware of flight attendants who discover it powerful to sleep in beds that Main calls “technically coffins.”

“There are some crew that basically battle with the bunks, they’re not nice,” says Main.

“You push your self proper in, so that they’re lengthy and skinny, as a result of they’re up within the plane, so there’s not a whole lot of area. They’re like what you’d think about you’d see on a submarine.”

Flight attendants will often decide to get modified out of their uniform and into loungewear earlier than squeezing into the bunks. Main says he at all times packs a T-shirt and a few comfy lounge pants.

As he’s a senior flight attendant, Main will cling his tie on the outside of his bunk’s curtain earlier than he closes his eyes.

“In order that if there’s any emergency while I’m within the bunk, they know precisely which one I’m in, although there’s often one designated for the senior,” Main explains.

We’ve all skilled waking up after a mid-flight sleep, groggily heading to the airplane toilet to clean up, and alarming your self whenever you catch sight of your exhausted reflection.

Main’s prime tip for feeling refreshed following inflight relaxation would possibly sound apparent, however he insists it makes a world of distinction.

“Cleansing your tooth is at all times the one which freshens everyone up probably the most,” he says, including that flight attendants will at all times have between 5 and 10 minutes to clean up earlier than they’re again on responsibility.

That’s sufficient time to dress, wash and, if that you must, comb hair and refresh make-up.

Flight attendants will greet a returning colleague with a cup of tea or espresso. Then they’ll head off responsibility for their very own relaxation interval.

Sitting in the identical upright place for hours on finish is uncomfortable, nevertheless it’s not at all times simple to stand up to stretch. The seat belt signal could be switched on, otherwise you would possibly need to keep away from disturbing your seat neighbor.

Main stresses that even simply wiggling your toes whereas sitting in your seat is worth it.

“Do transfer round in your seat, transfer your legs, do what comes naturally – wiggle, transfer, get the blood flowing if that’s what that you must do. For those that have gotten circulatory points, speak to your physician,” he says.

For a lot of passengers, it is a controversial query because of issues about smelly toes. However Main encourages anybody on a long-haul flight to take away footwear for consolation, and to assist their circulation.

Flight attendants don’t care, he says.

“We do it ourselves. I believe most individuals do it themselves. It’s the proper factor to do if you happen to’re happening a long-haul flight,” he says.

“One would hope that you just’ve had the frequent decency to have a shower or a bathe and put clear socks or stockings or tights on earlier than you get on the plane. That’s the one problem, in case your toes scent.”

Main provides that it’s well mannered, if you happen to suppose there’s an opportunity of toes odor, to “go to the washroom and do one thing about it.”

However flight attendants, he says, are extra nervous about passengers protruding their toes into the aisle.

“On an evening flight notably, if you happen to put your toes within the aisle and also you’ve acquired darkish socks on, we gained’t see you, and we’ll journey over you, and it’s a little bit of a nuisance for us.”

If you happen to’re nervous about turbulence, Main advises that you just attempt to sit close to the entrance of the plane.

“You can be standing on the entrance and really feel nothing, and down the again they’re bouncing in every single place – the plane strikes otherwise down the again,” he explains.

If you happen to’re tall, reserving the emergency exit seat for the additional leg room may very well be worthwhile, though Main says it’s price remembering “you’ll be able to’t put your luggage down at your toes or something as a result of it must be clear as an evacuation run.” Airways additionally generally cost additional for seats with leg room.

Main’s private alternative on a long-haul flight is reserving a window seat.

“That’s purely preferential, I can lean up towards the bulkhead, pull my head down and fall asleep. Whereas you’ll be able to’t whenever you’re within the aisle seats or the center seat,” he says.

The center seat isn’t enviable, nevertheless it’s maybe notably unappealing on a protracted flight. Main reckons it’s price paying additional for the aisle or window, particularly “if that you must sleep on the flight.”

Some passengers choose to watch movies on their personal devices, rather than the built in screens.

The best way we eat TV and films has modified drastically over the previous decade, however inflight leisure has largely stayed unchanged.

Whereas many people nonetheless get pleasure from watching new film releases on board flights, it’s much less of a novelty than it as soon as was. Many passengers desire binging a pre-downloaded streaming present on a private machine.

“Most individuals self-cater flights now on the subject of leisure,” says Main.

Your personal units are additionally back-up in case there are points with the in-flight leisure system, which Main admits “may not at all times be working.”

Flight attendants often have handbooks that advise easy methods to function the inflight screens, however they’re not at all times in a position to repair the issue.

“There’s solely a lot we will do on the plane to kick it again to life if it begins to play up,” says Main. “There’s little or no we will do, aside from the same old scientific ‘flip it off, flip it on once more.’”

Most plane immediately have USB charging sockets, however a transportable charger may additionally offer you added piece of thoughts.

Main says in his expertise, crew aren’t paying an excessive amount of consideration to what you’ve opted to observe on board, however often he’ll touch upon a traveler’s alternative.

“We are able to use it as an ice breaker,” he says. “If I’ve seen a film and it’s good, it’s one thing to make use of to strike up dialog.”

Main does recall as soon as noticing a Enterprise Class passenger studying a ebook which included some graphic descriptions.

“The phrases had been fairly pornographic though I couldn’t see sufficient to comply with the thread,” Main says.

The person was studying the ebook fairly overtly, and made no makes an attempt to cover the contents.

“I used to be fairly shocked,” says Main. “Turned out we had been taking a bunch of intercourse therapists to a convention.”

Completely, says Main.

“On most flights, individuals overlook that you just get on the aircraft, you’re not going to eat for the primary hour, at the least – it’s most likely going to be an hour and a half after takeoff earlier than you eat,” he says.

You probably have a well being situation like diabetes, bringing your personal sustenance is especially key. It’s additionally necessary to pack snacks if you happen to’re touring with youngsters.

Main has younger youngsters of his personal, so he says he can reply this query each as a father and as a flight attendant.

“If you happen to’re tense, your youngster will likely be tense, it’s so simple as that. If you happen to’re burdened, and also you’re feeling anxious, your youngster will likely be anxious,” he says.

Flight attendants are skilled at speaking youngsters and oldsters by way of the flying course of, Main provides.

“As a result of we’re simply usually very relaxed, we will calm them down in a short time,” he says.

When infants are crying, dad and mom are panicking and different passengers are sighing, Main says he’ll at all times deal with the state of affairs in the identical approach.

“I’ll ensure it’s audible for everybody else to listen to, I’ll say: ‘Please don’t fear about it. Don’t fear about your youngster crying. It’s serving to your youngster rebalance their ears. It’s the one approach they will do it, by way of screaming. We’ve all been youngsters, we’ve all cried, don’t fear about it.’ I’ll attempt to put the dad and mom comfy. By placing the dad or mum comfy, we will hopefully settle the kid.”

Main says bringing favourite toys and blankets on the plane may also assist calm a baby, because it helps the alien airplane atmosphere appear extra acquainted and comforting.

These with a concern of flying are, in Main’s expertise, nervous about one in every of two issues. Both it’s the “lack of management” and the “alien atmosphere.” Or it’s concern of the airplane crashing.

Some persons are reassured by Main strolling them by way of the mechanics of the plane – explaining that unknown engine noises are regular, or that air journey is usually very secure and there are various fail-safes in place.

Others would moderately not know the ins and outs, they only want distracting. Main not too long ago spent two hours on board a flight chatting with a nervous passenger within the galley, taking their thoughts off the state of affairs.

Even for individuals who aren’t usually afraid of flying, long-haul journeys current their very own set of stress factors that may drive individuals into panic mode.

Crying infants could be seen as extra of an annoyance on a brief flight, however passengers can “freak,” as Main places it, in the event that they suppose that’s set to be their soundtrack for the following 12 hours.

Delays to any flights are irritating, however on longer flights, delays can instantly hammer dwelling “the truth of distance and time,” says Main.

However Main says it’s necessary to do not forget that “there’s at all times taxiing time constructed into the flight time.”

“You may make up time on long-haul loads simpler than short-haul,” he provides. “You possibly can decide up half hour.”

Main’s by no means used an AirTag, however he understands the attraction – particularly for passengers who’ve handled a misplaced bag previously.

Though it’s a unique story when he travels along with his household, Main says he often travels carry-on solely, even on long-haul flights.

That’s much less as a result of he’s nervous about dropping baggage, and extra for ease and pace.

“Alone, I’ve acquired one bag that I can dwell for per week out of, it’s so finely tuned,” he says. “I fly with hand baggage solely so I can get by way of the airport as shortly as doable.”

If you happen to’ve acquired a number of hours earlier than the following leg of your journey, it may very well be price reserving a resort room to compensate for sleep, says Main, who additionally advises stretching your legs and strolling round as a lot as doable.

If there’s sufficient time to go away the airport and get some recent air, that’s price doing too.

Main is aware of what he’s speaking about, he as soon as did a mammoth journey with a number of airport layovers, “from Cannes – Brisbane, Brisbane – Sydney, Sydney – Abu Dhabi, Abu Dhabi – Vienna, Vienna – Frankfurt, Frankfurt – [London] Gatwick.”

“Once I acquired off, I used to be almost useless,” he jokes.

The longest flight Main’s ever labored was round 14 hours. The longest scheduled flight presently in operation is Singapore Airways’ New York to Singapore flight, which lasts 18 hours and 40 minutes.

Australian airline Qantas is making ready to launch its extremely long-haul “Mission Dawn” flights, which might span upwards of 19 hours flying passengers from New York and London to Sydney, Australia. For flight attendants, Main says, that can contain working over intervals in extra of 24 hours.

“You’re lacking two nights of sleep,” says Main. “The affect of that we don’t totally perceive.”

It’s nonetheless early days, says Main, and these particulars must be ironed out. However he sees extremely long-haul because the “evolution of flying.”

“We’ve acquired the plane to do it now, so we have to discover methods of doing it,” says Main. “And we are going to. There’s a whole lot of work happening to try this.”

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