At the height of the winter season, the last thing you want to do is board an airplane (unless, of course, you are going somewhere warmer). You brave the snow and ice, endure the weather delay at the gate, then finally board the aircraft — only to freeze your rear end off.
You tell the flight attendant you are cold, but she just shrugs and says, "It feels all right to me." Or she agrees with you but does nothing. Hours pass. By the time you arrive at your destination, you've caught a chill and can no longer wiggle your toes.
If you're anything like me, you have a low tolerance for cold. I am a cold-feet person, and I'm not talking about being slightly chilled. By the time I get into bed, I have ice cubes for feet. One winter's night, I made the mistake of trying to warm my feet on my wife and woke up the next morning with a black eye from a retaliatory elbow. Now I recognize my affliction and take measures to deal with it properly.
There is an art to keeping warm on an airplane. I hope the following tips will keep you snug and cozy on your next flight.
1. Be prepared. Dress in several layers of clothing, preferably made from wool, cotton or synthetic fleece. As you acclimate to the cabin, take off a layer at a time. This way you won't sweat, and if you need more warmth, you'll have a layer to put back on.
2. Demand heat. If the flight attendant doesn't turn up the heat, ask the people around you if they feel cold, too. Since the attendants are standing and moving around the cabin, they feel the heat more (remember, heat rises), so they may not recognize the problem.
3. Get up. I know it's odd to hear a flight attendant tell you to leave your seat, but did you know that standing will increase your heat production by 20 percent? Walk around the cabin, stretch in the back of the airplane or get yourself a cup of coffee.
4. Location, location, location. If you are sensitive to cold, do not — and I repeat, do not — sit by an exit door, especially on a 757 or 767 aircraft. Sure, you will get extra legroom, but your feet will freeze and you will barely be able to feel them again. Fact: A man fell asleep on a five-hour flight next to an airplane door and woke up with frostbite on one of his toes.
5. Pass on the Bud, Bud. Skip the booze when the attendants come around with the drinks cart. Alcohol is tempting when you are cold, but it is dehydrating and may also suppress shivering, those involuntary muscle contractions through which the body warms itself.
6. Hold the lemon. Hot water with lemon sounds like the perfect concoction to erase your chill, but you will get it in a Styrofoam cup, which the lemon juice will cause to disintegrate. Now, I'm no doctor, but ingested Styrofoam can't be good for you. Brainstorm: Bring your Starbucks cup aboard and have the flight attendant fill that up.
7. Toasty tootsies. Get SmartWool socks. I never leave home without them in winter. They are made from a super-fine New Zealand wool that is heaven for your feet. I also endorse battery-operated socks. They are like an electric blanket for your feet. But don't put them on until after you get through security. You don't want the Transportation Security Administration thinking you're a sock bomber.
8. Hottie-bottie. This tip is pure genius and a favorite among flight attendants. After you finish your bottle of Evian, keep the container and ask the flight attendant if you can fill it up with a mixture of tap water and hot water from the coffee maker. After a few tries you will get the combination just right, and voilà: an instant disposable hot-water bottle. It can be used as lumbar support, a sore-muscle reliever, or, if you are like me, as a glorious foot friend that will keep you warm the entire flight.
Don't let your air travel leave you cold this winter. Fly safe and fly warm.
James Wysong is a veteran flight attendant who has worked with two major international carriers. James recently released a new book, “Flying High With A Frank Steward: More Air Travel Tales From the Flight Crew.” For more information about James, visit or send him an .