One of the most important things to look for his the type of plane you will be flying. Your domestic flight which will get you to the airport where your international flight leaves from you won't have much choice and since these flights are generally short it doesn't matter. But for the international flight which you will be on for eight hours or more you are looking for two jets. The Boeing 777 and the Airbus. Both of these have individual TVs mounted in the back of the
seat in front of you or in a panel that comes out of your arm-rest. They have a number of different channels and show recent popular movies which repeat so on a long flight you can watch four of them and if you are lucky they will all be good. Other jets which just have cabin monitors that everyone looks at (except in 1st class where they have individual screens and a choice) show one or two movies, usually one you have seen or one that you don't want to see or recently with the dire fiancial state of the airlines
one you have never heard of. So when you book your flight make sure you are on one of these. Sadly, Delta which flies NY to Athens non-stop does not have individual TVs but their partner Air France does so if you don't mind stopping in Paris use them. Otherwise a portable DVD and several spare batteries will be helpful and you get to choose the movies.
The invent of IPODs are a blessing to any traveler and now that you can download and watch entire films on the tiny screen life in the air can be even better. I don't have the new version but if I did I would download some lectures from the Teaching Company and educate myself on the way to Greece. I am a happy convert to IPOD and in combination with the BOZE Noise-cancelling headphones my trips have become pretty bareable. However if you don't have them already you are
adding about $700 to the cost of your flight. The good news is that Radio Shack makes similar headphones which sell for $50 and you can just bring your old CD Walkman. I used to just listen to classical or spiritual music to keep me calm but I discovered that rock music and Greek music sounds pretty good at 35,000 feet.
Airplane food was bad to start with. Now it is beyond bad, especially on airlines that are trying to cut cost. Andrea always orders a special meal in advance, either vegetarrean or fish but my feeling is that if they can't make the normal stuff taste good how good can the special food be? Its hit and miss. The European Airlines still have some sense of pride in what they serve. At least some of them do. The American airlines are hopeless with Delta probably the worst.
No big deal. You don't fly for the food. Just go to your favorite deli, pizza place, restaurant, gourmet foodstore or bakery and bring a bag of your own food. If you saw the look on people's faces as they try to figure out what to do with the mess that is on their tray and they look over at me, the guy who has turned down his airplane food and is now eating a pepperoni pizza while his wife eats a bagle with lox and creamcheese and the teenage daughter is eating sushi.
You can get good food at the airport to bring with you, especially at Kennedy in NY. Athens Venizelos Airport has a good foodcourt with a Sbarros pizza, pastas, sandwiches and even Greek specialties so you can have your last Greek meal on the plane. We usually bring some nuts for snacks too and bottled water so you don't have to keep asking the stewardess every time you get thirsty. Try not to bring really smelly cheese or egg salad because it may make everyone around
you throw up and they will blame you.
In Flight Reading Material
For some reason it is hard for me to read on a plane. I think there is a low level anxiety (or a high-level anxiety being masked by seditives and herbs) that keeps me just edgy enough so that I can't concentrate on anything more cerebral than say, People Magazine (and even then I am just looking at the pictures). We always get on the plane with several magazines and newspapers that normally we would enjoy like the New Yorker, The Nation, The New York Times and most
of these remain un-read (they make great gifts though). Remember that whatever you take with you on the plane you have to live with for 8 hours. It does not take many magazines to fill up the pouch in the seat in front of you and the NY Times makes a big mess on the floor. Crossword puzzles are useful but if you don't do them regularly they may cause you more stress by making you feel stupid.
First Class Upgrade
For many economy travelers the pleasure of traveling in the first class or business class section is something they can only dream about. The size and shape of the seats alone are enough to fill you with envy as you walk through the upper-class section on the way to the cramped seats in economy. Getting upgraded to first class is a matter of sheer luck but there are ways which you can increase your chances. The best way is to find yourself seated next to a woman with a
crying infant or a very fat, snoring and/or farting man. The first step is to sneak a peak into first class after you are in the air so you know how many extra seats there are and also make sure that economy is full. Then you approach the stewardess (don't call her to you) and tell her there is a woman with a crying baby and/or a giant farting man in the seat next to you and is there any way please that you can change seats? The stewardess will tell you that unfortunately the flight is full. Then you tell her
there are X number of seats empty in first class. She will usually say I am sorry, this is against regulations. Instead of saying "Can I see where it says in the regulations that someone sitting next to a crying baby or a large farting man cannot be moved to first class" which is confrontational suggest instead. " Maybe you can move the woman with the crying baby or the large farting man into first class." The stewardess will confer with her associates and next thing you know you will
be in first class because there is no way they are going to move a woman with a crying baby or a large farting man into first class where they can bother the rich people.
If this works for you please send $100 to the charity of your choice in gratefulness of my information. If you are a woman with a crying baby or a large farting man who suddenly finds yourself in first class for an unexplained reason you should donate too.
The Use of Drugs or Natural Sedatives to Get Through a Long Flight
Flashback: It is 1976 and I am in Amsterdam where I ran into a friend from Greece who as a parting gesture gave me a piece of hashish. I was in a stage of purification and soul searching so I carried it around in my pocket until it was time for me to get on the plane back to the USA which was leaving from Brussels. What can I do with this thing? I decided to stand at the gate and when the flight from NY came in
I would hand it to some kid my age who looked cool and say "welcome to Belgium". But nobody cool got off the plane, just a load of old people. So I ate it. (Don't ask me why I didn't throw it in the garbage or flush it down the toilet.) And then I got on the plane and forgot I had eaten it until a couple hours later when the words of the magazine started jumping out of the page. Then I remembered I had eaten it and I was not happy about it. In fact I was in a state of panic and my first impulse was
to run down the aisle screaming. I had enough of my wits about me to know that this did not seem very sensible. I was frightfully aware that I was inside a metal cylinder traveling through space at five hundred miles per hour. To add to my discomfort we began to hit turbulance. How was I going to get out of this? I asked the stewardess for a glass of water and I could barely get the words out and she looked at me like she wondered what was wrong with the little hippy kid in 47c. I imagined
her calling the cops in NY to meet me at the plane and take me away, or make an unscheduled stop in some third party country where torture was legal. As a last desperate measure I put on the headphones and clicked to the Now Hits of Today channel. I heard the reassuring voice of Gordon Lightfoot. "Carefree Highway... let me slip away on you..." Instantly I was calm and I might say happy. To this day I love that song and I have never had airplane food taste so good that I asked for seconds.
(Note to kids: Don't Try This.)