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How to survive a long-haul flight

Singapore Airlines last week launched the longest commercial flight from Singapore to Newark. Here are four tips on making long journeys in the air more comfortable

Clara Lock on 14 Oct 2018

The Straits Times


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Long-haul flights are big business for airlines these days.


Last week, Singapore Airlines (SIA) launched the world's longest commercial flight - a 19-hour route from Singapore to Newark in the United States. The airline will also launch direct flights from Singapore to Los Angeles next month.


According to data from travel search engine Skyscanner, about 20 per cent of their top 50 searches were for flights between six and 10 hours.


With such long flight times, airlines are going the distance to keep passengers rested and comfortable.


For instance, SIA has chosen orange, yellow and red cabin lights, which are proven to be conducive for sleep. It will also offer a healthier and lighter menu to reduce gas and aid digestion.


Meanwhile, Emirates has expanded its film catalogue to offer more than 1,000 movies. It estimates that this will take 119 trips on the world's longest A380 flight from Dubai to Auckland to get through.


Despite all these perks, what airlines cannot do is cater to the needs of each individual.


The Sunday Times offers tips to help passengers upgrade their in-flight experience.




You will be spending a long time in the air, so it helps to be friendly with the people you are sitting with.


Start off on the right foot by introducing yourself when you board. A simple question like "Are you heading home or starting your holiday?" can help break the ice.


For those in the window seat, try to sync your toilet breaks with the people next to you. It will save you the awkwardness of waking a sleeping neighbour or climbing over them and risk waking them anyway.


Resist the urge to stake your claim on both armrests. A survey by budget carrier Jetstar Asia, which polled 20,000 respondents across Asia Pacific, found that one in four people say this is their top in-flight pet peeve.


According to Mr Tyler Thia, a public relations manager for Jetstar Asia, it is good etiquette to let the person in the middle seat claim two armrests.


He says: "The passenger in the window seat has awesome views and a place to rest his head, while the passenger next to the aisle has extra space to stretch and roam around. It only seems right that the middle seat comes with its own perks."




The battle against jet lag starts before boarding the plane. The night before your flight, get a good night's sleep, so you begin your journey well rested.


When you board, set your watch to the time of your destination.


This will help you adjust to the new time zone and plan your in-flight activities accordingly.


For instance, if it is noon at your destination, watch a couple of movies, read a book or do simple exercises.


When it is time to get some shut-eye, take a low dose of melatonin, a hormone produced by the brain to regulate sleep.


Melatonin supplements, which are sold in pharmacies, can help reset the body's natural circadian rhythm and promote a good night's rest.




Simple exercises do not just provide relief for your body - they can also soothe your nerves and ease mental tension.


You can do them at your seat or while waiting in line for the bathroom.


Ms Yun Ng, who teaches at Pure Yoga, recommends a back bending stretch. Reach your hands up and cross your thumbs, creating a butterfly shape.


Try to pull your arms apart and away from each other with your thumbs resisting. Then, reach backwards and feel the front of your body lengthening.


She takes long-haul flights about two to three times a year and says: "Back bends help to release tension in the back, which tends to build up if one is seated in an awkward posture."


Doing squats is a mini workout that can give you an energy boost. With your feet hip distance apart, bend your knees and sit back into an imaginary chair. Do as many squats throughout the flight as your legs can handle.




A few comfort items can make all the difference in an unfamiliar environment.


Ms Sonia Mao, a growth strategic partnerships manager at Skyscanner, always packs an inflatable neck pillow and a stick of unscented, untinted lip balm.


She takes long-haul flights about four times a year and says: "The lip balm helps with the dry air of the plane and, as it's untinted, is also handy to use as a protective moisturiser for the whole face."


As for Ms Ng of Pure Yoga, she likes to take along a hydrating face mask and a small bottle of peppermint essential oil.


The mask prevents dry and tight skin in the low-humidity environment, while peppermint oil is particularly versatile.


"Adding a drop or two to water refreshes my mouth and aids digestion and, if I feel nauseous, I place a few drops in my palm, rub my hands together, then cup my palms over my nose," she says.


Pack these items in a small bag, which can be stowed under the seat or slipped into your seat pocket for easy reach.


If you are travelling with valuables such as a laptop or camera, a small padlock will keep them safe in the overhead compartment, especially if you have to store your hand-carry luggage away from where you sit.


Source: The Straits Times © Singapore Press Holdings Limited. Reproduced with permission.


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