None of my grandparents ever left the county they were born in, never mind the country. Travel was something a coal-miner and blacksmith did not do and both my grandmothers had their hands full with over seven children.
Their granddaughter now travels all over the world, for practically peanuts. The cabin crew don’t pander over me like they used to when I first flew as a little girl, and visits to the cockpit are long gone, but I still feel a thrum of excitement every time the plane takes off.
At the airport
If you show loyalty to one airline, and you fly enough, you may get a card that allows you into the airport lounge. Together with fast track through security privilege, this does cut down on airport pain.
Flying is a doddle if you are in business class, especially if you have a flat bed. There are not usually any children – although on a flight last week there were three nannies, each with their charge (parents flew first class) – but that is unusual. You just cover yourself with the posh blanket, hope there is not a snorer on board, fingers crossed the phantom farter has missed the flight, and you sleep like a baby.
World Traveller Plus class
This is a fourth class offered by BA and is worth considering if you can spare the extra cash. Depending on how far ahead you book, flights cost about 20% more than economy and afford you more comfortable seats.
In economy with the poor people – of which I am usually a member – it is a different story. Flying economy is the cheapest way of getting from A to B, if A and B are many miles apart. It is a means to an end, so enjoying the experience as well is a bonus.
You can minimise the discomfort – especially if you are over 5’8” tall by trying to get an emergency exit seat. This gives you more legroom – or if you are tall, you will be able to sit in your seat without your knees digging into the magazine pocket.
The next best seats are the rows of three next to the windows. If you are happy to be trapped in the window seat wanting to go to the bathroom when your companions are fast asleep, choose that. The aisle seat means you are boss but it also means you are bumped by the drinks trolley and the food trolley, and in fact by anyone who walks past.
Only go for the middle seat if you have no arms or are part of a couple. (Once, travelling with my partner, thought we would be clever and booked the aisle and the window seat, thinking no one would take the middle seat. Someone did and no, he would not move. Lesson learned.)
If you are the sort of person who can sleep through an earthquake, then it is perhaps good to go bye byes when the lights go out. I can’t sleep on planes, unless I fly business. This means, not that I fly business all the time but that I tend not to sleep on planes.
On the average long haul economy flight, you are going to have screamers, armrest hoggers, people who can’t shut the f*ck up, people who insist on using their reading light when everyone else is trying to sleep and someone who gets angry with a member of the cabin crew. The main meal is going to be inedible, the coffee sludgy, the tea stewed, the bread roll resembling a cannon ball….(Unless you fly business, when magically, through that thin blue curtain, there is a world of delicious food and decent coffee.)
- Set your expectations low. Think of where you are going (which is why you are flying)
- Adjust your watch as soon as you board. Start thinking in terms of your destination time
- Take off your shoes and put on some socks – supplied if you ask, usually, but I take my own just in case
- A blow up neck pillow is a good idea
- Always wrap up – even though you have a blanket supplied, it can be cold. I always take a spare heavy scarf
- Drink lots of water. Try to avoid alcohol (I know it’s free but it does dehydrate and encourages headaches.)
- Stay calm and try not to get annoyed or irritated. Zone out of the situation around you and try to rest as much as possible
- Keep yourself amused. (I can’t concentrate enough to read, but watch as many films as I can bear, back to back. I also listen to music. If the lights are still on, I may do some work planning.)
- If you don’t like the food, don’t eat it. No one died from missing two meals
- Be nice to the cabin crew. They work hard and seem to get very little appreciation