How Am I Going To Survive 21 Hours In Coach?

Sep 3, 2013

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Some people call me a diva because I rarely fly anything but first or business class – but that’s one of the most beautiful perks about what I do. I invest my time, money and expertise racking up the points, miles and elite status to travel where I want, the way I want. Keep in mind that I’m also 6’7 tall, so flying coach to Australia or Asia is essentially not even an option for me…well, not if I want to have use of my legs after I land!

That said, I’ve certainly flown my fair share of coach in the past – including 3 weekend roundtrips in a row from New York to Copenhagen back in 2011 when fares on that route were just $150, so I’m not a complete prima donna.

That’s why, when the opportunity recently came up to fly to South Africa and visit some friends, I bought a roundtrip ticket on KLM in their Economy Comfort seats. My time for this trip is limited, so the option of making a leisurely connection or stopover in Europe or Asia wasn’t really on the table since it would add a lot of time, and either money or miles to my bill. Instead, I just decided to take my medicine and book an itinerary from New York to Cape Town via Amsterdam.

KLM's Economy Comfort is a decent option for me, even for long-hauls.
I’m getting ready to spend 21 hours in one of these seats!

After a huge fiasco actually trying to secure Economy Comfort seats on KLM (my Delta Platinum Medallion status should have gotten me them for free, but it took an entire day of Twitter exchanges directly with KLM to sort it all out).

But today, as I prepare to spend first a 7-hour flight then a 11-hour flight with a 3-hour layover in Amsterdam in Economy Comfort, it kind of hit me like a wall of bricks what I would be in for. To try to quell my anxiety, I took a quick look on SeatGuru and discovered that my seat would only have 17.5 inches in width and 34 inches in pitch – the same amount of space (a little narrower, actually) than a regular JetBlue domestic economy seat! Not only that, but I’ve been stuck in a middle seat somehow and have been calling KLM repeatedly to see if they can change it, but the reps I have spoken to claim that something is wrong with their computer system and I am stuck, so it looks like I’m out of options for the moment.

Last time I flew KLM Economy Comfort was on a day flight from Amsterdam to JFK aboard a 747, on which the seats actually have one more inch of pitch than on the 777’s I’ll be flying, so it was a pretty easy experience. This itinerary, however, includes a transatlantic red-eye, followed by a layover at the Amsterdam airport, and then another 11-hour flight to the southern tip of Africa. It’s not going to be pretty.

Wish me luck as I set off on my 9,000-mile journey!
Wish me luck as I set off on my 9,000-mile journey!

Luckily – after a few more back-and-forth direct messages via Twitter with KLM, a rep there was able to confirm me into window seat for me JFK-AMS flight and an aisle for my AMS-CPT flight. Phew!

I understand that I live a very blessed life and get to see parts of the world most people never even dream of, so putting up with a day in coach is not the end of the world for me – the title of this article is tongue-in-cheek, after all.

But I am actually asking you, my readers, for all your best tips on surviving two lengthy flights in a cramped seat and make this as painless as possible.

Screen shot 2013-09-03 at 12.50.11 PM

I plan to try to sleep as much as possible on the transatlantic portion and then download a bunch of movies and TV shows to try to make the time pass on the flight from Amsterdam to Cape Town, so I’m all ears if you have suggestions for shows or flicks I should watch (I hear Orange is the New Black is good), as well as any tips you have for looking fresh and ready to go when I land.

I’ve already shared my Top 10 Products for Long-Haul Flights, but let me know yours, and wish me luck as I set out on my 9,000-mile trek! You can follow my adventures on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram, so be sure to send me your suggestions for my time on the ground too.

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