How to survive a long haul flight?

World Citizen, Ninja

Travelling around the globe is a great adventure, though it comes with inconveniences. Unless you can afford business class and above, flying long haul can be an unpleasant experience. As a World Citizen, I consider myself an experienced flier, I have developed my own techniques, which can make your flight bearable, if not great! So here are my top tips on how to survive a long haul flight! What are your top tips? Share them in comments!

Go fly business and first class, Captain Obvious, it really helps you survive a long haul flight!

OK, I know, business usually costs 2.5-5 times more than economy, so it’s not really an option. Only go for it, if you have an unlimited bank account:)

Chose a great airline

What makes an airline great? Well, in pub conversations people mention prestige, quality of food, great ads and other gimmicks. In reality, don’t fall for them. From a comfort perspective: Larg(er than average) legroom is key. Make sure they fly with a modern aircraft, like the new Airbus A350 family or Boeing’s Dreamliner, as they are designed with (more) comfort in mind. They have higher air pressure, more humidity, decent screens, lower noise levels, cabin lights better for your eyes, and even chargers and power plugs. How can you check the aircraft type? Search for any flight on Skyscanner, select your flight, and show the details. You can locate the flight number, on the screenshot, it’s in the red box, DY7014

skyscanner flight number survive a long haul flight

Now you just have to google this flight number (DY7014 + aircraft type) and most flight tracking websites can tell you the aircraft type. In this example, it’s An Airbus A332, which is a decent plane, though it’s in production since 1992, so unless it’s a refurbished one, it won’t be too comfortable.

aircraft type google survive a long haul flight

aircraft type google

Choose your spot wisely!

Now you have a great aircraft, you need to choose your spot to survive a long haul flight! Either you fly a lot and get experience, or you ask for some help from websites like SeatGuru. They lay down the seat map of the given aircraft, and rate the different seats, marking the ones which may be uncomfortable, as it’s next to a lavatory, or mark it green, as it supposedly has longer legroom. Everyone has his preferences, I personally go for legroom, and having an aisle seat, at the back of the plane, as it’s shaking more during the flight, giving me a comfy sleep.

Hunt for empty seats near you

Most of the time, airlines are not running on full capacity, sometimes only on 50%. This means lots of empty seats, and this is something travellers love. Spot the empty rows while boarding, and as soon as the seatbelt sign goes off, run for it. (or even before takeoff). Depending on how tall you are, 3-4 seats next to each other can be a narrow bed. Not ideal, but way better than a single seat, right? Make use of all the pillows and blankets you find, to even out the humps between seats.

Chose a night flight

Either you fly from east to west or vice versa, have a night flight. For starters, you can have a productive day before your flight. After taking off, watch a movie, have dinner. Three hours can easily go by and you haven’t even noticed, and you still have time to sleep. Sometimes if you are not tired enough, or you are stuck in a single seat, it’s hard to fall asleep. What works for me is a mildly boring movie, a podcast where people are talking monotonously, just close your eyes, listen and you are sleeping in no time!

Be super nice to flight attendants, and check-in staff

They are the ONLY ones who can make your flight more pleasant! Have small chitchat at check-in, ask if the flight is full or if you can sit alone in your row – if they can, they help. DO NOT ask for a free upgrade, it won’t happen. If they are in the mood, they can, they may, but if they are pushed, they definitely won’t. Unless you are super cute, but chances are you are not a one-year-old baby like our Little World Citizen, asking nicely:)

how to ask for an upgrade

Be comfy!

I regularly see women with high heels, super cool, but super uncomfortable dresses, men with tight jeans and shirts (and not businessmen). Just don’t do be that traveller. Be smart! If you are stuck in a metal tube for 14 hours, just stay comfortable, training shoes, your most comfortable set of pants, yoga pants, t-shirt, hoodie. I know it does not look glamorous, but it helps a lot!


A few can make your journey better, a lot can only cause a headache, you have to find your balance. Earplugs seem useless to me, a firm neck pillow is all I need if I can’t find four empty seats in a row. I make use of the pillows and blankets they give, they all help me to survive a long haul flight!


As mentioned before, new aircraft have great entertainment systems. You can use your own headphones, have large and bright screens. Well, sometimes their movie selection can still fall behind, so always have your own! A book, a podcast, a movie on your own device. Or your favourite excel spreadsheet, whatever floats your boat!

Drink only water and soft drinks

No Alcohol. Tempting as it’s usually free, but contrary to crowd wisdom, you won’t sleep better from it, it dehydrates you, and you will feel terrible after landing.

Well, this is it, most of the wisdom tried and tested techniques we have collected over the years! Enjoy your flight! If you have anything to add, share what makes your journeys more comfortable, how you survive a long haul flight!

Share your experience, post a comment!