I´ve just flown my first international business class flight, courtesy of frequent flier miles, and am now spoiled forever. Never mind the VIP treatment that starts at the airport check-in counter, takes you through a fast line at security and then tucks you into your seat with early boarding, a hot towel and a steward, or stewardess, who smilingly stows your luggage. Nor is it the pre-flight champagne or multi-course gourmet menu. What had me at hello was a seat that fully reclines.
I am not great at sleeping under the best of conditions, so the prospect of an overnight flight usually provokes the same level of trepidation as a visit to the dentist.
Not this time. I buckled into my seat and greedily tore open the little packet of goodies that came with my ride – a travel toothbrush and toothpaste, travel socks, lip balm, hand cream, ear plugs and – yes! – an eye shade. At my feet were a newly cleaned comforter and pillow wrapped in plastic.
After takeoff and dinner, which included a cheese course and an excellent piece of salmon, I finished my wine, watched the end of a movie, and had an enjoyable conversation with the other traveler in my row, a businessman in his late 50s. It was a somewhat intimate chat about traveling overseas alone, not surprising given that we were two strangers about to bed down next to one another. But it wasn´t a flirtation. It felt like a clever, mutual interview that could have aired on NPR. We didn´t even exchange names.
Soon enough, I pushed the single button that quickly turned my upright seat into a completely flat bed. Comforter in place, eyeshade on, and half an Ambien down the hatch, I was ready for dreamland. (I had already asked the stewardess to let me sleep through breakfast. My flight would arrive at 7 a.m. local time, and I could go to the airline´s business lounge for coffee and provisions, along with a shower if needed.)
Five hours later I came awake to the pilot´s announcement that we would be landing in 20 minutes. I stretched, drank some water, and made a beeline for the bathroom, where I had enough time to put my contact lenses in and make my hair look presentable.
Exiting the plane was as easy as getting on, and the coffee in the lounge was excellent. My seatmate and I parted there with a chaste handshake, and I headed to the taxi queue feeling refreshed and ready to meet the day. I am going to try to mentally bottle this experience for my next set of flights – which involves a middle seat in coach both ways.
Traveler´s tip for overnight flights: It´s crucial to stay hydrated, but don´t drink so much that your bladder wakes you up mid-snooze.
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Image via American Airlines