Tips for upgrading economy class comforts

Pinterest LinkedIn Tumblr

You can turn a cattle class (aka economy class) flight experience to Wagyu worthy. Here are some flight trips to help transform your next economy seat experience to swish comfort. The objective for each of these tips is maximum comfort for economy prices.

“You define a good flight by negatives: you didn’t get hijacked, you didn’t crash, you didn’t throw up, you weren’t late, you weren’t nauseated by the food. So you are grateful.” – Paul Theroux, Travel Writer and Novelist.

Economy class comforts
Economy class doesn’t have to mean economy comfort.

Choose your airline well

The comfort and extra perks available on flights vary hugely from airline to airline. Do your research well. Ideally find a good quality travel agent that can help you cut through the airline marketing buzz and give you advice based on actual experiences – theirs or their customers.

If you prefer to research online is a comprehensive global air travel review and ratings website that provides quality ratings based on customer feedback.

Plan to travel when ‘the suits’ aren’t

If a free upgrade to Business Class or First Class is a goal, book your flight for a day or time when frequent flying business travellers don’t (literally) have their head in the clouds. If an upgrade is one of your tactics, make sure you dress comfortably but look polished enough to mix it up with those who are flying well courtesy of their company’s shareholders!

Choose your seat early and well

Best to book online as soon as check in is available so that you can get the pick of the seats.

Which seat you choose for maximum comfort depends on whether you’re on a short domestic flight or a longer haul. On a short flight a window seat is great. On a longer haul flight, a window seat means regular contact with fellow passengers’ knees or laps!

If you’re taller than the average flyer, you will always need to find seats with extra legroom, for example in the exit aisles. There is always compromise though with the exit aisles having non-reclinable seats; and the bulk head seats having limited storage space.

If your bladder has been battered by life’s wee battles, choose an aisle seat for easiest access to relief.

From my research and experience rows 6 and 7 near the front of the plane’s cabin tend to offer the most comfort and ease of access.

Avoid booking middle seats. If you book either a window or aisle seat, you’ve only got to battle elbow space on one side. Better still, in many of my travels I’ve ended up with an empty middle seat and more room to eat with sticky-out elbows!

If you end up with a middle seat chances are the plane is fully booked and you’re likely to be stuck there – did we mention choosing your seat as early as possible?! is a fantastic online resource that colour codes the seating map of your flight to show you the most comfortable seats. I’m definitely using this next time I travel.

Do a scan for empty rows and then ask (politely) if you can move

Once up in the air and the seatbelt sign is off, consider doing a quick scan of the plane’s cabin. If you spy an empty row there is no harm in turning on your natural charm and asking one of the cabin crew if you could relocate.

inside airport terminal

Arrive at check in early if you haven’t already checked in online

One of the number one rules for reducing stress in any situation is to avoid feeling rushed and time poor. Planning ahead and arriving early at the airport is a really good start to a comfortable trip. Jumping on the plane just-in-time and in a frazzled state will scare your fellow passengers and have you feeling tense before you leave the ground.

The other advantage of heading to the check in queue early is that if you are feeling brave to ask the controversial question of the possibility of an upgrade – and there is only a handful available – you may just be first in! Top tip of all tips: show humility, be friendly and if you can throw in a line about flying to attend a funeral of a loved one, visiting an ill loved one, or that it is your wedding anniversary or birthday – play that card. Your request may be declined but at least you gave it a go.

Bring an inflatable or two for cushioned, light weight comfort

Inflatable pillows, or better still neck collars; and inflatable foot rests are gold in an economy seat. Once the air is out of them, they only take up the smallest space in your hand luggage.

pack a blanket

Complement your blow up comfort with a light weight blanket

A careless heading – don’t use the words ‘blow up’ to refer to your inflatable comforts at an airport or on a plane…!

Air conditioned plane cabins have a reputation for feeling chilly. If you can afford to invest in a light weight, warm pashmina or cashmere shawl or mohair blanket you’ll feel toasty and right at home.

Block light and noise

A good quality sleeping mask, along with noise cancelling headphones will mean you can slip into your economy seat and feel like you could be anywhere your imagination takes you. Along with your neck collar, your blankie and your foot rest – you’ve just upgraded yourself to Premium Economy!

Hydrate well

This perhaps should be the first tip on your list. Hydrate well before you leave and then keep it up throughout the flight. Cabin air is drying and dehydrating. I remember my first International flight as an adult. I was so excited that the alcohol (my first taste of Sake) was complimentary. 6 hours in, I was really regretting my decision to enjoy more than one – I felt dehydrated, overheated and spent the rest of the trip extremely uncomfortable. Once you’re dehydrated it’s too late for comfort.

And, airport and airline coffee is mostly terrible! So best to avoid it on taste value alone, let alone the dehydration factor.

Avoid Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT)

DVT can be life threatening. Avoiding inactivity in a fixed position is particularly important on long haul flights. If you’re over 55 it would be advisable to see your doctor before you head off on a long flight, for a medical check. Based on your doctor’s expert advice it may be recommended that you take a specified dose of aspirin, wear compression socks and proactively move your feet and legs regularly and often throughout the flight.

Aromatherapy can make an economy class flight feel blissful

A stress relief or ‘relaxation’ blend of aromatherapy goodies can really add a luxury element to your flight experience. I love a good herbal hand cream and a hydrating facial mist that includes lavender or chamomile and other concoctions of relaxing essential oils. Think of your fellow passengers though on this one – a strong perfume can kick off migraine headaches for those sensitive to smells. On a long haul flight, a lip balm, toothpaste and toothbrush are welcome refreshers.

Is it time to book your next trip?

Useful online resources for planning to fly in comfort

Seat Guru –

Airline Quality –

1 Comment

  1. Patricia

    I love the comment by Paul Theroux – very funny.

Write A Comment