I hate flying. I am among those who get a squirm in her stomach two days before I have to take a plane. And I have no choice but to travel and travel a lot. My co-passengers wish they would give me a vodka shot to calm me and not have me behave like I was getting sucked by my seat, every time the plane takes off or lands. The only time I am at peace is when I am putting up my travel pics on Instagram. And as if my OCD about flying wasn’t bad enough, now they are talking about 20-hour flights. I mean really?

In case you missed it, Qantas Airways will run a 20 hour unprecedented journey to test the world’s longest flight. It’s a key test run as Qantas prepares to start direct commercial services connecting Sydney with New York and London as soon as 2022.

The conversation on this issue begins with a disclaimer. The non-stop 20-hour flight will ‘test human limits’. I suppose both for pilots and passengers? No matter how comfortable – and things can get pretty cosy and comfortable up there – what would be the things to watch out?

Time Magazine notes that the  “physical burden on customers is putting a renewed focus on jet lag and creating a supermarket of products and home-made creations to ease the suffering.” ASo just how the world’s longest flight aims to beat jet lag? The article in Time also quotes some stats on jet lag ‘therapies’ and turns out it’s a growing market in the larger pool of sleep disorders (which in itself is pegged at a 1.5 billion dollar industry). Other solutions to jet lag? ‘Bright lights, zesty food’ says one report.

Frequent travellers recommend this:

  1.  Compression socks
  2. Go to the loo often, and strategically to keep body clock in check
  3.  Skip the booze
  4. Exercise and stretch

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So the list is pretty much the same. And I suppose if one has to be so strict with oneself on a long haul flight how does one even start to enjoy it? As a traveller and Insta traveller, I can hardly stay comfortable in a 10-hour flight. I wonder how will I make a 20-hour journey fun! Despite those free pyjamas.

Talking of pyjamas. Now, as airlines push for record-breaking non-stop flights, what will be next? A flourishing demand and supply of everything that can keep you ‘comfortable in the air’ for 20 hours. Masks to purify carbon dioxide that comes one’s way from fellow passengers? Breathable fabric suits? Vitamin waters to restore hydration instantly… a bit like those new-age chargers where you just place the phone on the plate for a few seconds?

And that won’t be for passengers alone but pilots too. They’ll screen the brains of the pilots for alertness, while monitoring the food, sleep and activity of the few dozen passengers. The aim is to see how humans hold up to the journey. Or ordeal.

Am not someone who hates innovation. I mean I was a real fan of Jetsons. In fact, I have been banking on some new ideas of transportation. I have been more than excited about the talk of Hyperloop, where one travels at high speed in capsules through overground infrastructure. Looks like this may not see the light of the day during our time. But what will, are these long haul flights. What I am going to wish for is that these 20-hour journeys are comfortable and don’t leave us in an existential crisis.

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Shaili Chopra is a Stanford Draper Hills Fellow 2019. She is an award winning journalist of 18 years and the founder of SheThePeople. Views expressed are the author’s own.

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