The extended agony of long-haul flights

18:25, Dec 13 2012

I love the smell of long-haul travel in the morning: said nobody, ever.

As you read this, I will have just got off a long flight of about 14 hours.

It was bound to have been a blast.

There are myriad reasons long-haul travel tops many people's "why why why" lists.

For the uninitiated, here are some of those reasons:

Numero uno: Frightening aisle companions. Call me old-fashioned - I am a fan of personal space.


Most people, when they hop on a plane, pray they end up sitting next to someone petite and ballerina-y.

When your travelling companion is 1.9 metres, you're up the proverbial creek - wedged uncomfortably between the great lug of a man who insists on using you as a human pillow when he sleeps, and the decidedly criminal-looking person sitting on the other side.

Case in point, I knew as soon as I saw him board that the person sitting on my right during our trip to Southeast Asia would be "the creepy-looking one".

I'm sure he was fine, but in my defence he was wearing sandals with socks and had a spindly moustache, even though it wasn't Movember, on a flight to Bangkok.

Draw your own conclusions.

Dos: Airline food isn't exactly Michelin-star quality.

It's really just luck of the draw - on a flight to the United States, I ordered fish while everyone I was with went with the beef. Mine was edible, so compared to them I got lucky. Which brings us to. . .

Tres: The toilet. The less said about that, the better.

Cuatro: Speaking of, how awful is being stuck in the window seat while the person in the aisle sleeps soundly, oblivious to your urgent need to visit that gross one-metre-square hellhole that is said toilet?

I told you 14 hours was a long time.

Cinco: The term "long-haul travel" gives you a bit of a hint as to what exactly your journey is going to entail. But factor in excruciating layovers and delays, and you're in for a pretty tedious ride.

Airports can be interesting places, don't get me wrong. But eventually those hard plastic chairs, same-same shops and lukewarm-yet-overpriced meals at the sole restaurant in the airport lose their sparkle.

Seis: The in-flight entertainment usually includes a decent movie or two, but I have a question: Why would anyone want to watch episodes four and five, season six, of House?

That show has a complex storyline - you may as well be living in the actual Matrix, trying to figure out what is taking place on-screen. The only way it could be any worse would be if it was an episode of Homeland. Which it quite possibly will be on my next sojourn, knowing my luck.

Siete: The seatbelt sound has a habit of dinging just as I am falling asleep, fiiiiiinally.

Ocho: Smells. Just smells.

Nueve: You have to put your toiletries in special little bottles so that you can't, I don't know, cause an in-air incident with your regular-sized bottle of moisturiser.

Those little bottles inevitably, for me at least, spill all through my hand luggage.

Diez: Some planes are now equipped with a wee do-da on your TV screen that shows you, geographically speaking, whereabouts in your flight plan you are, and how much longer you have to go.

It's worse than watching paint dry. Or cricket.

But don't let me put you off long-haul journeys. There is, after all, much more world to be seen beyond the Gold Coast.

I don't know about you guys, but getting on a long flight after weeks of sleeplessness and butterflies is still an incredible feeling.

It means you're going somewhere new, exciting and far, far away.

And trust me - it's worth it.

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