Posted On May 15, 2014 By In Miscellaneous, Ramblings

In the Air: A Running Account of Long Haul Flights


Boarding the flight you already have a good idea of your seat, hopefully you didn’t score the middle. But on a 747 there are not two middle seats, but 6 middle seats. Your chances are high.

Find your seat and immediately make your first enemies in the battle for space in the overhead compartment for your carry-on. As the loser, you retreat further toward the back of the plane searching for space. Then, like a salmon swimming upstream, you fight the hoard of people back to your seat, and sit, in disgrace.

You look around at your seatmates. Are they tall, fat, small, smelly, foreign? Take in this information, perform some small calculations and derive just how enjoyable your next flight will be.

Immediately become the alpha on the armrest.

Check the entertainment options. You definitely brought a book. Good job, but reading for 22 hours will be about as much fun as it sounds. You NEED mindlessness. You brought your iPod, charged it and everything. Good. You brought a computer and tell yourself you’ll get plenty of work done. Doubtful. You then check the inflight entertainment system. No personal TVs? Bummer. Overhead TVs? Pray the movie selection is decent.

The door closes. The plane backs up. The engines rev. The wheels leave the ground. You’re soaring through the air along with 300 other people at 30,000 feet at 500 mph. Quick respects to the Wright brothers.

Immediately the first movie comes on. Just safety instructions. Bummer. Then the second movie comes on. The Hunger Games. Sweet. You haven’t seen it yet. Sit back and relax for the next 93 minutes, but who’s counting?

The movie ends. You can smell the food wafting from the flight attendant chambers. Just as you’re wondering what it will be, the pilot comes on, doubling his role of navigator to MC and announces your options. Not surprisingly, chicken or beef.

The flight attendant wheels the cart past you once. Nostrils flare. Chicken or beef? Stressed.

Like a starving Oliver Twist waiting in line at the orphanage, you eye the stewardess as she retreats one step at a time. Chicken or beef?

“We have chicken or we have beef.” It isn’t a question. You make your selection, the biggest decision of the trip so far. “Beef.” Always go beef.

Peel back that tin foil lid and ogle at the culinary treat laid there before you. First is the hot meal. It’s better than you suspected but knowing it is chemically designed to not cause any stomach stress, you prepare to not shit for the next 30 hours. Then the salad. Then the bread. Then the dessert.

Satiated, you realize how small your space really is once you look at the pile of trash on your tray table. You can’t move without it all falling to the ground. Your iPod is just out of reach. The second movie hasn’t started. Damn.

Finally the trash lady comes by. Sweet sweet freedom. Grab that iPod, you may not have the chance again.

You get settled, drop some sleeping pills. Right as you’re about to nod off, the guy in the window seat decides to go to the bathroom. Stand up. Wake up. Wait for him to get back. Try to fall asleep. Can’t. Standard.

The next movie comes on. Ride Along with Kevin Hart. Nice. Settle in for the next 103 minutes and laugh inwardly.

Movie ends. Try to fall asleep to pass the time.

Wake up and check your watch. You slept for 28 minutes.

Wonder when the next meal is coming. Wonder what it will be. Wonder if you even get breakfast after that. Wonder if Kevin Hart has his own plane or flies first class. Get frustrated. He’s 5’2, you’re 6’4.

Your mind starts to wonder. Inevitably think about how to join the mile high club. Spend 5 minutes deriving a plan to not get caught, knowing you would probably get caught. Thrilling. Look around at your seatmates for a suitable partner. Nothing. Stand up and walk to the back of the plane. Realize your legs are like bricks after sitting for five straight hours. Seven more to go.

See an attractive person. Think about the mile high club again. Think about how you would even ask. Get to the back, realize it’s full of people. Forget about the mile high club and go back to your seat.

Sit down. Stand back up. Window guy has to pee.

Next movie starts. Realize it isn’t a movie but a few consecutive episodes of Friends. Good enough. Settle in for 2 hours. Drift in and out of sleep.

The stewardess walks by with the cart. Your mood changes immediately. Snacks!

Snack is surprisingly good. A small sandwich and some ice cream. Wonder deeply how they keep the ice cream cold. Realize they definitely have freezers. Maybe you took too many sleeping pills.

Stuff the trash into the pouch in front of you. Fall asleep, finally deeply.

Wake up, realize you slept an entire 90 minutes. Nice! Things are looking up. Only 3hours left and another movie comes on. It’s Frozen. Sweet, only seen it several times with your girlfriend. Kick back. Try not to sing along out loud. This flight is practically over.

Movie ends. Still 90 minutes left in the flight. Can’t sleep. You can smell breakfast but can hardly wait. Very anxious. Wishing the flight would just end. Stand up and walk to the back of the plane. Legs are heavy, ankles swollen.

Get back to your seat just in time to not get pinched by the cart. Omelet or noodles? Go omelet. Your neighbor goes noodles. Peel back the tin. Realize you should have gone noodles. Damn.

Stop caring about the trash pile. Look up at the screen. No movies. No TV shows. Just the obscure flight path where your plane is the size of Tokyo to Beijing. Not accurate. Finally the lady comes by with trash.

Legs are so antsy at this point, you are semi-sure you could Irish River Dance without ever having taken lessons.

Pop in that iPod. Anything to get through the remainder of the flight. Country music. Wait, it’s Taylor Swift. Still good.

Finally, those glorious words come over the intercom. “Ladies and Gentlemen”


“Please return your seatbacks to their full upright position and return your tray tables to the seatback in front of you”


“We are on our final descent”


Decide you should shut your eyes for a few minutes. Fall into a deep sleep. Feel like you could sleep for hours, finally. Wake up in a panic when the wheels hit the runway.  Contain your overwhelming excitement to get off this plane, you still have a few minutes of Taxi.

Finally, at the gate. You undo your seatbelt. Charge back to your carry-on. Throw it over your shoulder, bypass anyone waiting to get out of their seats and take hit that jet bridge like a model on the runway.

You made it!


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John O'Neill is a writer for Writtalin. He keeps his nose in the news. He is a big fan of pretty sunset pictures and crisp words. Don't tell him, show him. Firm believer in dinner and drinks. Journalist, athlete. You can email John at: [email protected]