With so much to stay on top of, business travel can be exhausting. Obviously, taking advantage of certain tips and tricks can make parts of a trip much better, but there isn’t much you can do about being stuck in economy for a long-haul flight. Or is there?
Whether you take business trips sporadically or few a week, there is no need to despair: Flying comfortably in coach is not a myth. No matter how terrible and overpriced the food becomes, or how much legroom airlines chop off every year, there are many methods to flying comfortably in coach — and none of them involve spending thousands of euros.
Read on to learn a few tips on the best ways to make the most out of economy bookings.
1. Be smart in picking the right airline
Picking the right airline isn’t quite life or death, but it will feel that way on your fifth hour into a long-haul flight squished into a less-than-comfortable economy seat.
Year after year, pitch — airline lingo for legroom — is constantly under attack, so it pays to know which airlines and plane models offer the most in coach. That’s why SeatGuru´s long-haul economy chart is a valuable resource to consult, a sortable listing of almost every airline in the world along with statistics like seat pitch and width. Standouts include 36 inches of pitch on AirBerlin flights and the between 35 and 37 inches offered by Finnair.
Do a little leg work before, and you’ll be able to stretch out later.
2. Pick seats carefully
In a business where less and less choice is given to the consumer, business travelers gloss over just how powerful it is to still pick their own seat. This is truer than ever with sites like Seat Guru and Seat Expert. They offer business travelers detailed color-coded airplane maps and charts along with rating systems to determine the kind of amenities available or just how comfortable a particular seat is.
Unfortunately, neither of these are booking sites, so office managers or employees who self-book can combine this information with tools like TravelPerk. This guarantees the most comfortable trips at the absolute best prices.
3. Check in and choose seats as soon as possible
What use is all the valuable information you have about economy seats if you don’t use it?
Most airlines let you choose while booking a ticket or at most, 24 hours before a flight during check-in. Choosing seats as early as possible ensures you’re in the first group chosen to pick seats — and avoids being bumped off because you checked-in too late.
So, what are you waiting for?
4. Download seat alert apps
Despite the best of information, you might still miss out on nabbing the best seat available. Luckily, there truly is an app for everything.
TripIt Pro’s Seat Tracker tool allows Pro members ($49/year) to log in, create alerts for future flights, select criteria (a window seat in the exit row, for example) and the number of seats required (up to four) and then receive a text or email if those seat(s) open up. A more affordable option is ExpertFlyer. This app offers a $4.99 monthly membership and allows you to sign up for one seat alert at a time for free. You won’t be able to actually book a seat when it becomes available, though — that’s where the airline’s own site comes in.
5. Pay the comfort tax
Over the years, airlines have whittled down different amenities, making economy extremely barebones. That doesn’t mean the comfort isn’t there, though. You’ll just have to pay for them.
Before a flight, research the premium options your airline offers. Look into those intermediate classes like Economy Plus that still offer the luxury of more legroom or better service. Or, buy a seat in an exit row: Most of the time, they offer as much legroom as a first class seat.
6. Be judicious in your use of airline miles
For frequent business travelers, it’s huge mistake to waste miles on free flights. The most important thing here is working towards elite status. The kinds of perks elite flyers get, from priority boarding to class upgrades, make the prospect of flying coach less of a nightmare.
Our article on the best loyalty programs for business travelers will be a perfect primer on how to choose the loyalty program for you.
7. Entertain yourself
Boredom is the ultimate enemy on economy flights, especially long-haul ones. Sometimes, there may be no personal screen for movies, music, and games, making it extremely important that you pack your own.
Have you been wanting to finally get through Infinite Jest? Catch up on the latest episodes of Game of Thrones? Get to the next level in that video game you’ve been obsessing over? An economy-class business trip is the perfect opportunity to do just that — all on your own terms.
8. Noise-cancelling headphones are your best friend
It’s pretty much next to impossible to properly hear music and movies on a plane over the dull roar of the plane. Most people increase the volume of their headphones to compensate, a negative behaviour that can contribute to hearing loss and higher stress levels.
To combat all this noise, consider a pair of noise-cancelling headphones for each and every one of your business trips. The Wirecutter recommends the Bose QuietComfort 20 as the best pair of in-ear noise-cancelling headphones, and the Bose QuietComfort 25 as the best over-ear pair.
9. Stay healthy!
As much as it seems that flying inevitably leads to a flu or cold, that doesn’t have to be the case. Taking a few steps to ensure your health during economy flights where people are closer together will go a long way to making it much more comfortable.
For one, use some of our previous seating tips to make sure you have an aisle seat. This will make it easier when you take walks through the aisle to promote circulation. Combined with lots of of water along with eye drops and moisturizer to combat dryness, and you’ll be feeling limber and ready to go when you finally touch down.