Saturday, 3 January 2009

Long haul

The big advantage of long-haul flights is that you can get somewhere like Australia fast. The disadvantage is that they're a gruelling pain in the arse.

Jenny loves flying and everything to do with it. She doesn't mind hanging around in airports and she has no problem with 22-hour flights. But I find those long-distance flights seriously stressful. Everything about them is uncomfortable, restricting and unhealthy.

Airlines still make out that flying is glamorous and exciting, but for most people the everyday reality is rather different.

The only way to cram hundreds of people into a plane is to cut down on individual space. So unless you can afford business class, you have limited legroom, a limited eating area and limited storage for your personal clutter. I feel a bit like a cooped-up battery chicken.

Add to this the fact that I can't take any exercise, or go anywhere else, or get any fresh air, or have a change of scenery. I'm rooted to the spot with not many ways of amusing myself.

When it comes to food, I have virtually no choice and usually have to eat what I'm given. There's no way a full range of food dishes can be prepared on a plane. If you get something really tasty, it's a miracle.

If boredom descends, I can't simply walk out and look for a more interesting activity, as I would anywhere else. I can't just make my excuses and leave, I have to stick with it to the bitter end.

If that isn't enough, long-distance flights screw up my digestive system something rotten. But I'll spare you the intimate details of that little issue.

The only reason I submit to such indignities is the chance to visit spectacular countries I would never otherwise visit. It's a necessary means to an end. But one I could well do without. As for the massive surge in my carbon footprint.... well, at least I'm a vegetarian.


  1. I'm with you Nick, and how far removed the adverts are from the actuality of flight conditions. I used to squeeze out the extra pennies for an upgrade at the airport but those days are gone with outlandish charges for upgrades today.
    I read and knit on flights to pass the time but have found lately I've been avoiding a lot of events involve flying. I always feel nausea at the thought of it.
    And that deep vein thrombosis thing is always a risk as well with sitting in one place for so long.
    Hats off to you for making the effort though and seeing the world!!

  2. Flying upsets my innards as well.
    Flying seems to be something to endure to get somehwere nice.

  3. I have never been on a long haul flight, mostly because I don't wish to endure what you have described.

    Safe journey home, Nick.

  4. www - Knitting, now there's an idea. Except that I'd have to learn to knit first. We had better seats than economy, but even so, far from comfortable.

    Muddy - As you say, the necessary trade-off for getting somewhere nice.

    Hulla - Very sensible of you. We all have things we just won't put up with!

  5. I don't mind the long flights when I am going somewhere... Coming back is another story.
    Glad you didn't share more intimate details on what flights do to your digestive system, and left some to the imagination. Thanks for that!
    You order vegetarian food in advance prior to the flight don't you?
    The worst battery chicken flight I have ever had was with Lauda Air. You know now that I am not very tall and even then my knees were pushing against the seat in front of me. Think cramped x 1000. Singapore airlines and Cathay Pacific have been the best in terms of room and in-flight entertainment options.
    Hate the communal video screens, every plane should have the seat screens at this day and age.
    Bla bla bla.
    Glad you made it back safely, looking forward to meeting you guys again here or there.

  6. Gaye - Yes, we ordered veggie meals but of course you only get what they give you. Sometimes delicious, sometimes revolting. Overcooked, microwaved pasta and vegetable dishes are the worst.

    I'll make a note of Singapore Airlines and Cathay Pacific. Worth a try.

    I'm amazed there are any communal video screens left. But even the individual ones can be pretty crap. Air Canada has some fabulous personal systems on their newer planes. The BA system was supposed to be customised but it wasn't working properly and all you could get was a choice of movies and no idea when they actually started. I gave up on it pretty quickly.

    Yes, hope we can meet again in the not too distant future. The afternoon at the Freckle Face Cafe and Darling Harbour was just great!

  7. All I can say is good luck! Flying is not on my favourite ist!

  8. I used to love the whole airport / flying / traveling experience.
    Alas no more. Security chaos and lines and stingy bad service are now a nightmare

  9. Suburbia - Don't blame you trying to avoid flying. The experience has definitely changed for the worse since my first flights.

    Quickie - Security and queues are annoying but nothing like as frustrating as being stuck in the air for almost a day!

  10. Planes suck. Once, when I was a kid in the 80's, it was exciting and a privilige, now it is a nuisance that I could cheerfully do without.

  11. Thrifty - There seems to be general disillusion about air travel! Perhaps we should all be charged the going rate for really comfortable flights (or always go business class) and only fly every few years....

  12. Ah, the curse of the vegetarian and the in-flight menu. Sometimes you are lucky to get anything more than a bread roll because someone further up the plane has nabbed a veggie meal without pre-booking it. ON a long-haul flight to the US I was given a ham roll and told to take the meat out as they had run out of veggie meals . . .!

  13. vegetarian airline food I could write a book on how bad it is :-(

  14. Babycakes - There was some sort of problem with one of our veggie meals on the flight back, I think they gave them to the wrong passengers and had to retrieve them. And yes, I've certainly had the ham roll experience from time to time!

    Conor - Isn't it just? I kid you not, I once got a tray full of over-cooked vegetables passed off as a veggie meal. As for some of the sickly and synthetic "desserts"....

  15. Yep, with ;you there Nick on the lack of things to do unless you take something to help you sleep. Still it's a means to an end

  16. Baino - I never manage to sleep much on planes. I've tried sleeping tablets but they don't actually send me to sleep, they just stupify me.

  17. I hate the very idea of flying, nevermind actually enduring it. Unfortunately my fear of flying is offset by constant wanderlust, so I am rarely out of the airport. Haven't had to face a long haul flight yet, but one is on the horizon for next Feb - with a 1 year old baby in tow. What a start to my Aussie experience!

  18. FG - I have every confidence in the safety of flying, it's much safer than car travel or even going into hospital. But the cabin conditions are a different matter. You're going to Oz? How come? To visit relatives?

  19. My husband is a groomsman in a family wedding in Oz. It's going to be hard to pull off a trip for all three of us, but we're pulling out all the stops to try!

  20. FG - Hope you manage to get there, it's an amazing country. Sydney is truly stunning.