What is a Long-Haul Flight?

Any flight longer than seven hours is considered a “long-haul” flight. These are usually international flights.

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What is the difference between long-haul and short-haul flights?

It’s all about time.

  • Short-haul flights: Flights lasting up to 3 hours
  • Medium-haul flights: Flights lasting 3–7 hours
  • Long-haul flights: Flights lasting more than 7 hours
  • Ultra-long-haul flights: Flights lasting more than 12 hours

How do you sleep on a long flight?

Sleeping on long-haul flights in economy class is all about making sure you can get as comfortable as possible and reduce interruptions.

Things like getting a window seat (so no one will need to wake you to get to the aisle) or making sure your seat is far from the busy lavatories can definitely help. Noise-canceling headphones, a neck pillow, and an eye mask may also help you pretend you’re not on a crowded plane. It’s a good idea to avoid caffeine and alcohol before and during a flight, as both can hinder your ability to sleep.

How do you survive long-haul flights? What should I have in my carry-on? What should I bring with me? What do I wear?

Again, the main thing to think about is how to get comfortable—and each person has different needs in this regard. Here are a few things to keep in mind:

  • Our bodies swell during flights, and that’s especially pronounced on long flights, so restrictive clothing (including footwear) isn’t a good idea. Comfortable, stretchy fabrics that breathe are the way to go.
  • Light sleepers may need more insulating measures than heavy sleepers. Think about whether earplugs will suffice or if you’ll need something stronger like noise-canceling headphones or even a white noise app on your phone.
  • Avoid perfumes or heavily scented products. Not only are some people allergic to them, but lots of strong scents in an enclosed space can also induce headaches.
  • Not all neck pillows are created equally, so if you can take one for a test run (is it comfortable to sleep sitting up in the passenger seat of the car?) that’s incredibly helpful.
  • Do some stretches before you get on the plane, and try to get some movement in periodically throughout the flight. When you get up to use the lav, do a couple (leisurely) laps up and down the aisle, or move into the galley to stretch.
  • Even if you’ve checked a bag, keep a small toiletry kit in your carry-on so you can freshen up after you wake up. You’d be amazed how much better brushing your teeth and re-applying deodorant can make you feel.
  • Bring something to pass the time when you’re not sleeping (or if you can’t sleep)—such as a book, crossword puzzles, movies or podcasts you’ve downloaded, or even a small craft project (just check with the airline in advance about whether your crafty tools, such as knitting needles, are allowed on board).

Do pilots sleep on long-haul flights?

Yes, on long-haul flights pilots get breaks and having multiple pilots on long-haul flights means they can take turns getting some shut-eye. Sometimes pilots will get some sleep without leaving the cockpit, and sometimes they’ll get to stretch out a bit more in specific (reserved) seats in the cabin or even a hidden bunk. And yes, flight attendants sleep in shifts on long-haul flights, too.

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Last updated Jan 10, 2024