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Why the best inflight service on short flights for me is no service at all

July 19, 2022
6 min read
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Some airlines are renowned for their incredible onboard service, but on short flights, the best service for me is actually no service at all.

On a long-haul flight in a premium cabin, I love flying with airlines like Singapore Airlines and Qatar Airways due to the lengths the cabin crew goes to in order to ensure all passengers have a memorable experience.

Nothing is too much trouble and I have ended up conversing with the cabin crew so much during flights that we swapped tips for our favorite layover cities and discussed the history of their airlines and how they compare to their competitors. Their enthusiasm for aviation is infectious.

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However, for a flight under two hours, domestically or to Europe, when traveling alone, my goal is largely to speak to no one. It’s not because I don’t like the crew or my fellow passengers. It’s just that I don’t need any service at all on a flight this short.

It starts with boarding — crew members rarely check my boarding pass as I step on board a narrow-body aircraft. They figure I can find my row number by myself and I figure the same thing.

Beyond telling me it’s "down the aisle" and either to the left or the right, there’s not much more help they can give me beyond an obligatory “welcome aboard.”

Once I’ve settled into my seat, I prepare my Bose noise-canceling headphones (a freebie that came with my new pre-ordered Pixel 6 mobile phone, and one of the most useful things I have ever owned), politely listen to the safety demonstration, queue up some music and zone out.

Related: The ultimate guide to Delta One Suites

(Photo by Nicolas Economou/SOPA Images/LightRocket/Getty Images)

I always choose a window seat on a short flight because it’s unlikely I will need to use the bathroom or stretch my legs (I do those before boarding).

If there are any restless young children around me or even rowdy adults who may have had one too many at the airport bar I don’t even notice, because I switch on the noise cancellation on my headphones.

I have the enviable ability to nod off on even the shortest of flights. If I’m really lucky I won’t wake up until the plane hits the tarmac on landing, having not needed to speak to a single person the entire flight.

This is an ideal short flight for me.

I usually eat something in the lounge before boarding and fill up my trusty reusable metal water bottle so I don’t need to eat or drink anything on the flight, whether I’m asleep, doing some work, reading a book or staring out the window.

I find that even on airlines that do provide a free meal and drink in economy on a short flight, it’s so meager and unhealthy/tasteless it’s not worth patiently waiting for a crew member to reach your row with the trolley.

Related: When is best to eat when traveling?

Even if you love sugar I don’t recommend the breakfast bars British Airways has been handing out in Euro Traveller for what seems like years. I prefer to save plastic by using my own water bottle than accepting one of these.

(Photo by Ben Smithson/The Points Guy)

On European airlines, at best the food offering has been a stale sandwich or bread roll that doesn’t taste great and isn't very nutritious. For me, it isn’t worth keeping your eyes peeled for the trolley working its way down the aisle to your row.

Just because it’s free doesn’t mean it is worth consuming. Everything in moderation, as they say — even free stuff.

Related: The 6 best and worst inflight meals I ate last year

The welcome announcements on short flights will often be along the lines of “if there’s anything we can do to make your flight more comfortable, please don’t hesitate to ask your crew.” In reality, though, there’s very little they can do for me to improve the flight experience.

I’m far more concerned about a short flight departing and arriving on time than conversing with the crew, as I rarely really need anything.

On the rare times I forget to pack my trusty noise-canceling headphone I curse my poor planning, as I have to listen to both numerous crew announcements and the passengers around me. On ultra low-cost carriers like Ryanair, I have no interest in hearing about the range of ladies’ fragrances available for purchase on today’s flight.

Equally, I don’t want to buy a scratch card or a deck of cards for a discounted price.

Related: The top 5 economy meals in the sky

(Photo by Ben Smithson/The Points Guy)

Bottom line

I have perfected my strategy for avoiding speaking to anyone on short-haul flights when flying alone by choosing a window seat, using the bathroom beforehand and not requiring any food, drink or other assistance from crew.

Of course, if I'm sitting in a middle or aisle seat I am happy to assist anyone who wants to get up into the aisle — I’m not going to ignore them just because I’m wearing headphones.

If I’m traveling with someone else I’m always happy to chat, too — especially if we are headed somewhere lovely for a vacation. In these circumstances I’m often so excited I can barely sit still.

However, for an hour flight by myself on a normal workday, I’m happy when I’m not a bother to anyone and can just sit at the window by myself, zone out and arrive at my destination with a minimum of fuss. The best service I can have on these flights is no service at all.

Featured image by Featured image by Ben Smithson / The Points Guy
Editorial disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airline or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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3XEarn 3 Points per $1 spent at Restaurants and Supermarkets
3XEarn 3 Points per $1 spent at Gas Stations, Air Travel and Hotels
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    For a limited time, earn 80,000 bonus ThankYou® Points after you spend $4,000 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening

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The Citi Premier’s 3 points per dollar spent across a wide range of popular categories is one of the more lucrative offerings in the world of points and miles. The Citi Premier comes with a $95 annual fee and is currently offering a solid sign up bonus of 80,000 points after you spend $4,000 on purchases within the first three months. It also has some valuable transfer partners to make the most of your rewards. Add in access to Citi Entertainment plus a $100 hotel credit for any single-stay hotel booking that exceeds $500 or more, excluding taxes and fees, booked through the Citi travel website, there are few reasons why the Citi Premier should not be in every traveler’s wallet.

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  • $100 annual hotel savings benefit (on single hotel stay bookings of $500 or more, excluding taxes and fees, booked through thankyou.com)
  • Points transfer to 16 airline programs, from JetBlue to Virgin Atlantic.
  • World Elite Mastercard benefits, extended warranty, damage and theft protection.

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  • Lacks travel protections that other travel rewards cards come with
  • For a limited time, earn 80,000 bonus ThankYou® Points after you spend $4,000 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening
  • Earn 3 Points per $1 spent at Restaurants and Supermarkets
  • Earn 3 Points per $1 spent at Gas Stations, Air Travel and Hotels
  • Earn 1 Point per $1 spent on all other purchases
  • Annual Hotel Savings Benefit
  • 80,000 Points are redeemable for $800 in gift cards when redeemed at thankyou.com
  • No expiration and no limit to the amount of points you can earn with this card
  • No Foreign Transaction Fees on purchases