Improving flight comfort.

So the other day I saw a story that, while not surprising, was quite concerning.  Spring Airlines, a Chinese budget carrier, would like to offer standing tickets for their flights.  Can you imagine flying on a plane like you would on a subway or bus??  Sounds delightful.  When Airbus put2-12-15-2 in a patent recently for saddle seats I was horrified at the thought of ever having to fly in a seat such as that, but having to stand for an entire flight scrunched in with several other passengers sounds even more awful regardless of the flight duration. What if there is turbulence? A rough landing? You are basically guaranteed for someone to fall! I have visions of a domino effect, with people toppling all the way down the plane…

As the story points out this hasn’t been the first time for a push to offer standing-room ticket on flights, but thankfully aviation officials have pushed back themselves due to safety concerns caused by turbulence and/or long flights.  Though we may not see standing tickets offered for flights any time soon, flying comfort seems to get worse and worse as the years go by.  Here are a few ways to maximize flight comfort in close quarters.

Keep personal item in carryon (when it makes sense).  If you know you are only going to need a few things during a flight take those things out before you board, and put your personal item inside your carryon to put in the overhead bin.  This way you can stretch your legs underneath the seat in front of you where your personal item would have been.  It doesn’t make sense to do this if you need several things out of your personal item for a flight, but if you can free up that space under the seat in front of you your comfort level will improve dramatically. (This isn’t a license to put two bags up there though!)

Neck pillow as seat cushion.  Okay, so I haven’t personally tried this but the Road Warrior had the idea to use my neck pillow as a seat cushion for long flights when the seat starts to become unbearable.  If it’s inflatable, then maybe partially inflate it?  It sounds like a good idea, so I did some searching and found a three in one inflatable travel pillow that works for back support, neck support, and as a seat cushion!  It hasn’t been reviewed yet on Amazon so I’m not sure how well it does for all three but it might be worth trying for the price (currently priced under ten dollars before shipping).

Move your body.  I’m not a doctor, but I can tell you when I bend my arms, legs, shoulder, back, and ankles frequently during a flight my body responds well.  It helps loosen me up, and by doing so should help promote blood flow.  I also get up and go to the restroom at least once during a flight so I can continue body movement.  It’s not always convenient or possible to stand up, but as long as you are doing something other than sitting in a cramped position the entire flight you should be able to improve your comfort.

Pick the right seat.  The easiest, and most obvious, way to improve seat comfort is to choose a comfortable seat position on the plane.  When ordering your ticket you can choose your seat assignment for some airlines.  Try to choose an exit row or bulkhead seat (just remember in a bulkhead seat your personal item must go in the overhead compartment during takeoff and landing).  One caveat: if you have wider hips remember that these seats are slightly narrower than normal to make room for the tray table. My personal preference is in the front part of the aircraft, in Main Cabin Extra or Economy Plus (or whatever your airline calls it). Also, think about your placement in the row. If you get claustrophobic or need to get up often it’s probably better for you to be on the aisle. But if you plan to sleep and want to lean against the wall, maybe the window is a better choice.

If you end up with a middle seat both of those arm rests (in a perfect world) should be yours.  I’ve written several times for flyers to give up the armrests for the middle seat passengers, but not all passengers follow this etiquette advice.  The best way to handle it when you are not being given the armrests is to simply engage your neighbor.  Say something like “Hi, I’m sorry to bug you but would you mind if we share the armrest during the flight?”  I would be shocked if they said no (they might say no, but again I would be shocked).

Take control of your own space. You can’t control if your seatmates are going to work all night on a bright-screened laptop, blast music, or have loud conversations. What you can do is bring an eye mask and headphones so that if you’re stuck next to this guy, you can block his obnoxious activities out.

Readers, what are some tips you have for improving comfort during a flight? 

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