When it comes to in-flight comfort today, airlines are pretty much leaving passengers high and dry. JetBlue now charges $7 for a basic pillow and blanket kit (replete with "advanced technology" to shield you from dust mites and pollen—normally not a concern at 35,000 feet). And though they toss in a $5 coupon for Bed Bath & Beyond, a dubious incentive. The bottom line is, once in the sky, you’re on your own. Experts advise passengers to take control of their own comfort zones.
“Think about your flight as time spent camping out,” says Lynn Staneff, marketing director for Magellan’s, a purveyor of innovative travel supplies. “Airline services are going the way of the dinosaur and your comfort level depends entirely on you, so set up a household in your compressed seating area by packing everything you need in your carry-on." Staneff recommends her company's Revita-leg portable compression leg massage, which wraps around your calf and has several pressure settings, and light-weight headphones that turn your airplane seat into an oasis of tranquility.
Faced with a fuel price crisis, today’s airlines are more concerned with their bottom lines than your bottom. (“There’s a solution for that as well," says Stenef. She recommends Tush Wipes with aloe vera and vitamin E.) Head-to-toe, there are abundant choices for flyer who want to carry a personal pampering program.
“Taking time to pause and enjoy a spa moment is a perfect way to combat the stress of travel,” says Lynne McNees, president of the International SPA Association. “As many airlines are cutting back on amenities, you can create your own spa travel pack at home with spa products to incorporate your senses and calm your nerves.”
Mary Bemis, editor of Organic Spa magazine, flies around the world investigating spas. When it comes to being comfortable in-flight, she takes responsibility for herself. “Airplanes are no more than a false environment," she says. “I apply eye cream hourly, apply foot lotion inside my socks, use a spray mist to keep hydrated and use lip balm throughout the flight.” It's even possible to think green while preparing an in-flight pamper pack; Bemis relies on organically sourced products from companies like Buddha Nose, Jurlique, Amala, Pangea and Dr. Haushka.
Since TSA security policies restrict passengers to skimpy plastic bags that contain nothing larger than 2.9 fluid ounces, passengers need to stay one step ahead of the comfort police. My SmartPac is a TSA-compliant toiletry set that will sail right through the odious TSA obstacle course thanks to resealable tubes of fragrant moisturizing lotions, cleansing gels and after-shave cream that are less than three fluid ounces—and can help turn that tiny lavatory into your own provisional powder room. The contents are arranged in a snazzy orange travel kit that even comes with a TSA-compliant zip-lock quart size bag, and are of sufficiently high quality you might find yourself pining for larger quantities (though they are designed to last a full six days on the road).
When it comes to extended flights, getting comfortable can mean the difference between arriving well-rested or with swollen, red eyes. You’ll sleep from take-off to touchdown with help from Dreamtime’s aromatherapy-inspired eyepillow, which provides soothing acupressure to tired eyes. Sleep comfortably with their sleep mask, a gem of a pampering tool with its adjustable elastic straps and padded cheek flaps that block out the light so you can doze deliciously while keeping your circadian clock in order.
Staying comfortable is just half the battle. Staying healthy is the other. Sharon K. Christie, president and CEO of Aromafloria, describes an airplane cabin as "a mini petri dish," thanks to circulating cabin air. "If someone sneezes in first class," she says, "you will be inhaling it regardless of where you are sitting.” Plane Defense is a natural cotton pouch that contains a potent blend of certified natural essential oils that may be protect you against airborne offenders. Every hour, simply breathe the vapors by holding the pouch to your nose. The pouch remains potent for two to three weeks after opening—perfect for round-trip business travelers.
“Planning ahead and bringing key items with you can be the best insurance for staying comfortable on an airplane,” says Kiran Gowda, TravelSmith’s spokesperson. She recommends bringing your own CoolMax Travel Blanket (sorry, JetBlue) as well as a neck support pillow. “I wake up refreshed and free of neck pain,” she says. Noting that checking a suitcase now can add another $50 to your airline tickets, she recommends an ultra-organized carry-on that meets carry-on restrictions. You can pack all of the above items in the fold up tote and take off with confidence you will have continuous visual contact your self-constructed comfort kit.
Above all, launch your personal pampering remedies even before you fasten your seat belt. Settle in with your pillow, blanket, eye cream, foot and hand salve, and apply lip balm. Continue the routine hourly. You may not be in a world-class spa, but you’ll feel more refreshed than the guy next to you. As Sheila Cluff, owner of the Oaks at Ojai spa in Ojai, Calif., says, “It’s the passenger's responsibility to coordinate a pampering in-flight ritual." So rather than fighting the cramped quarters and overpriced blankets, make sure your economy seat doesn't feel quite so budget this time around.