Ask Gadling: What to do when you have to fly coach

Sad lemur flies coach.It could be worse. Whether it’s lack of funds or lack of availability in your usual class, almost everyone flies in Economy Class (charmingly called “Fiesta Class” by Philippine Airlines) now and then. Heck, some of us fly coach all the time.

Flying is an enormous privilege many of us have come to take for granted. Consider the miraculous nature of it: you get on a big metal tube with wings, speed up really fast and suddenly start flying through the air for thousands of miles, sometimes to continents far away — lands previous generations would have had to travel for weeks or months to see. We’ve lost our awe for air travel. It’s not our fault; it’s the times. In all fairness, we lost our awe for the wheel millennia ago.

And just as many of us are loathe to ride in the back of a bus, we hate to fly coach. You may recognize some of these descriptors: cramped, rushed, dirty, packed, uncomfortable, bad wine, worse food, no blankets, stinky restrooms, too many people too close together. Economy class can be trying, but if you plan ahead, it doesn’t have to be horrible.

You can request an exit row at check in, but if there isn’t a seat available, you’re kind of out of luck as far as space. There’s not much you can do. Lose a few pounds? I kid, I kid — but make the most of your space. Be sure to take your coat off and store it overhead. Dress properly: lightweight or stretchy materials can help you feel more comfortable than jeans on a long haul. Bring airplane slippers and take off your shoes. If you’re traveling with your spouse or significant other, pull up the armrest and snuggle.

Next, think of a perk you really love about your class of choice. Is it the champagne? The eyeshades?

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These are things you can bring yourself … albeit the former will have to be brought in teeny, tiny bottles — yeah, maybe forget the champagne, but you can always bring teeny, tiny shots of your favorite spirit to mix in your complimentary soda (as suggested by Bruce from Gadling’s Travel Talk). Bring a blanket that folds up small and a pillow if that will help you sleep. As much as everyone loves the service in first class, all that attention can sometimes be a pain anyway. Try to think of the anonymity of coach as refreshing; a kind of privacy.

Give yourself something to look forward to. This idea comes from the road trips I used to take with my family as a kid: we’d get a sticker or activity book we couldn’t open until the car hit the bottom of the driveway — it really took the focus off of the long ride ahead. Get yourself a little present you can’t open until the flight. A book works well. That way, your mind will be occupied from the start and less prone to jump straight to complaining.

If none of that helps and you’re still just dreading the very thought of boarding the plane? Do what many would have done in first class anyway: pop a couple of sleeping pills and say goodnight.

[Photo by lovely lemur via Flickr.]