|Subject: Re: Moaning about Airlines|
Most of us can probably identify with this topic with memories of varying degrees of discomfort.
I liked Frances' "Flying Sardine Can". Captured it pretty well I thought. When you go to open them a can of sardines looks nice - attractive label, nice colours, shiny metal. On opening the can you think "Well they're pretty tightly packed but it's all very neat and orderly, I'll enjoy this". Five minutes later you've finished and realise it was nothing special. If you look at the can 10-24 hours later it has a nasty smell and a slimy coating. Just like travelling in a 747 from Sydney to London (typically about 20 hours with one stop) really.
However there are a few things you can do to make the experience more bearable, especially if, like me, you only ever travel Economy.
1 Learn some relaxation exercises, I find they really do help. (and if all else fails just "lie back and think of England" so to speak - except in Economy you can't really lie back)
2 Some airlines do have more space than others - e.g. Aerolineas Argentinas and Thai International both have 34" pitch in Airbus 340 and Boeing 747's respectively (as opposed to as little as 31" in British Airways and other more higher status carriers). I don't think either of these airlines (Thai and Aerolineas) are listed in "Seat Guru" but you can find some info (not as much for individual airlines as in Seat Guru) for a lot more airlines at www.skytrax.com Sometimes these airlines have older planes and no frills like individual TV monitors but I'd personally rather have more legroom.
3 Forget window seats on long flights - the blinds are always pulled down so the crew can go to sleep - they disappear into little kennels at the back or underneath the main deck (Yes really). Get an aisle seat every time - that way you can get up and stretch when you want and beat the rush to the toilets. Don't believe your travel agent when they say they've booked the seats you want - someone else has already got them. Phone the airline before you leave and ask for an aisle seat and ask again at check in.
4 Boeing 747's and 777's with a 3-4-3 configuration for most Economy seats have a slightly lower proportion of aisle seats than Airbus 340's with 2-4-2. Also if full the 747's hold more passengers, so getting on and off and claiming your baggage can take a little longer.
5 If you see an empty seat that has more space around it than yours grab it as soon as they switch off the "fasten seat belt" signs after take off. Don't be shy, someone else will take it otherwise. Even if it's next the galley or the toilets I reckon a seat with empty seats beside it is better than one with other people sticking their elbows in your ribs and while they snore and dribble all over you.
6 A sleep mask and an inflatable neck pillow do help to make you more comfortable.
7 The advice you hear about not getting dehydrated and avoiding alcohol is sound. I always take my own bottle of water to start me off on the flight so that I'm not totally dependent on the cabin crew being energetic enough to bring water round during the long night.
8 Bring a trashy novel - on a 20 hour flight you can just about finish it.
I won't say enjoy your flight as that's impossible - but remember - just relax - for a very long time - and yes, I'm the old guy with white hair who just grabbed that aisle seat you had your eye on....
Michael Sydney, Australia