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PostPosted: Sat Apr 14, 2012 12:36 pm 

Joined: Wed Mar 16, 2011 6:05 pm
Posts: 12

I like to think I've gotten better over the past couple of years at decreasing my envy of everyone who is richer or visibly more prosperous than me. But the one thing that unfailingly brings on the envy is traveling economy class in a North American airline. Actually, flying in general. Why is flying such a harrowing experience these days? A trivial 5 hour flight leaves me totally spent now and this used not to be the case.


I'm short enough that my feet don't hit the floor so I want a foot rest. I could carry one but that would add weight to my carryon and I feel silly lugging around something that I will use for 5 hours (on trips that sometimes extend for weeks). I would fold my legs up but the seat is too narrow for me to do that without intruding on my neighbor's space. Plus, now the airlines charge us for checking in so the room in the carry on is a consideration.


The seat is shaped exactly wrong for someone of my height. I want that pillow, that neckrest etc. But I don't want to carry them (see above) and I don't want to pay those outrageous amounts they ask for a pillow/blanket. Why should a small, poor quality, pillow I use for 5 hours cost $7? All they have to do is launder the slip cover. I can buy a new pillow for that and so can they.


The noise has always been an issue for me but I wonder if those noise-canceling earphones actually work at reducing fatigue. Any reviews? Are they worth the expense? I use ear plugs and they do help but I find them very uncomfortable and actually painful if they are left in for more than a few hours at a time. Why can't they improve the sound proofing in the cabin? I think the noise levels have actually gotten worse in the 25 years I've been flying while sound proofing technology has improved.


The thing I most resent I think is the food/drink situation. I realize that you can take an empty bottle through security, find a water fountain and fill up. You can take certain foods through security. But what if you forget/are pressed for time? The available food/drink options are so unhealthy. Once in a while you will find someone charging outrageous amounts for a piece of fruit or an aging salad in a small stand but otherwise you end up at a ridiculously priced bar and try to get them to make you an egg white omelette. Anyway, a list of security friendly healthy food would be nice. I mostly try to work with granola bars (and I dislike them).


I'm aware of how useless ranting about monopolies is, but any flying hacks (ideally healthy, minimalist friendly hacks) would be appreciated.


A




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PostPosted: Sat Apr 14, 2012 1:15 pm 

Joined: Wed Jun 29, 2011 1:17 pm
Posts: 502

Bring an inflatable footrest and pillow.




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PostPosted: Sat Apr 14, 2012 6:23 pm 

Joined: Tue Oct 25, 2011 4:00 am
Posts: 622

Jet Blue.




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PostPosted: Sat Apr 14, 2012 7:04 pm 
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Joined: Thu Feb 17, 2011 4:30 am
Posts: 861
Location: STL

In general, flying sucks. It's not fun for most people. A few ideas:


1 - There might be certain airplanes (seats) that work better for you, or certain airlines with complimentary stuff. Maybe that's why riparian said Jet Blue?


2 - If it is worth the money for you, you might fly first class when it's available (if the seats would work better for you?). For most people, especially here, it's not worth the money. But first class does exist and I'm sure people use it for a variety of reasons, often this kind of reason.


3 - Another option is to not travel so much or not in airplanes. Either use a different mode of transportation, or - even better, find a way that you don't have to travel often.


Edit - addition: on the headphones, yes they can help. I've used high-end in-ear headphones - the kind that go into your ears and seal them like ear plugs. When you have ends that fit your ears well enough to get a good seal, they will block out nearly 100% of the noise.

(headphones like these Etymotics . There are plenty of other good brands now like Shure, Ultimate Ears, etc... you can get very high quality sound with these kind of headphones). One problem with these is that if you wear them while the pressure is changing significantly (during the main parts of ascent or descent) it can cause problems related to the pressure - they've given me a bad headache before, so I don't wear them at those times. I've never used the noise canceling headphones such as the highly advertised Bose ones, so I can't comment on that.




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PostPosted: Sat Apr 14, 2012 7:14 pm 

Joined: Thu Aug 25, 2011 8:16 pm
Posts: 267

I travel a lot and this is a legitimate rant.


I blogged it! http://financialanarchist.tumblr.com/post/21094551818/luxury-in-economy-class-flights




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PostPosted: Sat Apr 14, 2012 7:55 pm 

Joined: Tue Feb 14, 2012 7:38 pm
Posts: 108

I have to fly from Seattle to DC for work a few times a year. I have the opposite problem as you though; I'm 6'4".


So far, I've been able to make it at least relatively tolerable by flying United/Continental and purchasing the seat upgrade to Economy Plus. I look for a seat that ideally has an empty spot in front of it, such as the one's at exit rows. This allows me to stand and stretch or squat for a bit. I bring a carry-on, but check it at the gate for free so I don't have to deal with trying to crush in line to get it in the overhead compartment. And I bring my own snacks if I really need to eat (I'd argue that unless you're flying to Singapore from Houston, you can probably just not eat and be fine). I get a venti green tea from Starbucks and just get refills of hot water on the plane to keep hydrated. I use in-ear headphones and some sort of ambient beats for the flight.


I still hate flying, but all of the above has made it a bit more tolerable.


In my case though, all my expenses are paid, so I'm not searching Orbitz for the cheapest seat on the plane...


I don't fly for fun or vacations.




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PostPosted: Sat Apr 14, 2012 8:47 pm 
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Joined: Fri Jun 28, 2013 8:38 pm
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Location: Chicago, IL

33dB ear plugs!


They're orange and called Super Leight.




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PostPosted: Sat Apr 14, 2012 9:03 pm 

Joined: Sat Nov 20, 2010 6:37 pm
Posts: 206

Seat guru

http://www.seatguru.com/


and fruit plate instead of lukewarm, inedible food are my suggestions.




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PostPosted: Sat Apr 14, 2012 11:26 pm 

Joined: Mon Jun 27, 2011 3:31 am
Posts: 1949

People in business class are paying anywhere from $2000 to $10,000 for basically a bed and warm cookies. I don't envy them at all.


Yes, I hate flying as much as the next person, but it is a very small sliver of one's life, and the payoff of being able to arrive somewhere new in a short period of time is well worth the indignity.




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PostPosted: Sat Apr 14, 2012 11:53 pm 
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Joined: Sun Jul 03, 2011 2:20 pm
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Location: Stepford USA

I've gotten upgraded to first class a couple of times. While the extra legroom is nice (I'm almost 6'), that's all you get on US domestic flights. Not worth the money IMO.


If the flight is longer than 2 hours I take something to knock myself out. I used to drink but I hate using that awful bathroom. I also bring a really distracting book (like a Stephen King) in case the turbulence is so bad I can't sleep. (but not "The Langoliers")




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PostPosted: Sat Apr 14, 2012 11:56 pm 

Joined: Thu Nov 10, 2011 1:02 pm
Posts: 379

sorry to post this but 2 weeks ago i flew first class from melbourne to singapore. 7. 5 hours on an emirates 777 (one of the biggies)


they have just done a new first class deckig out of the cabins. Now they have 'private suites'. Pretty awesome. out of 400 people on the plane i was in the only one in first on the way up and one fo 3 on the way back.


Food was awesome...anything whenever you want. Had the lobster and potatoe salad, followed by the blue cheese ravioli.


when i got tired i smply went to the bathroom and asked the stewardess to prepeare my bed. came back they had placd a matress on the fully reclined seat, had a sheet and then a doona over the top. I had already changed into my complimentary pajamas and used the bvlgari aftershave just to freshen up a little.......lol i kid you not.


the great news is i didnt pay. i was asked to go to singapore on an urgent matter and the flight was full. the interesting thing here is the price.


eco return approx 2k

businies return approx 6k

first return approx 7k...only 500 smackers more each way..


i had travelled first once before with emriates 6 years ago from oz to london....lots of fun with other peoples money!




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PostPosted: Sun Apr 15, 2012 12:27 am 

Joined: Mon Jun 27, 2011 3:31 am
Posts: 1949

Just about any luxury is nice if someone else is paying for it.




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PostPosted: Sun Apr 15, 2012 1:01 am 

Joined: Tue May 31, 2011 3:00 am
Posts: 129

I'm fairly cheap (not like Jacob, but cheaper than 99% of the non-EER population), the only luxuries I typically spend money on are certain food and drink, but I've found myself fantasizing about having enough extra money to feel like I could fly first class on my two or three yearly trips across the country.


The smaller luxury I have allowed myself is to only book non-stop flights for these. When flying from the west coast to the east coast, the timezone insult (losing most of the day to travel) is bad enough without a layover.




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PostPosted: Sun Apr 15, 2012 2:44 am 
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Joined: Thu Jul 22, 2010 2:44 pm
Posts: 256

Get bumped to first class


Some strategies...



  1. Get elite status on the airline. Different airlines have different rules about this, but it is the surest way to increase your chances of getting bumped.

  2. Business fliers are more likely to have elite status (or a higher level elite status) than you, so try to fly when they're not (Sun, Tues, Thurs).

  3. Join the airline frequent flier club. After elites, they're more likely to bump a member than a random flier.

  4. Some fare classes get preferential treatment when it comes to upgrades (example). You should be able to determine the fare class before booking. Shop around for the most preferential class.

  5. The day of your flight, check the seat maps for other flights leaving during the day. Try to take the flight with the most first-class seats available. The airline might bump you to first to sell your coach seat out from under you.

  6. If the flight is overbooked, volunteer to get bumped to another flight if you can negotiate a first class seat as a replacement.


If you can't get bumped to first class, there are some other strategies you can try. Avni, you mentioned wanting to fold your legs up, but worry about intruding into your neighbor's space. So try to get an empty seat next to you. This is becoming more difficult nowadays, with many flights full. But you could try...



  1. Taking the least-crowded flight. On your flight day, check to see which flight for your route is least crowded. If there's an emptier flight earlier in the day, ask to be on standby and take that flight instead. Get yourself a primo seat.

  2. Book a middle seat. No one likes the middle, and two people flying together often want to sit next to each other. So you picking the middle seat makes the seats next to you less desirable for couples flying together. This can be risky though, if it doesn't work out.

  3. Use SeatGuru to find seats marked poor. These are usually seats that can't recline. They'll be less desirable to other flyers. Again, pick the middle seat. If you're lucky, you'll get three-in-a-row to yourself and can lay across them.





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    PostPosted: Sun Apr 15, 2012 2:51 am 

    Joined: Mon Aug 02, 2010 4:45 am
    Posts: 766

    We usually buy packaged sandwiches, hummus, and flatbread from Trader Joes. It gets through security, is reasonably healthy and affordable, and remains appetizing all day.


    Also I work at staying hydrated. Travel tends to be dehydrating and some travel fatigue symptoms are really dehydration.




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    PostPosted: Sun Apr 15, 2012 3:45 am 

    Joined: Sat Dec 04, 2010 1:03 am
    Posts: 489

    For a footrest, bring a carry on that fits under the seat in front of you; pull out partway as needed.


    For a blanket, any jacket or sweater (or robe) will do.


    For a pillow, rolled soft clothes from the suitcase, tied together if each item is too small, or in a soft cloth bag for privacy. I find draw string shoe bags filled with socks or underwear to work.


    For food, the TSA lists things you can't bring (below). I favor bags of nuts such as almonds or walnuts, and vacuum sealed bags of figs or dates. Then I dump them out and fill the bags with chocolate :)


    TSA GUIDELINES:


    Not sure about what you can and can't bring through the checkpoint? Here's a list of liquid, aerosol and gel items that you should put in your checked bag, ship ahead, or leave at home if they are above the permitted 3.4 oz.


    Cranberry sauce

    Cologne

    Creamy dips and spreads

    (cheeses, peanut butter, etc.)

    Gift baskets with food items

    (salsa, jams and salad dressings)

    Gravy

    Jams

    Jellies

    Lotions

    Maple syrup

    Oils and vinegars

    Perfume

    Salad dressing

    Salsa

    Sauces

    Snowglobes

    Soups

    Wine, liquor and beer


    Note: You can bring pies and cakes through the security checkpoint, but please be advised that they are subject to additional screening.




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    PostPosted: Sun Apr 15, 2012 4:09 am 

    Joined: Sat Dec 04, 2010 1:03 am
    Posts: 489

    Sleep masks do work but it's best to get one contoured so that you can open your eyes while wearing it and not have light leak in:

    http://www.amazon.com/Dream-Essentials-Dreams-Contoured-Earplugs/dp/B000CCI4YU




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    PostPosted: Sun Apr 15, 2012 5:38 am 
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    Posts: 569

    If you really need to fly you could play the credit card rewards game and use points to fly first class.


    If you're willing to pay first class money though, and you're retired (and so not crunched for time), I find it's hard to beat the comfort of a private room on a train or a cruise ship.




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    PostPosted: Sun Apr 15, 2012 1:48 pm 

    Joined: Fri Jul 23, 2010 9:35 am
    Posts: 83

    I've bought a couple of active noise-cancellation headphones from Creative a couple of years ago and I've used them on every flight since. They reduce the engine drone significantly, you hear a big difference when you switch them on.


    These are ear-covering headphones, I would recommend getting in-ear headphones instead, you start to feel the weight of the ear pieces resting on the bridge piece that's on top of your head when you're a slightly balding guy like me ;)




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    PostPosted: Sun Apr 15, 2012 2:34 pm 

    Joined: Thu Jul 22, 2010 3:38 pm
    Posts: 351
    Location: NYC

    @OP: Curious, why do you fly so much?




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    PostPosted: Sun Apr 15, 2012 4:00 pm 

    Joined: Wed Oct 26, 2011 5:29 am
    Posts: 15

    What Hoplite said and additionally....


    I use the Hearos High Fidelity ear plugs when traveling. Cuts the noise while still being able to talk. Like these: http://www.amazon.com/Hearos-Earplugs-Fidelity-Series-1-Pair/dp/B000V9PKZA/


    Also, try packing less. My last few trips I've been able to do with a bag that fits under the seat. Makes life way easier and if I've missed some essential item, I tend to travel to areas where their are plenty of places to buy things or to do laundry. If you have to take a bunch of stuff, check a small bag. I'd say 95% of travel stress can be relieved by having less luggage. Baby steps.


    Better food...if there's a starbucks, they usually have good choices on fruit/sandwiches. The "grab-and-go" sections at restaurants usually have salads too. Eat something pleasant before you go.




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    PostPosted: Sun Apr 15, 2012 7:34 pm 
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    We travel a lot and are extremely frugal. When I compare economy-class to first-class I find myself calculating how much extra I would have to work (discomfort) to buy a first-class ticket which allows me to endure slightly less discomfort for several hours while aboard the plane.


    In fact, I believe that if first-class didn't exist people would be much happier with economy. The idea that someone somewhere up front behind the curtain is just slightly more comfortable can cause us to see annoyances that would otherwise have gone unnoticed if we were all in the same boat.


    While in India last year we flew on several budget airlines. Our fellow passengers where Indians who decided to avoid the extreme discomfort of a long distance overcrowded train trip. From their perspective the minimal confinement and discomfort of air travel was a pleasure in comparison to the unbelievable crush on the train.


    On the 24 hour flight back home I tried to adopt their perspective. I thought about my great-grandparents who endured sea sickness, terrible gruel, horrible accommodations and the fear of being turned back once they arrived, in order to reach the U.S.


    I realized that for me most of the discomfort of airline travel stemmed from how I looked at it.




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    PostPosted: Sun Apr 15, 2012 9:26 pm 

    Joined: Sun Feb 20, 2011 12:00 am
    Posts: 383

    I'm with Ego on reference points. I mean, you're flying. Actually flying. I think Louis C.K. has a bit about this.


    But I understand the suffering. I've spent far too many hours strapped in the back of a C-130 sandwiched between two giant dudes blaring Pantera *louder* than the 110db of the 4 giant props. Unstable temperatures, a bucket for a bathroom (that you get to clean if you're the first to use it), and seats made of nylon webbing:


    http://www.raf.mod.uk/raflyneham/rafcms/mediafiles/gallery/A090BBFA_D27C_C958_70709D217EF8ABF9/Herc-J-Cargo-hold.jpg


    It was like the beginning of Predator but without the witty banter.


    Simple answer for me was Dramamine. A few tablets before take off and I passed out like a freshman. We land in some crap hole on the other side of Earth at 0430 and I got to miss the 17 hours of hell getting there.




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    PostPosted: Sun Apr 15, 2012 11:32 pm 

    Joined: Wed Mar 16, 2011 6:05 pm
    Posts: 12

    Thanks to everyone who responded. I'll try the products/websites/seat picking strategies that have been recommended.


    @chenda - I've tried inflatable neck rests and was disappointed with the plastic-y feel. They are also uncomfortable and deflate. But that was quite a few years ago and if you have a brand recommendation, that'd be great.


    @C40- I've been upgraded a few times and first class is better than economy. Not twice as good but better. No wailing babies, no middle seats, no big people leaning into your space, foot rests (sometimes), better food etc.


    It's infuriating though. I'm convinced, the airlines know very well how to make economy more comfortable but don't do it so they can upsell. It's like movie theatres who first ban outside food and then sell bad food at a massive premium.


    @palmera - Nice blog but I couldn't figure out how to leave a comment. Anyway, I love eye masks and cannot imagine traveling without mine. Highly recommend them.


    @livinlite - I eat when I'm unhappy so going hungry on a plane is out of the question :).


    @aussierogue - *sigh* i hate you and what is a doona?


    @KevinW - hummus makes it through security?!! That would be life-changing for me if that is true. Hoplite's list specifically mentions spreads as being forbidden no?


    @Hoplite - I've heard the draw string bag tip before but have this fear of that drawstring coming apart and spewing underwear all over :) but I will look for something zippered and securely fastened. Thanks.


    @BeyondtheWrap - Work throws up three trips a year on average, parents live across the planet from me, sibling lives way down south, BFF lives across the country and of course, when I finally get engaged, the man has to be from another country. Until the immigration stupidities get ironed out, my quality of life is going to be....sad. This is why my usual 'suck it up, it is a few hours' strategy will not cut it any more.


    JasonR - LOL. you get my favorite comment award for this thread.




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    PostPosted: Mon Apr 16, 2012 4:50 am 

    Joined: Mon Aug 02, 2010 4:45 am
    Posts: 766

    Well, the last time I checked the TSA's site the list of prohibited items did not include the "Creamy dips and spreads" language. They change these details constantly which makes it hard to keep up. I can attest that I've brought unopened tubs of TJ's hummus through security without incident several times. Whether that's been consistent with policy or an oversight is anyone's guess.




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