Air travel: seven tips to improve your economy flight experience

Our seven handy tips are guaranteed to make your flight experience more comfortable.

older man comfortable in his plane seat

Everyone loves to travel. Well, they love the idea of travelling anyway. I’m not so sure I know too many people who actually enjoy flying. Except, of course, those who have the means, or who are prepared to mortgage their house, for a first-class ticket. (And, to tell you the truth, I don’t think I know anyone who’s even travelled first class!)

Admittedly, I enjoy flying. I find it a most exciting experience. But for those who find it harrowing, or who just don’t like to do it, there are ways to make your trip more enjoyable, such as these seven clever ways to make economy feel a little more like first class.

1. Choose the right airline

This might sound obvious, but choosing the airline that best suits you is the first step to having a shot at actually enjoying your flight. And it’s not only about the airline, it’s more about the plane itself. As you may be aware, some planes have better in-flight entertainment than others, while some have none at all. Some have wider seats, whilst others have more legroom. Seat Guru and Seat Expert are invaluable online resources that can help you with your research.

2. Check in early

Passengers who check in early will usually have the best seat options. Try checking in online as soon as you can to select you preferred seat. If you can’t find a suitable seat 72 hours from your flight, try again at 48 hours, because this is typically when frequent flyers (who always get preference when it comes to seats) will be upgraded.

I find aisle seats the comfiest, because you have a little extra legroom on the side, and you won’t have to climb over people to go to the loo or stretch your legs.

3. Pillow, cushion and inflatable foot rest

If you’re heading off on a long-haul flight, then a plane pillow is a must. There are also inflatable footrests available that will take the pressure off your heels and, in turn, your lower back. Keep an eye out for an inflatable cushion for your backside too, or bring along a dining-chair cushion from home. Sure, these all may sound a little extravagant when you first read this, but your bottom, neck, back and feet will thank you profusely for the extra comfort.

4. Tune out the noise

Buy yourself a set of noise-cancelling headphones or earphones, or, if you’re not a fan of music, pick up a pair of noise-cancelling earplugs. That way you can tune out the noise of passengers and the constant hum of the plane. Just remember though, that most, if not all, planes have the twin plug set up for audio, but you can usually pick up an adapter for your single-plug headphone from the airport or stores such as Jaycar or JB Hifi.

5. BYO bits and bobs

In addition to what I’ve already mentioned, a small kit containing such items as an eye mask, hand sanitiser, slipper socks or spare pair of socks, toothbrush and face wipes will go a long way to making your flight even more comfy.

BYO food

If you’re not a huge fan of plane food, or if you have favourite treats with which you like to spoil yourself every now and then, why not bring them on board? Food items such as nuts or seeds may not be allowed on the plane, but if you check with your airline before you fly, it should be able to give you list of what foods are allowed.

7. Smile!

You’d be amazed at how far a smile will take you. No one likes a sourpuss, and a smile is one of those things you can give away for free, but will bring you maximum returns. Flight attendants will do much more for someone who smiles – it’s just human nature. And a smile will just make your whole flight, and indeed, your holiday, that much more pleasurable.




    To make a comment, please register or login
    7th Mar 2016
    Your first point is by far the most relevant Leon. I used to travel to the US on Virgin (Boeing-777): small rock hard seats with almost no legroom. The last 2 trips have been with Qantas (A380 Airbus): comfortable and wider seats with heaps of legroom. Once travellers experience the difference they are unlikely to go back to the other.
    One thing you missed out on with long lights is that YOU MUST SLEEP. If that does not happen then you will hit the wall at the other end. And by sleep I mean more perpetual napping than a long uninterrupted sleep. It works. Six years of doing this route have gained the lessons!
    7th Mar 2016

    Might pay to check your facts first. (Source Seat Guru)

    Virgin Australia 777
    Seat Pitch 32"
    Seat Width 18.5"

    Seat Pitch 31"
    Seat Width 17.5"

    So unless you are a midget, then not heaps of leg room on one of the worst airlines. Not sure how much the Leprechaun is paying you to spruik his crappy airline.
    7th Mar 2016
    I find it impossible to sleep on a plane. Any suggestions there?
    7th Mar 2016
    It's tough. Just persevere. Or have a bit of alcohol and 1 sleeping pill. Might work.
    Polly Esther
    7th Mar 2016
    Become a member of the mile high club by flying United.
    7th Mar 2016
    Oh, you're awful, Polly.
    Tony D
    7th Mar 2016
    Dear Mr. Della Bosca. I certainly admire your courage for entering into the debate as to whether or not flying economy class can ever be an experience improved. It's 2016. The only way the experience can be improved is to shrink yourself to five feet, two inches or less; learn to curl into a ball on your seat and fall asleep at will; require no food or drink for the duration of the flight and travel without any luggage, checked or otherwise. If that cannot be done cough up at least enough money to travel in premium economy.
    7th Mar 2016
    Well I hope I don't end up next to the person with the back pillow, the neck pillow, the foot pillow and the bum pillow whose up and down getting their own food from the overhead locker! There's little enough space without all those pillows. I like to read a good book on my kindle, it's best to be well into the story before you fly, reading also helps me to nap. I enjoy watching a movie too and doing crosswords, all helps the time to go quicker. I try not to look at the time or how long left before arrival, feels like a longer drag if I keep checking.
    Get up often for a walk around too, my husband is very sociable and loves to chat to others standing at the back of the plane, he comes back to his seat with some interesting stories from fellow travellers.
    7th Mar 2016
    That is precisely why you will feel like you hit a brick wall when you arrive after a long flight. Bad advice which will not work on a 13+ hour flight. From experience.
    7th Mar 2016
    The A 380 is certainly the best, but of our last 4 flights with Singapore Airlines with what was supposed to be their A380 Longhaul flights, But 3 out of 4 were replaced with the Boeing-777
    as these were cheaper to run. You cant win
    7th Mar 2016
    You know which carrier to avoid in future.
    27th Jun 2016
    So which airlines are the most comfortable to travel on for at least a few hours?

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