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EDITOR-AT-LARGE: Frequent Flyer – What I learned from 150 Flights in a Year

A punishing travel schedule has resulted in some lessons learned for MAPS MAPONYANE … and they’re ones he’d like to share

Averaging a flight every 2.4 days for an entire year certainly wasn’t something I had ever thought possible unless I’d realised one of my many childhood dreams … to be a pilot. Having never made it to pilot school though, for a long time it seemed as though that dream particular dream wouldn’t happen. As it turned out, I didn’t need a set of wings embroidered on my jacket and I have been fortunate enough to enjoy a career that has allowed me to see both my own country and the world, and get paid for it!

What those many hours – if not accumulative days – on board various aircraft and moving through so many airports has allowed me to do is build up some experience of air travel and I thought that this month I’d share my essential tips with you.

 

BEFORE YOU BOARD

  • Streamline your air travel miles to as few rewards programmes as possible so as to maximise the number of miles/points you collect
  • Organise lounge access, be it through your carrier, a membership, or even if you have to purchase it. Access comes in handy when you would least expect it and when you need it the most.
  • Check in beforehand. Secure your seat and avoid the longer check-in queue.
  • Always pack at least one book
  • Pack light. Usually I only take a carry-on and a suit-bag; it’s just easier. Obviously for long periods of travel you’ll need more, but keep it to what you’ll NEED.
  • There’s always a chance of baggage going missing so ensure that you have at least clothes for two days packed in your carry-on luggage.
  • Pack with security checks in mind – don’t make your and the security personnel’s life more difficult than it already is.
  • And pack anything that can possibly leak, into a sealable or toiletry bag. There is no greater travel annoyance than opening your bag when you’ve reached your destination, only to discover there is lotion, shampoo or some sort of liquid all over your clothes.
  • Be patient, anything can happen with flights and it can be very frustrating. Throwing a tantrum, however, won’t make things any better.

 

WHILE BOARDING

  • Don’t rush to get on board. Unless you’re worried about overhead storage space, it won’t get you to your destination faster than any of the other passengers. All you end up doing is waiting in a long boarding queue … might as well chill on the waiting-area seats.
  • Also keep a look out for that second queue when boarding. Most of the time it’s used for priority boarding, but when that is done it’s open season.

 

ONCE ON THE PLANE

  • Wear something loose and comfortable.
  • Drink a lot of water, not a lot of alcohol. Seriously though, keep the booze to minimal intake.
  • For long-haul flights, I’ll take effervescent Airmune tablet to boost my immune system and pack Bactroban cream to prevent any infections.
  • Noise cancelling headphones (or, second prize, earplugs) are crucial for some decent sleep
  • Stretch as often as possible to keep the blood flowing

 

All that said, this doesn’t mean I have it all figured out … to be frank, at times I don’t know whether I’m coming or going. On the upside though, air travel does give you a lot of time with your thoughts and a chance to look within, look back, and look forward. The perception of the “high life” isn’t all that it’s made out to be and remaining rooted becomes increasingly challenging. Personally, I wouldn’t have it any other way, but I now believe more than ever in the truth of being careful what you wish for – it can get very lonely up there.

 

Perhaps this is the year I start working towards getting that pilot licence. Might as well.

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