The Wandering Kiwi family are just back from a trip to New Zealand and this time we went ultra long haul, taking the world’s longest scheduled flight – from Doha to Auckland – a whopping 17 hours on a plane. In economy.
Usually when we travel to New Zealand or Australia from Europe we break the journey half way in Asia – Singapore, Kuala Lumpur, Hong Kong are popular stopovers. But recently it has become better value to travel via the Middle East – last time we flew to New Zealand via Dubai and this time Qatar.
I note there is a slightly shorter (but still ultra long haul) Qatar flight from Doha to Perth in Western Australia and an even longer one planned from Singapore to New York!
So was it worthwhile? And how do you survive an ultra long haul flight?
The service on Qatar was of a very high standard and the planes they use are big and comfortable. They actually have less passengers on the specially-adapted planes to fit the extra fuel necessary.
The honest truth is that we chose to do this because it was much better value financially for us to fly via Doha in Qatar. Also, the 17-hour flight meant avoiding a second stop in Sydney, Australia. A transit stop involves at least a few hours feeling very tired in an airport and makes your overall journey longer.
Tips for long haul flights
Once you’re on the plane you are, literally, in it for the long haul. And long haul flights are tough on your body. So here are my tips for surviving an ultra long haul flight:
- Stay hydrated with regular (non-alcoholic) drinks. Fresh fruit and light meals can help you feel well also, although make sure you don’t take any food off the plane at your destination. Choose your meal ahead of time, especially if you have a food intolerance or children travelling with you. Qatar served meals and snacks at good times during the 17-hour flight but it pays to have some extra snacks with you. You can also ask for more food and drink from the flight attendants.
- Try to sit in the front half of the plane. There is less vibration and noise forward of the wings. Check the Seat Guru website for the best places to sit on each particular aircraft. Check your seat allocation ahead of your flight (you can do this quite far in advance these days). If the flight is not full you may be able to have a spare seat to stretch out. Avoid seats close to the toilets and kitchens, and the aisles where there are bassinets for babies.
- Plan your flight by thinking about the timezone of your destination and if necessary change your watch to the new timezone. At the beginning of your journey sleep when you are tired but as you go on start to try sleeping when appropriate at your destination.
- Blood tends to pool in your legs during a long flight so move about regularly, including taking walks up the aisle and do stretching exercises in your seat.
- Consider your entertainment options. Look at what films you might want to watch, take a good book and the latest newspaper, download shows onto your tablet, and consider what games/entertainment work on your devices both with and without WiFi.
- Wear comfortable clothes and shoes that you will still be able to put on at the end of the flight when your feet have swollen. Take off your shoes when you get to your seat and put on the socks provided.
- A quick face wash and cleaning your teeth later in the flight can be refreshing.
Have a stopover in Doha
I always like to have at least a short stopover on the way to New Zealand (often we travel straight back). We had a pleasant day in Doha: had a swim, did some sightseeing and a few naps. A stopover in Doha was made very easy by Qatar waiving visa entry requirements for the citizens of 80 countries in October 2017. This makes it the most generous visa-free entry scheme in the region.
Is Ultra Long Haul worth it?
The Wandering Kiwi family have done a lot of long haul flying over the years and I must honestly say that it is never pleasant.
However, it seemed to me that once you have spent 12 hours on a plane, another five hours is not that big a deal. I thought it was worthwhile avoiding the second stop in Sydney and getting to New Zealand faster.
However, if you are long haul flight newbie I wouldn’t start with this one!
By Natasha von Geldern
Have you flown ultra long haul? What are your tips for surviving the world’s longest scheduled flight?
See here for more tips on long haul flying.