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The Longest Flight: Survival Tips for Hours in the Air

When you're locked in a plane for long hours you have to worry about both your safety and your sanity. David Blaine had a team of doctors; you have us.

November 24, 2003 -- Like planes? No, do you really like flying? If so, we've got a trip for you: Singapore Airlines' new trip from Los Angeles to Singapore, at 18 hours the longest nonstop flight in the world.

When the route debuts sometime next year, Singapore Airlines fliers will become the David Blaines of the travel world, spending nearly a day in a poorly-pressurized, bone-dry cabin, crammed into coffinlike seats. (We're not dissing Singapore Airlines here, which has some of the best service on the planet. That's just the way all coach-class flying is nowadays.)

But how much of a breakthrough is Singapore's new slingshot? To find out, we turned to OAG (, the masters of global flight schedules. They publish the definitive worldwide flight guides, and if anyone has obscure airline data, they do. They came through with a list of the 10 longest flights in the world:

      1. Newark-Hong Kong on Continental, 16 hours.

      2. Chicago-Hong Kong on United, 15 hours 50 minutes.

      3. LA-Hong Kong on Cathay Pacific, 15 hours 45 minutes.

      4. Delhi-Toronto on Air Canada, 15 hours 30 minutes.

      5. LA-Guangzhou on China Southern Airlines, 15 hours 21 minutes.

      6 (tie). LA-Melbourne on Qantas, 15 hours 20 minutes.

      6 (tie). Atlanta-Johannesburg on SAA, 15 hours 20 minutes.

      7 (tie). Taipei-New York on China Airlines, 15 hours 10 minutes.

      7 (tie). Hong Kong-Toronto on Air Canada, 15 hours 10 minutes.

    7 (tie). Atlanta-Seoul on Korean Air, 15 hours 10 minutes.

Staying Safe and Sane

When you're locked in a box for that long, you have to worry about both your safety and your sanity. David Blaine had a team of doctors; you have us.

The number-one rule on a long trip is get up and walk around. Get an aisle seat rather than a window seat, if you can. Get up every 90 minutes or so and stretch your legs, walk to the galley or just touch your toes. This shakes up the blood in your legs and prevents deep vein thrombosis, or "economy class syndrome," a rare, fatal ailment that's caused by sitting in one place for too long.


Number two: stay hydrated. Drink lots of water and avoid alcohol, which dries you out. Replace your contact lenses with eyeglasses, and bring eye drops and moisturizing lotion. Airplane cabins are very dry, and the dehydration after a very long flight (especially combined with jetlag) can make you feel ill. Drinking water, of course, will make you need to go to the bathroom. This is good, because it gets you out of your seat. For more health tips, see our article, Health in the Air: Common Problems & Ailments.

Finally, be proactive when it comes to entertainment. Call your airline in advance to find out if your flight has individual seat-back video screens and how wide the choice of movies is. If the choice is inadequate, consider bringing a DVD-playing laptop or buying a portable DVD player. Portable players are now under $300, according to, and you'll never have to watch anyone else's movie ever again.

If you do bring a laptop, DVD player or video games for the kids, make sure you have extra batteries or your seat has a power port -- another thing to ask your airline. Your electronic device may need a special air adapter for the airlines' power port; you can usually buy these at any big electronics store.


Luddites should arm themselves with books and magazines, or even travel Scrabble sets, before the flight. Two thick novels and some magazines for even the longest trip -- and that's a luxury David Blaine didn't have.