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



Any air journey will be demanding, however going through down a long-haul flight will be particularly intimidating.

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

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 ft.

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

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

That is notably essential if the flight is on the shorter finish of the long-haul scale: in the event you’re touring from New York to London, for instance, at greatest you’re taking a look at round 5 or 6 hours sleep, so that you wish to profit from 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 almost all enterprise vacationers shut their eyes as quickly as they get on board.

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

Nonetheless, Main admits that consuming earlier than flying isn’t all the time doable, due to lengthy safety strains and busy airport terminals. Even you probably have the most effective 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 is likely to be tempted to profit from foods and drinks supplied on board – it’s onerous to show down complimentary champagne, in any case.

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

It might be tempting to make the most of business class culinary offerings, but flight attendant Kris Major says you should prioritize sleep.

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

Meal instances begin to really feel a bit arbitrary whenever you’re crossing a number of time zones, however do you have to eat each time meals is obtainable to you? Or do you have to flip meals down in the event you’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 normally present pillows for long-haul vacationers, irrespective of the cabin, however Main says bringing your individual eye masks, journey pillow and/or a blanket could possibly be a good suggestion relying in your preferences.

Eye masks are nice in the event you’re attempting to sleep when the cabin lights are on, whilst you would possibly desire your individual journey pillow to the airline model.

Plus, whereas it’s uncommon, there’s all the time the possibility that pillows are unavailable – one thing that could possibly be an enormous drawback on a 14-hour flight.

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

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

Struggling to sleep on an extended flight, figuring out you’re going to pay for the misplaced hours whenever you land, will be an disagreeable cycle of fear.

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

Main says there’s no level attempting to power 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 essential 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, it is best to attempt 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 appear to be relies on 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 sometimes be entitled to breaks that permit for 90 minutes of sleep. That means, they’ve accomplished a full sleep cycle earlier than they’re again to work.

“You want not less than one sleep cycle scientifically to be of any use, to maintain your skill to function safely, your resolution making processes, your communication abilities,” says Main.

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

Main says he finds sleeping in crew relaxation areas fairly straightforward, 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 actually 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 numerous area. They’re like what you’d think about you’d see on a submarine.”

Flight attendants will normally choose to get modified out of their uniform and into loungewear earlier than squeezing into the bunks. Main says he all the time packs a T-shirt and a few snug lounge pants.

As he’s a senior flight attendant, Main will grasp 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, though there’s normally one designated for the senior,” Main explains.

We’ve all skilled waking up after a mid-flight sleep, groggily heading to the airplane lavatory 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 enamel is all the time the one which freshens everyone up probably the most,” he says, including that flight attendants will all the time 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 you want to, 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, however it’s not all the time straightforward to rise up to stretch. The seat belt signal is likely to be switched on, otherwise you would possibly wish 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 you want to do. For those that have gotten circulatory points, speak to your physician,” he says.

For a lot of passengers, this can be a controversial query resulting from considerations about smelly ft. However Main encourages anybody on a long-haul flight to take away sneakers for consolation, and to assist their circulation.

Flight attendants don’t care, he says.

“We do it ourselves. I feel most individuals do it themselves. It’s the correct factor to do in the event you’re happening a long-haul flight,” he says.

“One would hope that you just’ve had the widespread 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 difficulty, in case your ft scent.”

Main provides that it’s well mannered, in the event you assume there’s an opportunity of ft odor, to “go to the washroom and do one thing about it.”

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

“On an evening flight notably, in the event you put your ft within the aisle and also you’ve obtained darkish socks on, we received’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 fearful about turbulence, Main advises that you just attempt to sit close to the entrance of the plane.

“You would be standing on the entrance and really feel nothing, and down the again they’re bouncing in all places – the plane strikes in a different way down the again,” he explains.

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

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

“That’s purely preferential, I can lean up in opposition to 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, however it’s maybe notably unappealing on an extended flight. Main reckons it’s value paying further for the aisle or window, particularly “if you want to sleep on the flight.”

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

The way in which we devour TV and flicks has modified drastically over the previous decade, however inflight leisure has largely stayed unchanged.

Whereas many people nonetheless take pleasure in 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 system.

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

Your personal gadgets are additionally a superb back-up in case there are points with the in-flight leisure system, which Main admits “won’t all the time be working.”

Flight attendants normally have handbooks that advise tips on how to function the inflight screens, however they’re not all the time capable of repair the issue.

“There’s solely a lot we are able to do on the plane to kick it again to life if it begins to play up,” says Main. “There’s little or no we are able to do, other than the standard scientific ‘flip it off, flip it on once more.’”

Most plane as we speak have USB charging sockets, however a transportable charger might additionally provide you with 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 selection.

“We will 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 e-book which included some graphic descriptions.

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

The person was studying the e-book fairly brazenly, 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 gaggle of intercourse therapists to a convention.”

Completely, says Main.

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

In case you have a well being situation like diabetes, bringing your individual sustenance is especially key. It’s additionally essential to pack snacks in the event you’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 baby shall be tense, it’s so simple as that. If you happen to’re confused, and also you’re feeling anxious, your baby shall 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 typically very relaxed, we are able to 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 all the time deal with the state of affairs in the identical means.

“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 baby crying. It’s serving to your baby rebalance their ears. It’s the one means they’ll do it, by way of screaming. We’ve all been kids, we’ve all cried, don’t fear about it.’ I’ll attempt to put the dad and mom comfy. By placing the mum or dad comfy, we are able to hopefully settle the kid.”

Main says bringing favourite toys and blankets on the plane may 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, fearful about certainly one of two issues. Both it’s the “lack of management” and the “alien atmosphere.” Or it’s concern of the airplane crashing.

Some individuals 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 numerous fail-safes in place.

Others would somewhat not know the ins and outs, they only want distracting. Main lately 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 many who aren’t typically afraid of flying, long-haul journeys current their very own set of stress factors that may drive folks into panic mode.

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

Delays to any flights are irritating, however on longer flights, delays can all of the sudden hammer house “the fact of distance and time,” says Main.

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

“You can also make up time on long-haul quite a bit simpler than short-haul,” he provides. “You possibly can choose up a superb half hour.”

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

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

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

“Alone, I’ve obtained one bag that I can reside for every 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 rapidly as doable.”

If you happen to’ve obtained a number of hours earlier than the subsequent leg of your journey, it could possibly be value 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 depart the airport and get some recent air, that’s value 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 obtained off, I used to be almost useless,” he jokes.

The longest flight Main’s ever labored was round 14 hours. The longest scheduled flight at present 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 “Undertaking 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 may contain working over intervals in extra of 24 hours.

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

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

“We’ve obtained the plane to do it now, so we have to discover methods of doing it,” says Main. “And we’ll. There’s numerous work happening to do this.”