Preparing for a Long-Haul Flight

A long-haul flights (say, flights greater than 6 hours) in the estimation of an engineer are just mind-blowing and facinating.

Gina and I have done the European flights from USA to England/Ireland, Spain, Italy, and Greece with all being in coach class seats, averaging 9 to 10 hours in the air.  Our Honeymoon in 1986 was my first experience with flying “across the pond” and with all the activities of a wedding and having a blast, the flight of Boston to London was more of a chance to sit back and reflect on the past few days of excitement.  I just did not sleep well and arrived in a new country, noting immediate differences like architecture, and driving on the left-side of the road.

Photo by Ketut Subiyanto on

At 8AM London time and I was blurry eyed and exhausted – so this is what jetlag feels like?  The hotel room was not ready that early, so, we stored our bags and looked for some quick food (back then it was London’s version of a McDonald’s knockoff) and took in the local area.  I don’t know if I was suffering dehydrating Jet-lag hungry pains but certainly we had no focus on all that was around us, we just wanted to lay down and nap in a comfortable bed.  Prior to the wedding, we decided to pre-purchase a West end show the night we arrived in London – so when our rather small room in an old style London Hotel was ready around 1PM, we threw ourselves on the bed, closed the shades to be completely dark, set an alarm for 5PM and fast fell asleep hoping we would hear the alarm clock so we could get to the play.

Fortunately, we did, my head was still a little foggy as we saw 42nd street and while I remember I was entertained, I can’t say I recall the whole show, but years later we figured out that a very young Catherine Zeta-Jones was probably in the cast that evening.

Well, okay back to long-haul flights – from my first experience then, I realized that I have to do something different on future flights – but being a overthinking engineer of what can go wrong getting rest on a plane is not easy for me, I know I am not alone.  Gina on the other hand, she thinks she is on a big bus, flying on soft clouds and whisps of air and can get some sleep most of the time.

Both of us though agree that we wish teleportation of Star Trek was real we could beam ourselves to new places in a matter of seconds.

So, years later after we traveled to Italy, Greece and Spain, Gina had business trips to India going by herself – when she had here employment contract for being the CFO of an India based company, she negotiated into her requirements that any foreign trip would be ticketed as Business Class Air – the best thing to have especially on combined 24-hour flights from USA to India.  On Business class Air for Lufthansa,  Emirates and Qatar Airways, those lay flat seats with the food and amenities certain offset some the discomforts of long-haul travel for her. 

sunbath, seine, paris-806378.jpgAnother thing Gina read is when you do arrive after a land haul flight, get into the sun as much as you can that day of arrival – the sun rays, helps produce vitamin D which really helps reset/fool your circadian rhythm a bit to get a new 24-hour cycle that you have built up all your life.  So, arrive where you are, go to the pool and get some rays, you will feel much better the following days.

pill, hand, tictac-428328.jpgThe other suggestion is taking a melatonin pill or sleep aide after take-off, that relaxes you. One observation – I took only half of prescribed pill of Costco’s sleep aid, (suggested by Gina who when flying alone did not to be so knocked out that she would miss her connections), which I felt it did not fully activate on the entire body and I felt like I only fell half asleep… like I was in a fog stirring on any discomfort caused by people around me.

So, As mentioned in our previous post, we are going to Sydney Australia on a long-haul flight – we chose the flight from Houston to Sydney, a 17 hour non-stop which crosses some 16 time zones and an international date line.

We leave on a Saturday, arrive there on a Monday – Sunday will be a non-day for us, but we do get it back on the trip home.

the plane, jet, aircraft-3352698.jpgSo, what can I do to prepare for such an excursion? First, we purchased United Airlines Polaris business class seats – The seating arrangement is a 1-2-1.

We are flying mostly in the dark – (8PM Saturday and Arrive 7AM Sunday with 16-hour time difference) to so instead of a window seat to see a vast dark ocean, we took the 2 seats in the middle next to each other to (hopefully) lower a divider and enjoy each other’s company right next to each other.  The only seat available were either row 1 or row 9 (which the first row in the second business class section) I took row 1 since I understand the bulkhead leg room is a little bit more, the front of the plan has less engine noise but there is a pilot’s entry, bathroom, and food alley station.

According to SeatGuru, (a website where you can see/review airline seat maps for most any flight) both the bathroom and alley can be bothersome, some commenters stated that it is not an issue at all.

On the flight back from Auckland, we are flying Air New Zealand which Auckland to Houston is only 13 hours starts in the evening (8PM) but after just 4 hours enters daylight so it mostly during daylight hours.  We arrive in Houston at 3PM the same day – so bit of time travel as after 13 hours of flying, we go back in time).

Air New Zealand has a unique seating pattern – 1-2-1 as well, but the seats are angled. In fact, angled with such low profiles that I guess you easily see the other passengers in front of you – many have said at first it feels different – but not bad as you can have a conversation easily with people immediately in front or behind you. Travelers who prefer a window seat really don’t enjoy the angle as much since twisting to see out the window is not too easy. I decided for the same previous reasons to pick the first-row middle seats – Gina will be immediately next to me and figuring that I will not be distracted looking at people in front of me, but certainly understand lots of folks behind me will have sights on.

My hope is arriving at 7AM on the morning of New Years Eve in Sydney is this: 1) Arrive on time, having gotten some quality sleep on the trip 2) Our baggage arrives with us. 3) Hotel has room ready early 4) A sunny day to get some sunshine 5) Able to take a afternoon nap 6) early evening, get acquainted with the area, check out the location of that evening festivities 7) Enjoy New Years Eve in Sydney! 8) At midnight, be awake to wish everyone Happy New Year even though its only 8AM back home. 9) Wake up in Sydney on News Year day and visit Ian and Linda from Sydney, who we met in Norway on a cruise who are giving us a personal tour of their city.

Check back with me on how we do on this list!

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