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How to Get Comfortable in Economy Class

How to Get Comfortable in Economy Class
Ariana Arghandewal

When I started writing this post, I was facing the prospect of a 14 hour flight in economy class. Then the heavens opened up (i.e. United award availability) and I was able to book a flight to Turkey in business class.

While I’m super appreciative of the last minute change, I also realize that it’s inevitable that I’ll have to fly economy class at some point. Especially now that Visa gift card churning is all but dead in my area. If you’re in the same boat as me, all is not lost – there are plenty of ways to get comfortable in economy class and it doesn’t involve drugs or booze.


Step One: Offer to Pay to Upgrade

The first thing you’ll want to do is try to get yourself upgraded at the airport. Is there a cheap upgrade fee you can pay to get yourself into business or premium economy? I have family members in Turkey who frequently fly Turkish Airlines to the US and they swear by paid upgrades.

They frequently negotiate business class upgrades for as low as $300. Now I don’t know if that works on U.S.-originating flights and I’m sure it’s out of the question on my other airlines, but one thing is for sure: If you’re offered a paid upgrade, it’s totally worth it to negotiate a lower fee.


Step Two: Try This Sleeping Position

If bribing your way into a premium cabin doesn’t work, it’s time to try and get comfortable. Being comfortable in economy class is all about the legroom. Unless coach rage turns you into The Hulk and you’re able to rearrange the seats, you’re stuck with whatever legroom you have. But we can work with that.

Stick something with a hard surface under the seat in front of you, place a pillow behind your lower back, then slide down at an angle. You’ll be able to stretch your legs and not deal with having to sleep in an upright position. Trust me, sleeping well on a flight is all about being able to mimic a sleeping position and sitting upright is not conducive to that.


Step Three: Bundle Up

Make sure you have a thick, bulky sweater and winter scarf (I’m NOT kidding) and the freezing cabin temperatures won’t even bother you. That is my number one pet peeve on planes and why flying economy class is so unbearable on long-haul flights: All you have to fend off the arctic temperatures of the cabin is a flimsy blanket. Dress for winter and you’ll at least be cozy and warm.


Step Four: DIY Amenity Kits

While you’re at it, pack your own amenity kit with a toothbrush, paste, floss, deodorant, moisturizer, and socks. Being on a plane for 10+ hours can feel gross after a while. Not being able to brush your teeth or have some clean socks on?

There’s no need to give up on hygiene when you’re packed into a metal tube like a sardine. This simple 6-item amenity kit takes up practically no space in your carry-on bag, backpack, and purse. Yet, it makes all the difference in helping you stay fresh (and thus comfortable) on a long-haul economy class flight.


Flying coach doesn’t have to suck. All you need to make it a good experience is some comfortable clothes, a hygiene kit, and something to place under your feet so you can comfortably sleep at an angle. That being said, I’d like your input: What advice do you have for getting comfortable in economy class?

View Comments (8)


  1. kamaaina


    August 25, 2018 at 12:03 pm

    I’d add a pair of arm warmers, I’ll never fly without them.

    They take very little space, keep fore arms from getting chilled, are easily pulled off compared to a sweater.

  2. ilcannone

    August 26, 2018 at 1:16 am

    Point 1 is basically redundant because not everyone has the capacity to even contemplate paying more for a bit of comfort. If they did, they would surely book it beforehand anyway.

  3. redreeper


    August 26, 2018 at 4:48 am

    If you brought your own neck pillow slide the little pillow they provide you over your arm rest. Makes it cushy and keeps it from digging into your hip or side.

  4. Sweet Willie

    Sweet Willie

    August 26, 2018 at 8:04 am

    Cold temps your biggest pet peeve? Would you rather have sweating, smelly seatmates who can’t sleep due to temps they view as too hot? Easier for you to layer up

  5. eng3

    August 27, 2018 at 9:38 am

    Here are my tips:

    1. Although legroom is important to me, I think I find seat width more important. Maybe this is because I don’t like sleeping on my back and prefer my side or stomach. I find I can angle my hips a little and lean against the left or right arm rest so I’m turned to my side a little. By using the full width of the seat, it gives you slightly more room..

    2. Get a window seat, you can lean against the wall and aren’t bothered by people walking by the aisle or seatmates getting up to use to lav.

    3. Eyemask. Light is the number one factor affecting your internal sleep cycle

    4. Try to get an extra blanket and/or pillow to use as padding for those hard seats

    5. Don’t have a heavy meal right before. Not difficult eating food in the back

    6. Stay hydrated, otherwise when you wake up, you feel super dry

    7. This goes more to avoiding jet lag, start adjusting to your destination time zone as many days early as practical. Going to bed early/late, 1 – 2hrs a night. Get sunlight in the morning, avoid it in the evening according to the destination time zone. This is hard on an airplane because people tend to go to sleep and force the cabin dark after the meal service even if its a daytime flight.

  6. Xnuiem

    August 27, 2018 at 2:06 pm

    European airlines tend to keep the cabin too warm for this Texan. I change into a T-shirt and basketball shorts when on a long haul flight.

  7. All-Purpose Guru

    August 27, 2018 at 4:42 pm

    I’m not understanding point #2.

    Perhaps it would help to know what the “hard surface” you’re talking about *is*. Also, Ariana, (please don’t be offended) how tall are you?

    My wife is 5′ tall, and I’m 6’4″ so your procedure has gotta work for one of us.

    Are you leaning at an angle, with your feet on whatever it is you’ve put under your seat?

    Thanks for your help, always looking for a way to be more comfortable.

  8. pointchaser

    August 29, 2018 at 9:41 pm

    @ilcannone not necessarily. Paid upgrades can work out cheaper than booking a premium cabin outright.Turkish business is definitely not $300 more expensive than coach.

    @redkeeper don’t know how people do it but I cannot get comfortable with those neck pillows! It makes me lean forward/hunch my back, causing a whole other mess of pain.

    @Sweet Willie, finish reading the sentence. The thin blankets in cold cabins are what bugs me.

    @eng3 Interesting. Never tried sleeping on my side on a plane…

    @All-Purpose Guru Sorry about that. In my case, I stow my laptop bag under the seat and use that as a footrest. I’m 5’3 and doing this (plus sleeping at an angle) mimics a natural sleeping position much better than sitting upright.

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