Putting the ultra into long-haul is less arduous if you follow expert advice, writes Grace Ellis.
Although ultra-long-haul flights are becoming more prevalent, they're still no less gruelling.
Eighteen-hour flights can be a challenge for even the most frequent of flyers. So, if you're looking to fly long-haul, whether that be on the recently launched longest flight in the world, from Singapore to Newark with Singapore Airlines, the former record-holding Auckland to Doha journey with Qatar Airways, or Auckland to Chicago with Air New Zealand (a route that launches at the end of this month), here are a few expert tips to ease you through the journey.
When it comes to flying long-haul, online check-in is seriously your best friend. Not only will you skip the queue, but you'll also feel less stressed knowing that you've completed part of the daunting process before you've even stepped foot in the airport.
Michael Lueck, a professor from Auckland University of Technology's School of Hospitality, Tourism and Events says, "Most airlines have dedicated bag-drop counters for passengers who checked-in online and the lines there are shorter and move faster."
Rest and relax
To ensure that your holiday gets off to a flying start, it is essential to get as much rest as possible beforehand. Contrary to belief, depriving yourself of sleep is actually one of the worst things you can do before a flight.
You may be hoping to doze for the duration of your flight but unfortunately, it doesn't usually work out as planned. Although the feeling of restlessness is not unusual during a long-haul flight, try not to get frustrated with your lack of sleep. Instead, recline that seat, make yourself as comfortable as possible and enjoy the in-flight entertainment. Go with the flow and soon enough, you'll probably feel your eyes drooping — take this opportunity to get some much-needed shut-eye.
Lueck says: "Some people can sleep most of the flight whereas others can't sleep at all. If you are in Business Class, you will have a 'bed' for the entire flight and travel will be relatively easy. In the Economy and Premium Economy sections, try to get as comfortable as you can, and watch some TV."
Say no to the booze
Although you may be prone to feeling those pre-flight jitters, try to steer clear of consuming too much booze before or during your flight.
Lueck says, "Although it is tempting to celebrate going on holiday or to take the edge off, avoid drinking much alcohol at the airport.
"Ultra-long-haul travel can have quite a strain on your body, so non-alcoholic beverages and lighter/healthier meal choices certainly will help your body."
On the plus side, you'll be able to sip cocktails to your heart's content once you finally arrive at your destination — so for now, don't put yourself through the pain of a jet-lag and hangover combo and stick to hydrating with H2O.
Be prepared for security checks
Airport security checks are arguably one of the most tedious tasks of travelling. But if you take to it like a Band-aid, it can be a quick and painless process.
Lueck suggests his "life hack" is to wear a plastic belt — no metal, no need to awkwardly unbuckle your pants in front of the security staff. He also recommends laceless shoes and having laptops easily accessible for inspection.
Comfort is key
There's nothing more relieving than undoing the top button of your jeans after a big meal or a long day. But on a 17-hour flight, comfort is key. Layers of loose-fitting clothing are the way to go and, trust me, no one will give you a second glance if you're dressed as if you've just stepped out of bed because, let's face it, they'll probably be doing the same.
Take a walk
It may be tempting just to morph into a couch potato when you're flying long-haul, but experts emphasise the importance of keeping your legs moving during lengthy flights.
With the risk of deep vein thrombosis present in all long and ultra-long-haul flights, stretching your legs with a small walk around the cabin every few hours will ensure good blood circulation.
"Many passengers are now aware of the risk, and the airlines provide information and exercises in their in-flight magazines and often in the in-flight entertainment system," says Lueck.
Choose your seat wisely
He says that although the minimum seat pitch on a long-haul flight is a policy he wishes would change, it has come as a result of lower fares. So in order to create revenue, airlines are forced to "squeeze in" as many passengers as possible.
In other words, if you want more leg-room, you'll pay the price either way — your choice being to actually dip into your wallet for a more premium seat, or save money and suffer the fate of being crammed into your seat as soon as the person in front of you decides to lie back.
With some airlines, the choice is made for you. For its new ultra-long-haul route, Singapore Airlines uses a dedicated aircraft, with 67 Business Class seats, and 94 Premium Economy seats. Economy is eliminated altogether.