I experienced my first long-haul flight this summer on a trip to the Riviera Maya in Mexico. I swam with dolphins, ate loads of different foods, and got very sunburnt (as per any time I spend more than 10 minutes in heat above 22 degrees Celsius). But then I had to endure 10 hours on an aeroplane surrounded by people I deemed completely unbearable with nothing to look forward to but the working week ahead of me.
Now, don’t get me wrong; this isn’t a “woe-be me, I went on a fancy holiday but still want to complain” kind of story. But if and when I embark on my next holiday outside of Europe, I’ll think twice about the practicalities surrounding the experience: after all, are long-haul flights really worth the hassle?
I couldn’t help wondering whether it is reasonable to bring a baby on a plane
For the flight out of Birmingham Airport, the airline did anything within reason to make the journey smoother for us. They provided pillows, blankets and an in-flight entertainment system. There was also an unlimited bar. Safe to say, I was not sober when we landed in Mexico.
I needed as many rum-and-cokes as possible to drown out the playing of Peppa Pig. I spent the entirety of the flight with my dinner tray rocking up and down as a mother sat in front of me bobbing her baby back and forth, and I couldn’t help wondering whether it is reasonable to bring a baby on a plane. Not only does this irritate other passengers, but the Mayo Clinic has also stated that the changing air pressure on planes affects babies’ ears just as much as our own. So surely it would make more sense to postpone a transatlantic trip until the child has grown up and is able to appreciate the culture and experience more?
Flying is the most convenient way to travel for many people across the world
Obviously, people travel for a range of different reasons other than holidaying. Business trips, visiting family, and immigrating are all clear examples of why, in an era of globalisation, travel is inevitable. Flying is the most convenient way to travel for many people across the world with the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) estimating that there were 4.5 billion aircraft passengers in 2019.
I don’t know anybody who would deny that travelling and exploring new locations is fantastic. From interacting with new and diverse groups of people, to seeing beautiful and unique landmarks. Even the opportunities that are available in different places mean that you can try things you wouldn’t dream of being possible back home. If you are a patient passenger, then you might have read this unable to identify with any of the complaints I have given thus far — but for many people, a long-haul flight always takes its toll.
Flying long-haul can even be dangerous
Spending any extended period of time cramped up in an enclosed area is never any fun. Regardless of how much entertainment you think you’ve brought on board with you, it is never enough. I could get through two different books in the span of a single flight. But I’d still be bored without the ability to log onto the internet, or message my friends.
In addition, the NHS page Fit For Travel lists the symptoms that your body may experience as a result of a long flight. This includes Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT) which can occur because “being less active can lead to slow blood flow in your veins which increases your risk of developing a blood clot”. So, flying long-haul can even be dangerous.
There are other modes of travel that make for a much easier journey, like driving, or travelling by boat either on a cruise or a ferry. But some locations are almost unreachable without flying. So, should we forgo comfort for the sake of international exploration? Probably. But what else could convince us to avoid flights?
Whilst it is certain that any form of travel that uses fossil fuels has a negative impact on the environment, long-haul flights have been proven to be substantially damaging. An analysis conducted by The Guardian found that “Taking a long-haul flight generates more carbon emissions than the average person in dozens of countries around the world produces in a whole year.”
I’m not sure where I’ll travel to next, or how I’ll get there. But I am sure that long-haul flights are not the best form of travel for myself and many others out there.