Jet Lag

Qantas surveying passengers about sleeping bunks and exercise zones

You may remember the recent buzz about the design Airbus floated for putting sleeping berths in the cargo hold of an airplane as a way for economy class passengers to get some real rest during a long haul flight.

Qantas, which has challenged both Airbus and Boeing to build a plane it can use for ultra-long haul  flights from the east coast of Australia to London and New York, likes that idea and has it on a list of ‘blue sky’ features included in a survey the airline is sending out to about 12,000 of its frequent flyers.

The survey is part of the airline’s “Project Sunrise” research into ultra-long haul flying and on the Qantas list are such “Would you like?” features as:

  • A stretch/exercise zone on board
  • A communal bar, dining or self-service café zone
  • A work & study section including work stations
  • “Change and refresh” stations
  • A creche

A creche? To me that describes Christmas nativity scenes, which seemed like an odd item to include on a long-haul flight. But when I looked up that word I discovered creche is also a British word for a nursery, or day care center.

And on a long-haul flight – and even many short ones – I think most any traveler would vote for that!



Air New Zealand tries to solve the jet lag problem

I spent a few days in London earlier this month courtesy of Air New Zealand.

The airline known for its series of cheeky “bare essentials” ads and in-flight safety videos and, most recently, its Hobbit-themed airplane, invited a small group of travel experts and journalists to fly as a focus group from Los Angeles International Airport to Heathrow.

Hbbit Aircraft

Our assignment for the “#NoLagtoLondon” trip: share our tried-and-true anti-jet lag tips and our “insider secrets” for arriving fresh and perky after a long haul flight.

The work began in the Air New Zealand Koru lounge  before we boarded the flight. Workbooks and white boards were handed out and, among other things, we were asked to make a pie-chart of how we planned to spend the 10 hour flight.

Here’s mine:

Air NEW ZEALAND pie chart

As you can tell, I had big plans for this flight: working, sleeping, chatting with my neighbors, eating, drinking (water only) and visiting the entertaining bathroom, which had both a mural of a chandelier and a real window.

I also planned to watch a few silly, romantic movies that I’d missed in the theaters and I knew I’d end up getting a bit weepy watching them – even though I rarely react that way on the ground.

During the flight the group was asked to read inkblots, write haiku poems and, finally, share our pre-flight rituals and our tips for making it through a long flight.

Here are some of the answers from our group:

Pre-flight rituals: pack (and re-pack), work late/tie up lose ends, create to-do lists and/or music playlists; send out trip details to friends and family members who might like to know what’s up.

I’d prepared by eating extremely light for a few days before the flight and passing up all offers of liquor. I’d planned on getting a good night’s sleep on the ground before the flight so I could work and watch movies during the flight but ended up staying up late in my hotel room working.

Dressing for a flight: most everyone was in favor of comfortable clothes that are casual and a bit dressy, although jeans seemed to be acceptable. I advocate layers that are easy to add or remove and, for ladies, no skirts that might ride up while you’re sleeping.

Shorts on a plane? Pretty much everyone agreed that was a no-no.

Arrival plans: our flight arrived late afternoon and everyone said they’d try to stay up as long a possible and go to sleep at a ‘normal’ time. Some folks did, but for the next two nights several of us were wide awake – and online, tweeting about it – at 2 in the morning.

Jet-lag-wise, I was loser on this trip.

I woke up at 2 am each night of the trip and one night just stayed awake – working and watching a BBC documentary about Tom Jones (!) till 4 in the morning.

Still wide awake, I opened the bottle of red wine that had been left in my room by our hosts at the Mandarin Oriental Hyde Park London , a lovely and very swanky establishment not far from Harrods.

A few sips and I was sleepy, so I put the glass aside and, of course, knocked it over on the cream-colored rug the next morning.

And this is where I learned a lesson about top drawer hotel service.

After spilling the wine, I panicked, grabbed a white towel from the bathroom and tried blotting up the wine.

That did almost nothing except ruin a good towel, so I picked up the phone and called housekeeping to turn myself in.

Within moments a supervisor was at my door and a minute later a man arrived with a machine for a spot cleaning.

He didn’t scold. Instead he told me how smart I’d been for calling right away and not letting the red stain set.

“You’d be surprised how many guests spill or break something and we don’t find it until they leave. But look – your mess is all gone.”

And, seconds later, so was he.

$4,000 crystal-encrusted eye-masks for 5 lucky Virgin Atlantic passengers

You may sleep, but your neighbor may be kept awake by the sparkle.

Travelers hoping to avoid jet lag on a long-haul flight often don black eye masks in hopes of getting some shut-eye.

They may look bland, but they work.

But on Thursday, five lucky Virgin Atlantic passengers will be able to snooze in considerably better style wearing a limited-edition mask, decorated with $4,000 worth of Swarovski crystals.

The airline introduced new amenity kits for its economy, premium economy and first-class passengers on Sept. 1. To celebrate, it’s tucking five swanky Swarovski eye masks — each with more than 3,000 red, white and blue crystals — in the amenity kits handed out in the economy section of five flights. The crystals were all hand applied (10 hours per mask) by Saima Anwar, an artist who also creates crystal eyelashes for celebrities such as Katy Perry.

Thursday’s winners could include passengers on any of the airline’s flights to or from 11 cities in North America, including New York, Chicago, Boston and Los Angeles.

Five eyeshades have been created to mark the launch of new amenity kits which are now appearing on board all Virgin Atlantic flights.

“As the majority of our flights leave at night, arriving in London in the morning, we want to make sure our guests are well rested to begin their days, whether they be traveling for business or pleasure,” said Chris Rossi, senior vice president North America.

Virgin Atlantic has been sweet on Swarovski for a while. Since 2003, the airline’s first-class cabins have featured Swarovski crystals on the cabin walls. Curtains adorned with more than 1,000 Swarovski crystals were recently added to the revamped first-class section on the airline’s A330 aircraft.

While only five passengers will score the cool, crystal-encrusted eye-masks, the new, complimentary amenity kits are sure to be keepers. Each economy class kit contains one of the airline’s signature red eyeshades decorated with one of six sunglass designs, including one with heart-shaped frame and another in a shutter style.

The premium economy kits are charcoal gray pouches made from recycled plastic bottles. The pouches have silk linings and are designed to double as travel wallets.

Virgin Atlantic’s first-class passengers will be issued amenity kits made from the same recycled material, but their pouches will be big enough to be reused as holders for tablet devices or e-readers.

Why upgrade an amenity that many other airlines don’t even offer to travelers in the coach cabin? “To enhance the customer experience to travelers in any class by offering a number of on- and off-board amenities not found with other carriers,” said Rossi.

Or, as the airline states in a news release, because it’s “all part of Virgin Atlantic’s commitment to sustainability, and going green (and gorgeous!).”

(My story about Virgin Atlantic’s new amenity kits and the Swarovski crystal encrusted mask give-away first appeared on NBC News Travel)

Photos courtesy Virgin Atlantic.

Jet-lag tips to help you maintain your circadian rhythm

What do you crave more when you’re on the road: great sex or a great night’s sleep? And would you rather find a sleeping pill or a piece of chocolate on your hotel pillow at night?

BEDThose are just two of the questions Westin Hotels and Resorts put to 12,500 frequent travelers recently during a global sleep survey.

The results? Just over half (51 percent) of the respondents (more men then women, interestingly enough) said they’d take the good night’s sleep over sex; and 42 percent said they’d swap the chocolate for a sleeping pill. (Me? Well, that would depend on the quality of the chocolate.)  Sixty-two percent of the respondents reported that they regularly take some sort of relaxant, sleep or stress medication when they travel overnight.

No doubt a lot of those little pills are downed in an attempt to avoid jet lag — that disorienting, zombie-like state induced by an airplane trip through multiple time zones. Being fuzzy and unable to concentrate is no fun anytime, but when you’re trying to get the most out a few precious days of vacation or hoping to impress a business associate or potential employer, falling asleep at noon just won’t cut it. So while you probably can’t avoid jet lag altogether, it’s good to know that you can make it go away more swiftly.

How is that possible?
Seattle-based toy designer Art Lockwood thought he’d figured it out. With an important early morning meeting scheduled in New York City, he downed some sleeping pills for the red-eye flight heading east. Unfortunately, he forgot to adjust the dosage for the time change. “I stumbled off the plane, fell back asleep in the first seat I found, and missed the meeting.”  A friend of his never even got off the ground. He took a sleeping pill while waiting for his flight to board and fell asleep in the gate area. “They left without him.”

Then there’s this scenario: “Some people take a sleeping pill and there’s an announcement about how the airline regrets to inform you that the plane isn’t leaving,” says Dr. Meir Kryger, director of Sleep Medicine Research and Education at Gaylord Hospital in Wallingford, Conn. “That’s why you shouldn’t take anything unless you’re certain your plane is going to take off.”

A long-time board member of the National Sleep Foundation, Kryger joins others in my column this week (Keeping your circadian rhythm) who share ideas on how to ward off jet lag by getting sleep on the plane – and how to resynchronize once you’re on the ground.

Tips include well-timed sleeping aids and seat-selection on an airplane to a new software program that tells you when its time to get an extra dose of light and the phone number for the experts at the National Sleep Foundation hotline.