I recently did a round the world in stages, Sydney to Honolulu, a week later on to Toronto, 4 days later on to Tel Aviv via Vienna, then home Tel Aviv to Amman to Bangkok to Hong Kong change planes to Sydney and Melbourne.
for some reason the only stage I seem to have slept peacefully a couple of naps on was Royal Jordanian Amman to Hong Kong..a very long leg, admittedly.
Can't sleep at all on planes.
Slept only a "little bit" on only two flights. My flights to/from NY/Tokyo (r/t) and LA/Syndey (r/t) and that's ONLY because their COACH seating are decidely a few inches bigger than your typical coach sections - THEY HAVE TO BE. Or else people would lose their bloody minds. These seats even have better head rests and get ready - FOOT RESTS on their coach seat configurations. Also, seats were definitely somewhat wider. We were flying on BIG TIME NEW 747's that were adequately well thought out when coach was being built. Maybe they made, in fact I think they did, make the aisles narrower, but ya know what, who cares! WE HAD MORE ROOM. And ONLY on those two round trips did I ever REALLY sleep.
I really can't sleep transatlantic to Europe either, so I maybe drowze for an hour (not sleep) and just eat and watch the movies. It just won't happen on these uncomfortable seats.
Now DID I EVER SLEEP LIKE A BABY when I got lucky going one way (didn't get it on return trip) from Tokyo to Hong Kong when they assigned me a Business Class seat! Passed out in a matter of minutes, so Yes, you DO get what you pay for!! Ya get business class, you get business SLEEP!!! I had almost 5 hours of bliss and got to awake just in time to see the now unavailable (new HK airport) spectacular view of Hong Kong skyline view come before me as the airplane seemed like it was going to crash into it, and then just suddenly land after a REALLY SCARY WILD ANGLE TURN. Freaky but so worth it, back in the day, when Kai Tak airport was open. Big thanks again to my Chinese seat mate who was kind enough to wake me up to see this phenomenal light show. But I was having the best sleep of my life in that business class sleep!!!
In Coach - NO SUCH LUCK!!!! So arrive TIRED everywhere I go
We have to work on this!
You are safer in a plane than you are in an automobile. Pilots (my father is a private pilot) are held to such rigorous standards and are checked out every six months now matter HOW MUCH EXPERIENCE THEY HAVE they must submit to a check flight every six months. Moreover, they must have FAA medical exams, spend time in simulators practicing for any and all eventualities which practically NEVER occur. Thousands of flights take off and land every day without incident. That's hundreds of thousands of people in the air every day. Things cannot be said about the road.....the safety checks performed on an aircraft in cabin and a "walkaround" performed by the pilot before HIS plane ever pushes back, is done before EVERY flight - there are actual checklists that are done every single flight. My father has the same checklists and he does the same walk around his plane every time he flies. There was once a time when something wasn't right during his walkaround and he pushed the plane back into the hangar and DID NOT FLY that day. He will never take a chance and nor will YOUR pilots. Rare accidents do occur. But look at the miracle that happened in the Hudson River, near where I lived (as if we haven't been through enough stress seeing planes come down?) and that Captain's combined Air Force flying and long years flying as a Commercial Pilot, and a pilot's innate ability to stay calm, recall his emergency training and know what to do when a situation goes wrong, enables him to FIND A SOLUTION and HE DID! He was the last off the plane after walking through the sinking plane and the first thing he said when he got off was "I want a head count" and he got it: 155 - every single passenger and crew was alive and well.
When my father started flight lessons over 35 years ago, I thought of accidents and I asked him "Daddy, what happens if something goes wrong with the plane?" and he told me exactly what he was taught to do; find a clear empty place as soon as possible and put the plane down, with or without power. Now, I never really knew if I believed him about this until I took my first flight in a glider, a plane with NO ENGINE! You get pulled up/towed by a propeller plane and then we release the tow cord and we are free! It was the most amazing feeling I could describe. Like heaven, floating through the Arizona desert, up about 4,000 feet and I could feel the pilot had TOTAL control over this engineless plane! He was maneuvering the plane in different directions and taking me on a great ride. Then he asks me if *I* want to fly it!! And I was like, "can I?" He said sure, the pedals are for left and right and the stick is for up and down and that was it so he released controls to me and just like that, I was flying the glider, making some turns, moving up, moving down, it was INCREDIBLE and to feel that flying really really really WORKS! You don't even need an engine to do it, you just need air/wind! Then I began to think, OK, how is he going to land this thing? I know how my Dad and commercial aircraft use set approaches when coming into runways and I thought, how can he control and engineless plane into a controlled approach to the runway? WELL HE DID IT TEXTBOOK just like a regular plane, it was perfect and we landed smooth as silk, again, just the same as in any other aircraft - nothing was any different in this engineless plane. Only difference - when you finally roll to a stop, because the plane only has one wheel, it kind of leans over to one side! So then we pop the hatch, unstrap and get out and shout for joy! He took pics of me flying so I have proof!
Flying is something that is so controlled by safety on so many levels. And it works without an engine too. Trust your pilots. First, they LOVE what they do - more than you could even imagine. I love it. When I fly with my Dad, I'm in the right seat and I hold his charts and checklists etc. (Impt job! LOL And sometimes he makes me try to find the airport we're flying to but now we have GPS so I don't really need to, ha ha) The pilots want to go home every night to their families and they want the aircraft that they are flying their passengers in to be safe. No one wants anything to happen. Sometimes, pilots go back to terminals while taxiing because there is something they don't like and they won't fly and give up their take off time (that costs them money in a commercial airline; they have to sign up for another take off time) to go back and check on something if THEY think it isn't right. They have YOUR safety in mind at all times. They don't want anything to happen to their precious cargo, which is you. That's why all the pre-flight checks - they are on board that plane long before anyone is at the gate!! The "walk around" takes time on a jet airplane and they look at everything on the outside of that plane, the PILOT does himself, before each flight.
I don't want you to be nervous. Think about my glider flight. Flying works. Even without an engine. And pilots, like my Dad, are trained rigorously on how to problem solve; they train for that more than anything else that they do. Did you know that most planes can fly only on one engine (most of todays planes have only two engines; 747s have 4, so they have plenty of engines to spare) and can get safely to an airport on that one engine? My Dad's plane only HAS ONE ENGINE so if we lose it, we go back to my old time of gliding, but at least I know that works. One day, get a wing seat and watch what the wing does. It has extenders on the front of the wing, that it will use when it lands, they will drop then down to deflect wind. On the surface of the wings where it says "do not walk" well, there you have something called "air brakes" when you land, these will pop straight up like cards, also to deflect wind. And on the back of the wings are something called flaps. They are used for take off and landing but they are in obviously two different positions for take off and landing. For takeoff, they are kind of curved down to act as scoops so they help the plane gain loft as it takes off. When the flaps are used for landing, they are dropped all the way down and scooped low, to use, once again as deflectors for the wind. Amazing things these wings, and it's kind of cool to see what they do at take off and landing and ya know what?
Take off and Landing are considered to two most risky times of a flight so you know what? If you've made it through take off, you're quite likely to make it to landing and in between have a really safe boring flight with absolutely NOTHING to worry about whatsoever!! Except maybe which kind of snack you want, Blue Corn Chips or Granola? And now you have something to look forward to at landing - watching the wing change as it prepares for landing; it's really cool to see it start to shift position, slowly as everything extend. Oh the airbrakes don't pop up till we hit the runway, when the pilot reverses thrust on the engines......instead of taking IN air, they push OUT air to stop the plane. Oh and he has brakes in the ****pit too.
And if you are worried about *human* error, don't be; all of these aircraft are equipped with computers you can't believe that duplicate/mimic the flight plan so that nothing really can go wrong, all the instruments are monitored by the pilots and the computer and so there are DOUBLE checks in place at all times in the ****pit, plus the pilot is always in communcation with a tower somewhere along the way (as travel progresses, there's a handoff that happens from location to location, simply due to radio frequencies) who SEES the airplane on their radar and is talking to them, if need be, by the pilot or by the tower.
Nothing is left unchecked, everything is doubled and backed up. YOU COULD NOT BE SAFER.
Think of it - do we have all this when we get in our cars and get on highways/freeways? No we have madness, mayhem, road rage and crazies who think there are no rules. In the air, there is regulation, checks, double checks and safety controls beyond your imagination with personel at the helm of your plane with THOUSANDS of hours (that's how they measure pilot experience) of flight experience and people who LOVE LOVE LOVE to fly AND, COME HOME after they fly. If I could go back and change things, I would become a pilot too. I can't do it now as I would not pass the *strict* FAA physical!! My Dad's FAA physical, he is 66, is next week!! Because he didn't go last week, we can't fly this weekend!! BUMMER!! I'll be with a Commercial Pilot on Thanksgiving - high ranking one too, very talented and great guy. He LOVES his job, works for Air Tran. He "checks out" other Air Tran pilots!! See, safety, always safety.
PLease don't worry - you are SO SAFE on board. Just buckle your seatbelt, read a magazine and RELAX. You are in SUCH GOOD HANDS. The seats still stink for sleeping, but I'm hoping maybe you can rest easy knowing how well planes are maintained, how serious flight maintenance and control is, pilot excellence, experience & dedication - you would know just how VERY SAFE YOU TRULY ARE. I feel sad when people are afraid of flying.......you need not worry, all is well. I'm not asking you to love it, but I'm hoping you won't be afraid as much - if you can think of it as an adventure on this amazingly wonderful machine that is going to take you someplace great, well, think of it as an adventure, one that you can surely take and conquer, because it is safe for you, because they have MADE IT SAFE FOR *YOU*!!! Please, please, don't worry - you are unbelievably safe & sound.
I hope your next flight is better, maybe some of this is stuff you never knew before - not a lot of people knows what happens before, during and near the end of a flight. Or in a plane with no engine. So I wanted to try to help you understand better and think maybe that would help you feel more confident knowing that with all the checks that take place, you're in good hands. I'd fly every day if I could. I hate driving. Makes me nervous!!
I was impressed when saw your post. While I was reading I thought about lot of things what you said and I need to agree you. Your arguments are strong and correct. Also you had so good adventures. Maybe if I had opportunity like yours to enjoy flight in skies I would thought different about it. After this story I will be lot caurageous and maybe would fall asleep.
I can't seem to sleep on a plane to save my life -- I can never get comfortable. I was so tired on our flight home from Dominica last week, but every time I started to drift off we'd hit turbulence, or I'd get a cramp in my leg, or something else would happen to distract me.
There was one glorious transatlantic flight a few years back where I drifted off for about an hour, and it was amazing what a difference that hour made in terms of reducing jet lag. Maybe I need a sedative or something.
"I haven't been everywhere yet, but it's on my list." -- Susan Sontag
I travel from San Francisco to London frequently. Timing my departure so that I can have dinner and go to sleep while it's dark out generally gets me there fresh and alert. In other words, FLY AT NIGHT if possible.
I also use an inflatable back support called the "First Class Sleeper." This cradles/cocoons me gently while providing upper body support.
Finally, if I MUST keep the arm rest next to me in place, I try to cushion it with a pillow. Sleep mask and ear plugs are a must too.
I nearly always sleep on planes, but I can sleep almost anywhere (and have: floor of a hut, park bench at Busch Gardens, couches, various beds and futons, cars, buses, boats, trains... and planes). For flights, I swear by dramamine. I get extremely motion sick on most forms of transportation if I don't take the dramamine anyway, so it has a double purpose in this case: sleep and calming my stomach. Being motion sick is NO fun, especially when you are tired.
I LOVE to fly (the views!) and I LOVE to travel, but most of the long-haul flights I have been on (LAX-Fiji, Fiji-LAX, ATL-Paris) were great, even in coach... I got at least 5-6 hours of sleep on all of these. One the LAX-Fiji one, which left at 12:30am LA time (2:30am in my time zone) I fell asleep before they even brought the evening meal... and on the ATL-Paris, I dozed off before the flight even took off! (I woke up at take off and managed to stay away long enough to be mostly disgusted by the in-flight meal, so I went back to sleep... I was awoken only several hours later by severe turbulence and a friend asking for some dramamine to calm her stomach during it)
The only long flight I had trouble sleeping on (still got two naps in for a combined 3.5-4 hours) was Paris-ATL which was, surprise, During The Day. The most boring 10 hours of my life, and they skipped me during the meal while I was napping!
The longest domestic flight I've been on was ATL-SFO, which was about 4.5 hours... I took a nap for about 2hrs, but was awoken by a screaming baby... again, the dramamine definitely helps.
I bring my own travel pillow typically and put the plane pillow against my lower back for support.
Also, usually I bring my own headphones (although I find that many carriers provide them free on intl flights), and typically turn on the entertainment system to some sort of soothing music. These help to drown out other people snoring, and screaming children too.
I must be the world's worst traveler. I do it a lot, 86 countries so far and now live in Eastern Europe for the past 7 years. I need to go back to the US every 90 days for a new visa and dread it. Planes do not scare me, I enjoy them as flying machines but the only time I can fall asleep is when I am flying myself! Nice to have Autopilots;>)
But on the last several hundred international flights I have not slept. One, from SFO to Frankfurt my sister gave me a prescription sleep aid, Ambien, that I took right after taking off. I fell asleep a couple hours later and woke up without any grogginess and perfectly alert as the United flight was descending to land. But I don't like taking anything unless it is really needed. I have tried noise cancelling earphones, masks, plenty of water, 4 shot of tequila before boarding, meditation, reading boring books.....nada.
What makes it worse is that most flights are very early in the morning and getting to sleep the night before is no likely either, particularly when I pack at the last minute....literally as my taxi is honking. I can pack light because I have clothes at both ends of my trips. So by the time I board a 20-30 hour flight(when adding in connections) I have already been awake for 24 hours or more. Despite all that sleep deprivation it is not enough to make me sleep.
What is the worst part of any travel however is screaming babies with parents who are oblivious to it, and obese fellow passengers plopping down pinning my arms to my side so I can move them to eat or even get up to use the restroom. On a recent flight I was pinned this way between two women who each used half of my narrow seat who promptly fell asleep and even the flight attendant was unable to rouse them so I could get up to use the rest room. In the last 2 years I have been on 3 flights where I was so pinned in by mounds of fat that I was unable to use my arms to hold a book, plug in headphones or accept a meal.
I know some airlines are starting to charge extra for obese passengers but that money should go to the normal passengers who do not ruin the flight for their neighbors. Seats are getting narrower and passengers, primarily to and from the US, are getting fatter. Those passengers really ARE a safety hazard, if there was need of evacuation I would have been helpless on those last 3 miserable flights. The rest of the passengers safety and comfort should not be held hostage by someone's inability to take responsibility for their overeating. Next time someone tries to justify their over indulgence by claiming it was the fault of their genes or a medical condition I am going to hit them. No, it is not in their genes, their relatives with the same genetic makeup in other countries are normal.
Now I am buying a flight to San Francisco for a week from now and dread the idea of flying. 30 years ago flying was fun, service was great, seats had more room, airports were not impersonating overcrowded bus stations with bumped people camping out in lobbies. It was more expensive but a lot more pleasant also. If the trip is less than 1,000 miles I prefer the train particularly in Europe, Russia etc where they are pleasant ways to travel in a relaxed atmosphere. Trains in Europe cost more than the no-frills airlines but the service and comfort is a lot higher. If more Americans traveled to other countries we would have a high speed rail system in place now, they would demand it. Departing 4 minutes after getting to the station, in convenient city center location, and getting to the city center of their destination in comfort, low stress is really time efficient when the two hours before a flight you need to check in, plus the hour to get to the airport 30 miles from the where you, plus common delays means on departure and arrival the train has a total of 5+ hours head start in getting you to the destination city center.
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