Strict timetables, worrying about baggage weight limits, long queues, praying the retainer bar you have in your mouth doesn’t set off the metal detector, over-priced food and water, and once you get through all of that, the potential to be sat beside a crying infant for multiple hours. Welcome to air travel, please fasten your seatbelt, it’s going to be a turbulent ride.
Since their inception, airplanes and air travel have received their fair share of hate and disdain from jet-lagged customers. Certain bags got left behind in Heathrow, the three-hour delay made us late for our connecting flight, and the worst of al,l there is no more chicken curry left and you have to opt for the questionable-at-best chilli con carne. Now more than ever, there is greater choice for airlines to pick from, cheaper tickets to choose and greater destinations to select so surely the overall experience has improved, correct? Well, that’s up to you.
It all starts at the airport. Always give yourself plenty of time and if you can afford to, try keeping your carry-on luggage to just your personal bag or even no bags at all. I cannot recommend enough the ease of travelling without a bag; there is no bag to put through the x-ray in the airport and no need to struggle putting your bag in the overhead luggage compartment. Luckily, most major airports around the world have completely transformed themselves and offer more options in dining and shopping to travellers; some even offer spa clinics and massages. So if you can manage to go without a carry-on bag, the airport should be a doddle.
The next and major part of travelling is the flight itself. I recently returned from a family trip to Hawaii. I had to fly 11 hours from Dublin to San Francisco, wait for three hours, and then fly another 6 hours to Honolulu. A lot of people would run away screaming to the idea of spending that long on an airplane but I’m here to tell you why you shouldn’t.
Choice of airline and their aircraft is a huge factor in determining your experience when it comes to long-haul flights. Flying to San Francisco I had the most enjoyable flight as I was lucky enough to secure an exit row seat for free. Aer Lingus normally charge €55 for this seat but for any flight over 8 hours it is a small investment in your own comfort. I could stretch out the entire way and it was 11 hours of bliss. It was all the space of business class but for just an extra €55. I also flew with Delta to New York during the summer. Flights were dearer at the time than Aer Lingus but you get nice extras like a hot towel, nicer food than Aer Lingus and a more advanced and overall better entertainment system. My connecting flight to Honolulu was with United. My flight time was just under 6 hours and it was hell. Their choice of plane for the flight was too small, the food was bland and the entertainment was pay-per-view television. I would have gladly done a 17 hour flight from Dublin to Honolulu directly if it was possible, rather than get my connecting flight with United.
Those two flights were polar opposites of each other in terms of comfort and my stress levels and it is a case in point about how doing your research can determine how stressful flying can be for you. Money can be tight, but when it comes to paying €500 for a flight ticket, an extra €50 or so can go a long way to making it the relaxing experience it should be. Always look at the other options available to you. Determine which type of aircraft normally fly the route and use this information to make your choice. Being 37,000 feet in the air gives each of us a break away from our responsibilities. To look down on the world from that height is a privilege that only a certain slice of humanity to this date have witnessed.
So do yourself a favour and prepare for your journey. Your holiday begins at the airport so be the master of your own destiny and make it the enjoyable experience it should be. There still is the chance you may end up sitting beside a crying infant however; in which case, I wish you all the luck in the world.