One of my top tips for a comfortable long-haul flight is to never forget the tubelike noodle neck pillow.
You find these things at the kiosk selling ‘travel essentials’ at airports, or at the Japanese stores in malls that sell everything that you would possibly need in the future.
When I first saw the neck pillows, I thought they were swimming aids for kids, and never bought one because most airlines anyway, give you a pillow and a blanket.
After a couple of fights, I realised that the free pillow is for height-challenged people, and the pillow has the irritating habit of slowly squishing into a tiny ball and then disappearing, and you have to search for it while people are snoring around you and even sleeping and drooling on your shoulder.
First off, let me tell you there is no such thing as a ‘comfortable long-haul flight’. It is a myth perpetuated by the airline industry to hide the fact that they have cut down the size of the seats to make it even smaller, with barely any leg space.
According to cheapflights.com the width of the seats today is between 16 inches to 19 inches and the leg space is between 30 to 34 inches. (It seems larger in the metric system so to make you happy, here goes; 16 inches = 40cm, and 30 inches = 76cm).
A long-haul flight is one that lasts for hours and hours and flies into another time zone, and where the clock ticks slowly, or rapid fast, depending on whether the toilet is free or whether it has that irritating red sign on, that shows that someone is on the toilet seat and playing video games on their smartphone.
Our flight from Delhi to Toronto took about 15 hours, and it is difficult to speak with your wife, partner or spouse for such a long period of time.
Talking heads fighting loudly
After a couple of hours and as we were flying over Kazakhstan, I turned to my wife and said, ”So, what’s new?” At home, communication is hardly a necessity, as she is usually on her laptop and I on my PC, or we sit together on the sofa and watch TV together, that usually shows talking heads fighting loudly with each other.
My wife looked at me incredulously and asked, ”Do you want a biscuit?” and took out a soggy cookie from her newly-purchased handbag.
Which brings me to my second tip; bring enough nourishment with you in the carry-on bag, because the airline we were travelling on offered us only two hot meals, and a cold sandwich, in the night.
One of my aunts, whenever travelling by train, usually carried a tiffin box that was packed with yummy ‘shami kabab’ that gave out a heavenly aroma when you opened the lunch box. She ate under the gaze of hungry fellow passengers while munching on the kabab with flat bread.
Basama, our cook, offered to come on Sunday and make us ‘idli’ and chutney to take with us on the flight, and we both, unanimously and quickly told her, “Thank you, but no thanks”, because her idlis, for some reason become hard as rocks when eaten the next day.
I remember heating one of those things for one minute in the microwave and beating it with a meat mallet to make it soft for consumption.
After the initial excitement of flying in a Dreamliner that had large windows that change to a colour of your choice with the twist of a switch, boredom starts to set in, so bring along a lot of reading material.
I had downloaded a ton of free books on my Kindle that Amazon offers if you are a Prime member. Very soon, I realised why they are free, because even as you reading the prologue in these free books, you fall asleep, which I suppose, is another good way to beat boredom.
One last but a very important tip; practice sleeping in a biggish cardboard box a week or two prior to your flight, so you can fit yourself comfortably in the small seat, and don’t forget your neck pillow.
Mahmood Saberi is a storyteller and blogger based in Bengaluru, India. Twitter: @mahmood_saberi