There are a ton of great benefits to flying coach/economy (like affordability), but “travel comfort” is certainly not one of them. The seats are always too close, it’s always too hot or too cold, and the longer the flight, the more uncomfortable it seems. Some long-haul economy travelers would liken the experience to being inside of a ‘sardine can’; giving a whole new meaning to ‘rubbing elbows with your neighbor’. The worst part? While you’re suffering in coach, already uncomfortable before the plane has even left the ground; you know without a doubt, that those seated in first class are having a relaxing, comfortable, and ideal experience.
Let’s face it, no matter what you do, you can’t make your economy class trip equal to a first class experience. However, there are many things that you can do to improve your overall experience, and to make sure that you are flying as comfortably as possible. In this post, we’ll examine several tips to improving your travel comfort during an economy flight -- and if you close your eyes and turn your head at the right angle, for a moment, you may even feel like you’re flying in the business class cabin!
Want to know the most effective tip on how to get comfortable on a plane? Skip economy all together and sit in a premium cabin. In your mind, you’re saying, “If I could afford to move to a better class, I would have done that already!” Expert travelers however, have a few tricks up their sleeves that can drastically improve your chances of ending up in a premium cabin without spending even one additional dollar. You’d be surprised how many travelers have awesome travel stories about randomly being upgraded to a much better seat. Consider these expert tips on getting bumped from economy to first class:
Use Frequent Flyer Miles: Even if you don’t travel often, it may be highly valuable to become a frequent flying member with your favorite airline. The most obvious benefit to this is, as you rack up more frequent flyer points, you’ll be able to trade these points for upgrades on your flight. A lesser known benefit is that members often get preferred treatment when a seating upgrade is made available. If a premium seat opens up, as a member of the airline’s frequent flyer club, you are much more likely to be chosen as the recipient of that upgrade.
Travel Solo: There may be a pretty fair chance that a single upgraded seat will become available in a premium cabin, but the chances that your whole family will get upgraded is slim to none. If a single seat becomes available, a solo-flying passenger is a prime candidate for a first-class bump.
Check Business Class or Economy Plus Prices: Airline prices are usually determined by complex inventory management algorithms. If an economy class flight is becoming overbooked, but premium cabins are severely under booked; the price of these seats may drop to even lower than an economy class ticket. This isn’t always the case, but it certainly never hurts to take a few minutes to check!
Examine Your Seat: Make sure to check all the functions of your seat - from the tray to the seat belt. It is required by law that your seat be in safe and working condition. If your seat is broken in any way, be sure to let your attendant know. Certainly don’t overdo it and complain about non-issues, but if your seat is not fully functional, you will most likely be offered another seat. If it so happens that there are no more seats available in economy, but there are some available in a premium class, you’ll likely be offered the upgraded seat!
Give Up Your Spot: Sometimes airlines accidentally overbook flights and they unfortunately have to ask passengers to volunteer and give up their seat. Airlines know that this is a major inconvenience and sacrifice to anyone who agrees to volunteer. If you’re not in a hurry, agree to give up your seat under the condition that you will be upgraded to a better seat on the later flight. In most cases, the airline will agree and the other passengers will be elated by your willingness to volunteer.
Travel During Peak Hours: If you’re hoping to get bumped to a more premium cabin, traveling during peak hours are your best bet. During these hours, airlines are most likely to have over-boarding issues in the economy class. There’s a risk here - if you don’t get bumped, you’ll end up in a stuffed economy seat in a packed cabin. However, if there are upgraded seats available and overbooking issues in economy; you can almost guarantee that an opportunity will open up for some lucky passenger! If you’ve strategically positioned yourself correctly, it may be you!
Simply, Just Ask: Sometimes, simply making it known that you would REALLY appreciate an upgrade will do the trick. When you check in with the agent, be extremely polite and simply tell them, “I’d love to be considered for an upgrade on this flight if any opportunities become available. It would really make my day!” Agents deal with frustrated, irritated and sometimes rude passengers all day long. Making a joke, a small gesture, or just interacting with them pleasantly can go a long way and put you in their favor if they are looking for someone to upgrade!
If you’re lucky enough to get upgraded, great; but if not, you still don’t want to suffer in discomfort your entire flight. Economy isn’t about luxury or travel comfort, it’s about affordability and profit. Economy tickets are cheaper because airlines know that they won’t be providing many amenities. By offering the least amount possible, they ensure a satisfactory profit on each flight. For travelers, this means that it is up to you to make your economy flight more comfortable. Below, we’ve provided several tips to traveling comfortably, even during a long economy flight.
You might get lucky and be able to talk an attendant into bringing you a blanket if you’re cold, but if you’re expecting some level of additional comfort to be extended to you by the airline, well, your expectations probably won’t be met! Instead, bring along the best in flight comfort products in your carry on luggage to maximize your ability to relax. Here’s what we recommend for your “Emergency Airplane Comfort Kit”:
Travel Pillow & Blanket - Economy class seats weren’t made for sleeping. Some of them don’t really feel as if they were made for sitting either. You might be able to get the attendant to bring you a pillow and blanket if you’re lucky, but it won’t be nearly as comfortable as one you’d choose for yourself. The solution? Find the most comfortable travel pillow and travel blanket possible, and bring it with you!
Sleep Mask - It can be difficult to sleep on a plane with the glow of surrounding mobile and tablet devices, and the on and off blinking of personal reading lights all around you. Sleep masks are not made equally. A great travel sleep mask will black out all the light around you, but will also mold perfectly to your face; giving your eyes enough space and fitting comfortably on your face. Sleep masks are one of the best travel accessories for international travel - one that you can’t live without if you’re looking for ideal flight comfort.
Ear Plugs - Unfortunately, people cough and snore, babies cry, and sometimes, attendants come rolling a cart down the aisle right in the middle of your nap. There’s great news however - if you can’t hear the sounds, it’s almost like they don’t exist! A comfortable pair of earplugs can really change your experience if you’re trying to zone out and take a nap, or get some rest during a long flight.
Socks - Unless you have the most comfortable shoes in the world, it will probably be much more relaxing to take your shoes off during a long-haul flight. A fresh pair of super comfy socks can make you feel right at home, even in an economy class seat on an aircraft. A great pair of socks is a must-have air travel comfort item, but one that many travelers seem to forget!
There was a time when wearing a suit on a longhaul flight seemed appropriate. That time has certainly passed. Unless you’re getting off the plane and going directly to a meeting, a comfortable wardrobe will be much more beneficial to you. Here are a few tips to make sure your wardrobe doesn’t interfere with your ability to fly comfortably:
Wear Pants: Airplanes have a tendency to go a bit overboard with on-flight air conditioning. Wearing shorts may not be ideal for travel comfort, even if you are flying into a tropical or high-temperature area.
Layer your Clothing: Dressing in layers ensures that you are ready for any temperature situation. If you get hot, no worries, just take off your jacket and sweatshirt. Make sure your layers are easily removable so that you can get comfortable quickly and without much effort. A travel wrap or scarf is a wonderful option for layering, since it can easily be put on or removed during the flight.
Wear Clothes With Many Pockets: With limited space for your carry-on, having some personal storage can be important. Travel vests allow you to carry all your needed items with you, without having to pay extra baggage fees! Find one that is non-bulky but provides as many easily accessible pockets as you will need.
Some airlines offer a first class food menu that is comparable to a 5-star restaurant. In coach class however, you can expect a limited selection of snacks like pretzels or cookies; and sometimes, airlines may offer various snack items available for purchase. Hunger will make anyone uncomfortable, and if you’re stuck on a long flight with only a few snack packs of pretzels to tie you over, it probably won’t be a very satisfying travel experience.
Instead, pack enough food to last you throughout the duration of the flight. Try to stay away from heavy meals both before and during your flight - an airplane is the last place you want to deal with an upset stomach. Options such as fresh fruit, salads, nuts and energy bars are excellent snack options. If you are traveling with kids, make sure you pack enough for the entire family. A well-fed stomach means a comfortable stomach, and a comfortable stomach means a comfortable flight!
When it comes to economy class, the airline only really promises one thing - to get you from Point A to Point B. There may be a movie playing throughout the cabin, but whether it’s your favorite movie or whether you are actually entertained by the movie isn’t really the concern of the flight staff. Looking out the window is only really entertaining for so long before one stretch of the blue ocean seems identical to the next.
If you’re wondering how to make a long flight comfortable with great entertainment, the answer is simple: provide your own entertainment! Instead of spending hours in boredom, plan out your entertainment ahead of time. Bring your tablet or mobile device with you. Download your favorite music or your favorite movies. If your flight is 8 hours long, make sure you have 4-5 movies on standby.
Remember that book you bought months ago and have been meaning to read? Pack it with your carry-on. When you have planned your activities in advance, you ensure that you’ll never find yourself bored and sitting impatiently, staring at your watch for the entire flight while anticipating the landing.
In the end, if you really want the most comfortable flight experience, approach your day of travel with a positive attitude. Be nice and courteous to everyone. Nothing makes you more uncomfortable than being frustrated and irritated; and you don’t want to be the cause of someone else’s frustration either.
With a good attitude and the awesome expert tips we’ve provided, we know that you’ll certainly be traveling comfortably on your next flight!
Do you have any more tips for flying comfortably on an economy flight? If so, post it in the comments below!