The illustrator behind Captain Rob Johnson's children's books, Stuart Buckley, depicts life at 35,000ft


Pilot talk: top tips for your next long-haul flight

Rob Johnson
Captain Rob Johnson

In a world of constant distraction, a long flight can be a great opportunity to snag some vital ‘me time’. British Airways Captain Rob Johnson is the author of Plane Characters, a series of books aimed at inspiring young children to travel and demystifying the flying experience. Rob shares his top tips on how to make the most of your next trip across the skies

Let loose
There is no avoiding the fact that you will be sitting down for a long period of time, so comfortable, loose-fitting clothes are key. Your body temperature changes throughout the day and night due to your natural circadian rhythm. Between 2am and 5am the temperature drops to its lowest point, so bring an easy-to-add layer. If you, like my wife, suffer with cold feet, pack some nice thick bed socks too.

Pillow talk
Everyone wants to be as comfortable as possible on a long-haul flight, so you might want to consider bringing an inflatable neck pillow. If you're travelling in BA's premium economy cabin, World Traveller Plus, of which I am a huge fan, you can look forward to settling into a seat which includes an adjustable headrest with ears that will really support your neck.

A box set binge
For me, a long-haul flight (as a passenger) provides a perfect opportunity for a TV splurge or movie marathon. I always preload my iPad with all the things I’ve been meaning to watch and ensure it’s fully charged. Most cabins have some sort of in-seat power supply, but I always bring a backup battery just in case.

Unwind in the sky
There truly is a jaw-dropping amount of entertainment on board, from movies to audio books, music to games. If time is of a premium, you can even decide what you want to watch before you fly. It’s also worth having a look at the wellbeing section of the in-flight entertainment. Personally, I’m a big fan Anne Rowe’s guided relaxation. I’ve yet to reach the end of one without nodding off.

A glass half full
When travelling as a passenger, I have a personal rule that every other drink I have on board is a glass of water. Whether I’m sipping coffee or wine, every alternate drink of water helps keep my body hydrated. That way I arrive feeling so much fresher. There’s not a medical expert around who would disagree with the importance of keeping your body hydrated at 35,000ft.

Take advantage… 
… of British Airways’ recent investment in its onboard products. Following on from the introduction of the beautiful White Company bedding in the Club World cabins, customers in World Traveller are now enjoying higher levels of comfort thanks to new headrests, fleecy blankets and pillows.


The importance of being snug: sleep easier on board with bedding from The White Company. Illustration by Stuart Buckley.

Snack stock
I also pack a selection of snacks, especially when I travel with my two boys. They have an insatiable appetite and although the children’s meals on board are brilliant, there’s always a chance they’ll want more. On our last long-haul flight, we were treated with an ice cream between meal services, which as you can imagine went down well. I daren’t tell them about the snack larder (the ‘Club Kitchen’) in Club World, where you can enjoy treats such as Cadbury chocolate, shortbread and fresh fruit!

Sky-high stretch
Keep your joints moving using gentle exercises – you’ll feel all the better for it when you arrive. I’m not suggesting lunges in the galley or sit-ups in the aisle, but some rolling of your shoulders and ankles, wiggling of your toes and the occasional stand up and stretch will all help. As pilots we spend most of the flight sitting down just like you, so the same applies.

Did you know?
On our long-haul aircraft, which includes the Boeing 747 and the newest member of our fleet, the Airbus A350, we have specially designed crew rest areas. You may see a pilot or one of the crew disappear into what looks like a cupboard in the galley. That cupboard leads to a couple of comfortable seats and beds above the cabin ceiling. We only get to use the rest facilities on very long flights when we have more than two pilots on the crew.

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This article has been tagged BA, Travel Tips