🇬🇧 There are several ways in which you can travel cheaply in Economy class cabin finding comfort in the small details. I take over 30 long-haul flights a year, mostly in Economy, and with time and experience, I have compiled a set of tips to follow before, during and after every flight. Some have a little cost, but not nearly as much as a Business Class ticket.
STEP 1: PURCHASING YOUR AIR TICKET
• Choose an airline that has frequent flights and new planes. It can be easily done with Google Flights. This may come in handy in case of delays. Wide-bodied B777 and B787, as well as the A380 and A350 offer more spacious cabins and a wider choice of seats. Sometimes it is worth spending that extra 100 bucks to fly Air France instead of Aeroflot or Emirates instead of Ethiopian (even though Ethiopian flies some B787s). If in doubt about which airline to choose, have a look at Skytrax.
• Prefer non-stop flights. Unless you are traveling ultra long-haul, a stop in between may be a good chance to have a shower, walk for a while, have a good meal and move into a clean and fresh cabin for the remainder of the journey. Longer flights allow extra sleeping time (if you can sleep onboard). Flightsfrom.com allows you to search for direct routes from any airport on the planet.
• Pay attention to the timings. Early morning and late evening departures may have you exhausted well before the voyage begins. A convenient departure time is around midday or late afternoon. That gives you time to have breakfast or lunch and catch public transportation to the airport.
• Daytime flights may seem boring and endless, but you arrive at your destination having rested for most of the journey and go straight to bed. Overnight flights that land very early in the morning are the worst unless you book a hotel room from the previous night for guaranteed early check-in. It may even be a cheap room just for a shower and a horizontal 3-hour nap.
• Try to have elite status in one of the big alliances (SkyTeam, OneWorld or Star Alliance). Even the simplest of status will at least let you check-in at the Business Class counter, so you will not have to stand in line as much. Some may give you access to the lounge, priority boarding and extra checked-in luggage.
• Book your seat immediately. I like aisle seats because I keep on going to the lavatory (drinking plenty of water makes you feel better) and going for walks. Nobody deserves to seat on those middle seats, but somebody will have to. Don’t let that somebody be you. The meal services tend to start at the forward of the cabin, so seats at the front eat first. That means you will be able to choose between the chicken and the beef and finish your meal on time to go to the lavatory before everybody else starts congregating at the door. After landing, you leave before most people and get ahead of the crowd at immigration. Even if the airline charges you for choosing a seat in advance, do it. If in doubt about good and bad seats, have a look at SeatGuru.
STEP 2: FLYING
• Travel light. Know, for a fact, that you will not wear 20% of the clothes you take with you. Remember you can always buy that extra pair of underwear on the go if necessary. The same goes for shampoo and basic toiletries. I exercise a lot, so I take gym clothes that are easy to wash and quick to dry. Having just one light suitcase helps a lot (and have one with four wheels).
• Carry as little as possible in your hand luggage. Remember you will have to walk a lot, go through security checks, stand in line and fight for space on the overhead bins. With a little backpack, you can wait to be the last one to board and have it in the seat in front of you working as a footrest. Be as nimble as you can to build a small cocoon around you on the plane.
• Essential items to carry on board: a sweater (it does get cold in airplanes), your own entertainment (the entertainment system does break down sometimes), a bottle of water (those gym bottles that can be filled up – needless to say, they must be empty when going through security). Travel documents, basic toiletries, eyeshades, noise canceling headsets – or earplugs – and some food (apples, banana, boiled eggs, dried fruits) are also recommended.
• Check-in online a few hours before the flight. You will be able to gauge how full the flight is and how empty the back rows are. I secure my seat in the front rows, wait to be the last one to board and walk straight to the back of the plane. If I see those empty rows, even at the very back, I sit down as if those were mine. In case they become occupied by latecomers, I play dumb, say sorry and go back to my original seat. Some airlines have kiosks in the boarding area where you can change your seat assignments at the last minute.
• I try to eat at the airport before boarding so that by the time the plane takes off I am happy to watch a movie and go to sleep. My apples and bananas keep me safe in case I get hungry later on. The bottle of water keeps me hydrated, and I also save the plastic bag covering the blankets to use as trash deposit to keep my little area clean and tidy. By the way, because I have a sweater, I use the blanket as back support.
• Chewing gum helps you get rid of that awful dirty mouth feeling. Hand sanitizer is also a good idea to have close by.
• I take my shoes off as soon as the plane takes off. When I go to the toilet, I put them back on. Therefore I frequently travel wearing my Tom’s or very comfy sneakers.
• I load my iPhone with podcasts to listen to during the flight. Sometimes it is hard to sleep and don’t force yourself into sleeping because it will only get worse. But dozing off while listening to a good story or interview is not that hard and much more relaxing. It can get tiring forcing your eyes to look at the small onboard TV screens.
• Don’t try sleeping in weird positions as you will be in pain. If you have long legs, those bulkhead seats or the emergency exits should have been reserved a long time ago.
• Getting up and stretching near the galleys is helpful. It is better than to be bored on your seat.
• Be nice to the crew and very patient with the other passengers. You are all stuck in the same aluminum tin at 30.000 feet for the same amount of time.
STEP 3: AFTER THE FLIGHT
• Have a shower and rest. Put your legs up for a while. Stretch. A 45-minute power nap or a 3-hour sleep does wonders. Set the alarm and force yourself out of bed if it is daytime. If awake in the middle of the night, avoid by all means to check your mobile phone.
• A deep tissue massage, as well as a light run, are also good ideas.
• As mentioned somewhere before, if your flight lands very early in the morning it is wise to have booked your hotel room from the previous night to guarantee you will go straight up and not have to wait until 2 or 3 pm for it to be ready. The combination of Economy airfare plus one extra hotel night is still way cheaper than a Business Class ticket, and after sleeping for a few hours, you will be as refreshed as your fellow travelers who paid up to ten times more for the same flight.
However, if after all of these tips you still suffer from Economy class syndrome, remember that this suffering only happens for those who travel. Do you have any tips to share with me and the readers? That would be highly appreciated.