I always laugh at posts titled ‘How to make economy class as comfortable as business’ or such. We all know there is just no way to turn an economy flight into a business class experience regardless of how much nice lotion you use during a flight.
But even I will admit that after almost 20 years of flying long distance – yes, I am that old! – I have learned a thing or two on how to make the economy class a whole lot more pleasant. So for full transparency let’s call this post: Nothing will ever compare to business class but this is what you can do so economy class doesn’t suck completely.
Pick the right airline
Yes, everybody loves a bargain but if you pick the wrong airline you may pay more in the end than you bargained for. Budget airlines are notorious for hidden fees, minimal service and often depart from less than convenient airports.
I took two of my most recent flights with Turkish Airlines. One from Germany to Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan which I paid for myself and a second one to Entebbe which came with my press trip to Uganda.
While there were probably cheaper flights to get me to each location I appreciated great customer service, a free seat selection, and lots of baggage allowance without extra cost. Even if you are one of those mavericks who can travel the world with hand luggage only these allowances can come in handy – yes, looking at you, Ryanair!
I love nothing during a long layover than to spend my time at an airport lounge. During our flight to Uganda, I got to visit the Turkish Airlines CIP lounge in Istanbul and I kind of didn’t want to leave: freshly made Turkish pizza, a Carrera racetrack and a movie theatre with popcorn machine were only a few of its amenities. Unfortunately, the lounge is usually only for TK business class travelers or those with StarAlliance gold card.
Luckily there are plenty of other lounge options that even mere mortals can go to and simply pay for access. Depending on the lounge these prices start at EUR 15 in Istanbul – money well spent if you have a longer layover and plan to eat, need speedy wifi and a comfy place to chill. Some lounges even come with shower facilities which are great if you have just gotten off a long distance flight.
Choose the right seat
People can argue at length over the best seat on a plane. Some go for safety, others for convenience, and friends of mine always want to sit right by the galley to have easy snack-access.
I prefer to sit as far up front as possible; I want to sit and stare at business class basically. Why? Because usually, I get to board last and any time I get to spend off the plane is time well spent. Mind you, more importantly, I get to leave the plane first, something I love because I am impatient like this. Mind you, sitting up front can also be a huge time saver. First off the plane (or right after business class travelers), I have enough time to catch a connecting flight or to be first in line for immigration. If you think that doesn’t make a difference how quickly you will be out of the airport, I recommend you try it on your next flight and you will be pleasantly surprised.
In addition, the front of the plane gets served first during meal times and you can make sure that your preferred meal (take the cherry cake!!) or wine is still available.
As for the question, aisle or window, I have come to realize that this is a highly personal choice. If you are traveling with a friend or partner try to book one of each – chances are the middle seat will remain empty. If it doesn’t, surely the person in the middle won’t mind switching with either of you.
Plane etiquette so everyone has a nicer flight: Put your seat up during daytime flights and during meal times and remember that the poor person on the middle seat may claim both armrests as consolation.
Some swear by staying sober during a flight while others depend on a glass of red to make them fall asleep – I firmly belong to the latter category.
That said, hydration is incredibly important while traveling and if you don’t drink enough water on the plane you may feel quite dehydrated and sluggish once you land.
Luckily airlines like Turkish Airline are not stingy with their drinks and there is always plenty of water, soft drinks (I love Vishne – Turkish sour cherry juice that only TK serves in the air), and alcoholic beverages to go around.
I, however, have recently tried to make more of an effort to reduce my waste and unfortunately flying and consuming anything in the air doesn’t help. A small step in the right direction: my Grayl bottle. This bottles filters 99% of all bacteria from tap water and is great for traveling. I take the empty bottle through security and fill it up before I board the plane.
Let me entertain you
Since you are not sitting in business class make sure to bring your own comfy headphones. While I swear on my tiny Urbanears a techy friend of mine recently confirmed: nothing is better than Bose noise canceling headphones!
If you are flying with Turkish Airlines you won’t be short on options when it comes to the latest movies or classic series (which one is your favorite Harry Potter movie??) or you can even get some work done because – hello, on-air wifi!
Alternatively, make sure you keep your phone or iPad well stocked with Netflix downloads and books.
Hands up – who sleeps well on planes? With or without a neck pillow, I never sleep well on planes unless I get a row to myself and can actually lie down.
My two recent flights with Turkish Airlines were both overnight flights with rather mean arrival times – I landed in Bishkek at 5 am and in Entebbe at 3 am and getting at least some shuteye was important to me. For some odd reason, blankets were readily available on each seat but pillows were only given upon request and to a few select people. So make sure to ask immediately upon boarding to get a pillow if you don’t travel with your own neck pillow like myself.
On long distance, Turkish Airlines flights all passengers will get a little bag with an eye mask, socks, and earplugs. If you are traveling with a different airline or you prefer a more luxurious version, make sure to pack your own. For all you other non-plane-sleepers: download some yoga nidra tapes to listen to and relax.
Playing dress up
The times when you dressed up for a flight are long gone and even in business class Juicy Couture sweatpants are (unfortunately) not an issue anymore. Still, I tend to have a little flight ‘uniform’ that I frequently wear during my travels. Clothes that are incredibly comfortable but make me look somewhat put together. Say what you want, looking presentable upon landing makes me feel good!
During my flight from Entebbe, I forwent my usual look and wore sweatpants since our plane departed at 4 am and I felt nighttime warranted a more leger look. I realized however that the sweatpants weren’t that much more comfortable and once we landed I felt sloppy in addition to tired.
So for my next flight, I will return to my usual outfit I of jeggings or really stretchy skinny jeans and a long silk or cotton buttondown shirt. I also take an extra jersey and a cashmere scarf (I tend to get super cold on planes) and wear Nike sneakers which are so cozy I seldom take them off during a flight.
Beauty is a beast
Photo by Kathi from
The same principle applies to make-up for me. I will usually board wearing a little make-up but take removal pads (nobody likes raccoon eyes!) and lots of lotion for the flight.
Some people swear by wearing a sheet mask but I have yet to gather the courage to actually wear one in public – has anybody tried that before? I only take face spritz for regular hydration, hand lotion, deodorant, and my toothbrush. For any beauty products you take, make sure to keep them in a clear zipblock bag and to not take bottles bigger than 100ml (even if they are half empty!).
Upon landing, I like to have mascara and a bit of blush at hand. I may not have flown business class but can at least look the part!
What are your tips that make flying economy class better?
Disclaimer: Turkish Airlines sponsored my flight to Entebbe, Uganda – thank you!