Hidden Hacks in Airports and Long Haul Flights

Hi all

Got a 23 hour long haul flight to Europe next month from Melbourne on Qatar economy, I consider myself a savvy traveller but wondering if anyone has any hidden hacks or tips they have for long haul flights or airports?

Yes, I've chosen my aisle seat way in front (don't ask me to pay for business), with an empty seat in between. Yes well equipped with a good travel pillow and I know what to wear. and Yes I know aisle seat armrests can be folded up with the hidden button to get more legroom. Yes got Dragonpass to buy cheap lounge access and a shower while in transit in Doha.


    • +5

      always preorder a vegetarian meal. usually specially pre-ordered meals are brought out first. so it means you will be eating whilst every one is waiting for their meal.

      this one if a double edge sword for me, specialty meals come out first but they wont clear your tray until the same time as everyone else, so youll be stuck with a down tray with the empty meal on it whilst everyone else eats

      • -2

        Just ask one of the staff to take your tray away.

        • +2

          they won't, or maybe im too polite and gave up to easy but besides the fact they are still serving others so getting a hold of someone not in the process of doing something, even when you ask they tell you to wait for the rubbish cart

      • +2

        I have a vague memory of Qatar serving all meals at the same time. As a vego, it was kinda nice to eat at the same time as everyone else.

        • +1

          i was on qatar late last year, special meals went out first, not by much but still first

        • @furys12: Before kids meals? :-)

    • +1

      On the other side, if you don't have a meal preference, you may get upgraded to business if the flight was overbooked. Happened to me once :)

  • You are far more likely to get a spare seat next to you at the back of the plane, but don't choose the very back row as the seats sometimes don't recline.
    You are also more likely to in the middle aisle.
    If the plane is full, in the middle aisle there is only 1 person who will need you to move to go to toilet.
    At the back you are more likely to not have a choice of meal as they will have run out, so pre-select something.

  • Its a sad thing that Qatar doesnt have seafood as a special meal otherwise i would order that.

    • Extra protein. Hoping for a platter of prawns or a T-Bone !

  • +2

    Just back a fortnight ago from the annual ski trip in the US. Most of the stuff is mentioned above. I normally take my shoes off shortly after takeoff as I find that more comfortable for the long flight. Pop your shoes in the overhead locker or under the seat in front for the vacant aisle seat.

    Something i found out on this last flight is that many of the airline seats (A380 and 787) have a power plug on the underside of the seat in front. I'm not talking about a USB plug, they are normally obvious, in the armrest or on the back of the seat in front. i asked the hostyie and she showed me the actual powerplug under the seat in front. Plugged in my laptop and gamed my way most of the way back from the states.

    • Great info. What kind of plug ? US or other ?

      • all the ones I have seen fit almost every kind of plug. Kind of like those one size fits all travel power adapters.

      • Be aware most I've seen will be 110v (particularly Boeings) so check your gear is 110v compatible before plugging in!

        • So i cant use my kettle to make a cuppa then…

  • +1

    front v back comes down to where the meals come from for me, galley noise has never been an issue on flights i've been on but the closer you are the more likely all the options will be available which is key if there's only two options and one sounds terribad, i've also found the toilets in the far back get used less so stay cleaner and there's less traffic.

    The only real tip i can give is get on the plane first/early, despite the occasional carry-on checks and fines airlines are pretty lax with size and amount of carryon, i've only been on a few international flights but more then a couple times i've seen the last few passengers get told they will have to check their carryon because there's simply no room left for them, and whole lot more passengers before those unlucky few had to wander around trying to find a space for their bag at the other end of the plane to them, get on early snag the spot right above you, and throw all the magazines and what not in the seat pocket up there too

  • +2

    Did a lot of longhaul Aus to Europe, leaving Aus late at night. Stay awake on first leg to Asian stop at all costs. Sleep second leg to destination (usually early morning arrival) and then stay up all the first day (I'd get straight into work). Aisle seat, tick….definitely not near loos. People want to grab the back of your seat and wake you up (this is a pet beef - never grab the back of the seat in front when getting up. It is very rude). I used to buy melatonin in a pharmacy at Changi on the way through. It might have worked, not sure. Sleeping on a plane is an art - you've got to get into the right mental state and zone out from all that is going on around you. Takes practice….hard for newbies.

    • +4

      Not only grabbing the back of your seat from behind as they stand (very annoying), but also people who use the seats to 'propel' themselves along the aisle. I've been seated in the second back row aisle seat in front of the toilets and almost EVERYONE grabbed the back of my seat on their return from the toilet. WHY?? I understand in turbulence, if you're walking and suddenly need to balance, but the rest of the time - no!

      • +1

        Oh my god people who grab the back of seats drive me wild!

        • I second this! so freaking annoying

  • +15

    To avoid catching the flu or something worse on the plane understand that airlines only give the interior of their aircraft a thorough clean every 4 to 6 weeks. So when you sit down wipe the hard surfaces in your seating area with alcohol wipes and wash your hands with alcohol gel. Also wash your hands with alcohol gel when you return to your seat after visiting the toilet (toilet door is the problem).

    I sat next to a Doctor on a long flight and he was drinking heaps (300 ml per hour) of water. He explained that when the mucous membranes dry out (dehydration) it allows pathogens to enter the body. Also those nasal saline solutions helps with this.

    I have tried it and it works

    • +28

      Did he bulk bill?

    • +1

      I always take an empty bottle for this purpose. You can't keep hydrated one cup at a time!

      Fill up in the terminal if they have free water, or on the plane.

    • +1

      If you wipe the seat back, both sides of the tray, the screen, the remote, and both arm rests, I guarantee you will be horrified by the colour of the wipe when you are done.

  • Do they provide entertainment? I prioritise the movies I want to see, and go for it. I eventually pass out, but when I wake I get back into it. Have an occasional break with a tv show. I've never been on a flight long enough to get through everything I want to see.
    Plan for a few days to recover after the flight though. :)

  • How about airport hacks guys? I'm headed out from Melb so Tulla is terrible….

    • +15

      I wouldn't recommend hacking the airport. Like they did in Die Hard 2

      • While I'm here, does anyone remember the TV series The Lonegunmen? (X-Files spin-off)
        The plot of the "pilot" episode still gives me chills.

        • Wow, released so close to the actual event too.

        • Art imitating life in reverse.

    • Flying from Sydney to Launceston, and Hacks to get Upgraded to business ?

  • As much as seeking comfort, amenities and even entertainment is a priority, I put air pressure equalisation above all that: the pain from blocked ears can be excruciating.

    1. Pack: chewing gum & lollies for ascent and descent. Tissues, preferably the ones with eucalypts aroma, to help keep the nasal passage clear. Eucalypts cough drops as an plan B if you start getting a blocked nose.

    2. Try to understand which pressure change your ears are struggling with, if you have trouble:

    a) Just after take off, air pressure is easiest to equalise by inhaling and holding a deep breath, holding your nose and 'pushing' with your lungs until your ears pop (slight amount of air coming 'out' of your ears). If they don't pop much, it's all good: it'll be a bit easier to return to normal on descent. Shouldn't need to keep doing this though: otherwise you'll have your work cut out for you during the descent.

    b) The fasten seatbelt announcement means crack out the candy: I've really only found yawning/swallowing as the best method for equalisation during descent. Hosties can sometimes provide eucalyptus moistened towelettes to hold against your nostrils and breathe through if things get really painful. Incorrectly trying to 'push' your ears as if you're on the ascent part of the flight is not a good idea: the pressure change is reversed, so you could be making things worse.

    Multiple short flights can exacerbate equalisation problems. Cheap US companies that find esoteric domestic flight combinations to save a few dollars were my worst examples. Stand up for yourself when companies put you through the wringer on work trips.

    • +1

      You might benefit from a cold n flu tablet before you board (or 2 hours before descent on long haul). I used to fly weekly and the only thing that stopped the pain descending into Sydney was Codral. Of course, don't waste your time with the Phenylephrine
      ones, Pseudo all the way.

      It means you probably shouldn't drink on the flight/beforehand (i'm no doctor, just what it says on the box) but if its bad enough that airwaves gum/eucalyptus oil etc.. doesn't work, its what you have to do.

      • I wouldn't take pseudo on an international flight, particularly one going through the middle east. It's prescription only in a lot of places.
        Same goes for codeine if you still have any

        • I just avoid the middle east haha but good point

  • +4

    Yes I know aisle seat armrests can be folded up with the hidden button to get more legroom.

    Wait, what?!

    What is this hack?

    • Most planes (not all), on the aisle seats under the armrests, there is a hidden button to push to move the armrest up instead of it staying in place.

      • +11

        I know the armrests fold up, but how does this give you more legroom?

        • Armrest gets in the way if you're 220cm tall

        • when you lie down

        • +1

          @ToTheMoon: Lol, that's not really "leg" room, but whole body room.

          Leg room is usually talked about when sitting up right with the seat in front.

        • @zeggie: Who is 220cm tall ?

        • @cameldownunder:

          Well, me to start with? Don't judge

        • @zeggie: Sorry didn't mean to judge, was more an admiration. Not many people are 220, especially here in Australia !

  • +1

    I booked my Qatar seats 10 months in advance, reconfirmed week before departure and upon arrival they took it upon themselves to change the seating as it was a full flight. The only hack is Doha airport is a rip off, boring and did i say..boring! Pay the extra, go into the private pool/gym to swim and get the blood moving and get a a massage. Otherwise take a Valium and snooze.

  • +8

    Make love to the hostess

  • going to be stuck in Guangzhou for 6 hours - anyone got tips for that airport?

    • +4

      Yes, it's just ni hao to strangers, not ni hao ma.

      • +4

        In Guangzhou, it's more like 'nei ho'

    • +1

      if eligible for 72-Hour Visa-Free Transit, rush to Guangzhou city and buy some replica Louis Vuitton, GUCCI handbags have some genuine YumCha

    • +1

      Sorry to hear..

    • Depending on which airline you're on, there may be a transfer lounge

    • Any longer than that and most Chinese airlines provide you hotel accommodation & transfers.

      Check the airline website for the rules - they are all slightly different.

  • +1

    Semi-regularly do SYD-ARN on EK. Y is always rough but noise-cancelling headphones make it much more bearable. Bring an empty bottle through security and fill up airside (can't do on home journey, will get confiscated at the gate-check unfortunately). I don't get jetlagged so I can't speak much in that regard but I find an eye-hood very useful. I'd also recommend pressure socks given the journey time just to be safe.

    Airport hacks:

    Great for reviews if have access/willing to pay.


    Airport guides, and for where to sleep rough.

    Flyertalk is amazing too but heavily geared toward business travel.

  • I’m flying out to Jordan in 2 days myself and don’t want to think about it.

    Just to add from all the others:
    - seating close to front, meaning you’re closer to the seats with baby bassinets? Just something to consider.
    - dvt is real and don’t wear anything that might restrict bloodflow, I got a nasty surprise once upon arriving in London from SG.
    - after meals and right after landing announcement is when people line up for the toilets.
    - I’m sure your plane will have electrical outlets or usb port but just double check.

    These days in economy I prefer the last seat in the section because I don’t have to deal with people pushing my chair from behind, but the downside is that it’s close to the toilets and the galley which can get really crowded, noisy and smelly!

  • If you can get access to a lounge that would be a great way to spend time in the airport. Maybe get a credit card that provides free Priority Lounge access that has a free first year annual fee, then cancel before the 12 months end.

  • +23

    Watch air crash investigations. Keeps you thrilled…

  • if I have a day time long haul flight, I try to stay up all the previous night in the hope I will be so tired I will sleep the whole way.

    Sucks though when you can’t sleep at all and by time your arrive you are a zombie.

    Go to the doctor and say you can’t sleep, get some solid sleeping pills and drop two on take off. Wake up dribbling on arrival.

  • +1

    Airline food normally sucks, especially in economy. I put a special meal request for a fruit platter and eat before the flight at the airport (I have taken Subway/Mc Donalds/Starbucks on the flight too but depends on the time of the day). Have fruit on the plane, don't get it from outbound flights from SE Asia. It's not as fresh. If I am still hungry ask if any extra meals are available. They generally are but you have to wait for everyone to be served first. I have been refused once though so take a bag of chips or something on the flight. I take nutbars. Have a good flight.

  • Do a few slow circuits of the cabin, clockwise then anticlockwise and figure 8’s through the centre toilets. Stop off near an exit and do stretches etc all to avoid DVT.
    Some airports have hotels attached. They usually have a bathroom with shower you can use for a few dollars.
    Bring a pillow tightly compressed with string or other (to save room) for lumbar support. Then leave it behind when deplaning.

    • Why leave it behind? For the next guy?

      • Presumably it's easy to carry when its tied up with string, but once it's big and fluffy it's just too hard to be seen carrying a pillow in your jim-jams. ;)

  • I never thought this would make a difference but buy a simple eye mask!

    get one now and use it at home so you can get used to it.
    the free one they give you are fine but some people find when their eyelashes hit the mask they wake up, so there is also this: https://www.ebay.com.au/itm/3D-Sleeping-Eye-Mask-Blindfold-S...

    • if you need a simple one, normally at the night you can get it for free at the back of the plane where you can have self-service water and snacks (not for budget airlines)

  • +8

    using "hacks" instead of tips or something is so stupid

    • +4

      OMG yes, plus it's often combined with 2 other tricks to make click-bait titles. 1) they usually say an exact number (because then it sounds specific, and useful, and you think "hey I can only think of 3!"), and 2) something to imply secrecy or controversy (because nothing makes people want to know something faster than someone else trying to prevent you from knowing it). Examples:
      * 7 hidden flight hacks that the airlines hate
      * 12 banking hacks that the Big Banks don't want you to know
      * He used 9 phone bill hacks and now the Telecoms want to kill him

      So. Totally. Over. It.

      • +2
        • Doctors hate him! 3 secrets doctors don't want you to know
  • +1

    Stay awake the whole time and watch the Simpsons :)

  • +1

    Don't get loud drunk on the plane. Please don't be that person.

  • +5

    Why do people love aisle seats? I understand you can get up and access the aisle easier, but

    • you cant lean against the wall to sleep
    • everyone else climbs over you

    Its not as if you get up all that often in a flight

    • +1

      Yep, I'm 100% for window seat too. No one walking the aisles will bother you. No one grabbing your chair or bumping your arm. No one climbing over you every hour to go to the loo. Lean a small pillow against the wall and sleep most of the way undisturbed.

      • 2 reasons:
        1. I have a bladder the size of a walnut.
        2. I bring alot of stuff with me. Too much to keep in the seat pocket so I'm constantly opening the overhead locker to remove and put back items into my bag.

        It makes me uncomfortable to have to keep waking the person next to me and asking them to move. If it wasn't for these two things I'd totally pick the window, but alas sigh I cannot.

    • +1

      don't need to feel bad about wanting to get up for a stretch all the time

    • +3

      I'm tall so I am able to stretch my legs out into the aisle.

      • And have the food trolleys run over your feet

        I choose the aisle as I need to use the restroom more often than others

        • I can't sleep on flights so I move my legs when the trolley dolly is approaching.

  • +2

    Sorry if this has already been posted. But number 1 hack on long haul flight that people never do. Wait in the more comfortable gate area while everyone else is boarding the plane. Make sure you are the very last person to board. As you get on you see everyone in their seats looking around for any spare seats together to move to once seatbelt sign is off. You however now have the first choice and will often get a nice 3 seater which is up there with business. I always do this. Always get a better seat and have never been made to move back to original on boarding pass.
    number 2 hack, same as what everyone does and says, wine and valium (and water)

    • Always get a better seat and have never been made to move back to original on boarding pass.

      That's more like the mobile phone flight mode rule. They hardly ever "make" you do it, but in reality if too many people sit where they are not meant to then they're violating air safety protocols as the aircraft CoG is calculated for take-off and landing purposes.

      (not that I realistically think anything is actually going to happen much like if people don't put their devices on flight mode)

      • actually the real reason they really want people to stay in their assigned seats is if the plane crashes. they can identify your charred body….

        • I've heard about that one too lol. Crash wreckage of late on the news doesn't seem to show that to be too useful though :P.

          The most extreme case I heard of the balancing issue was when a large group of kids were registered in the system as adults or something like that. I've been on one flight where we had a small delay cos they had to rearrange some baggage properly balance the aircraft. Probably to pedantic levels but that's what pedantic air safety is all about.

    • +3

      So you're saying be the last person to board and then just go straight to business?

      • +1

        Straight to MYOB

    • +3

      The risk is that the overhead luggage compartments are are full and you have to stow your carry-on

  • +2

    The most comfortable way I have found to sleep on a plane in a single seat is facing backwards hunched up like a ball with your head to your knees (but on the pillow)

    I am 6'2 and was able to do this on an Air Asia flight. Im not THAT flexible.

    Still not sure how I did it but I did and I slept for hours.

    • wtf? So you're facing the back of the plane, leaning forward into the back of your seat??

      • +1

        Yes. I am the only person I have ever seen do this. It's definitely a secret method. But it worked.

        • Did you have an outer body experience to witness this event ?

        • @MITM: No…. Although When I fell asleep I was in that position, and I was in the same position when I awoke. I suppose it is possible that I moved to a forward facing position, and then back again all whilst sleeping. Unlikely though.

    • +1

      I do this too!!!!!!! And no my butt does not fall out of the seat. If anything, it’s the perfect way to sleep because the seat angle automatically makes you lean towards the seat itself. It’s the most comfortable way to sleep :D

      • I think we should keep this quiet though…. The airlines might redesign the seats if everyone starts doing it!

  • Fly first class and you won't need any hacks ;)

    • +1

      Need point hacks to get the tickets first!

    • amen, really no need to fly Y with so many deals around!

  • +1

    You need to avoid dehydration.
    The dry, recycled air and shared surfaces can help spread germs. (There's a reason people get sick on holidays / just after).
    -> Don't drink the alcoholic or caffeinated beverages on the plane.
    -> Bring and use hand sanitiser for your hands, use it before eating.
    -> Avoid touching your face.
    -> Drink the hot chocolate with milk where available. This stimulates mucus production which offsets the dryness from the air to some extent.

    -> People here are big on active noise cancelling headphones. I prefer noise-isolating IEMs like the Shure SE235 with the yellow foam tips. It's easier to sleep in these, and they are better at blocking out noise like baby crying, loud Mandarin, etc.
    -> As you said in the OP, eye-masks and neck pillow. I prefer inflatable neck pillows as they take up less luggage space.
    -> Don't try to sleep if you're not tired or just because your bored. Instead use the on-board entertainment. Can always load up your phone or tablet with movies/TV if you've already watched everything of interest on recent flights. You can attach a tablet to the seat in front of you with some accessories from Daiso Japan.

    Try to avoid anything which will give you gas / make you need to take a dump.

    -> As people said above, Isle seat, get up for walks / stretching.
    -> In airports, if I don't have lounge access, I've been known to go to empty boarding gates and sleep accross the chairs or on the floor there when tired. Helps if you bring a scarf which can double as a blanket.
    -> Don't walk into the toilets on the plane without shoes on :(
    -> Bring 1 pair of spare socks

    • Try to avoid anything which will give you gas / make you need to take a dump.

      I thought everything you eat makes you need to take a dump

      • Yeah but some things make it happen faster.
        Eg. beans, high-carb snacks like noodles, curries.

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