A small cadre of travel journalists and bloggers was invited to take part on the 19.5-hour nonstop from New York to Sydney on Friday. I’m chuckling at how seriously some of them took it.
Angus Whitley of Forbes flew all the way from Sydney to New York via Los Angeles to take the flight. His review is entitled, “I Just Took The World’s First 20-Hour Flight. Here’s What It Did to Me.” As far as click-bait goes, I’ve been guilty of far worse.
He leads off his story with words like “endured” and “demanding”:
I’ve just endured the world’s newest longest flight, a 16,200 kilometer (10,100 mile), nonstop ultra-marathon from New York to Sydney. It took about 19 and a half hours, and was almost as demanding as that sounds.
How demanding, you might ask?
Well, everyone onboard flew business class.
The plane’s 40 passengers, including media, are all in business class: With so few passengers, nobody needs to travel economy.
What a lovely dilemma!
The six human guinea pigs at the heart of the research are seated on one side of the cabin. I want to do my own set of tests to see how my body is holding up.
After speaking to a travel doctor in Sydney before the trip, I’m armed with equipment to monitor my blood pressure, heart rate and oxygen-saturation levels. I’ve also got a memory test and a mood questionnaire. I want to see if a flight this long impairs my brain or dims my spirits.
I’ve done a trio of economy class trips over 17 hours this year. Is the extra three hours really going to be a dealbreaker, especially when you have a lie-flat bed? Isn’t tracking blood pressure, heart rate, and oxygen-saturation levels a little overdramatic when you are in business class?
The three-hourly tests I take during the first half of the flight reflect the demands of this trip. My blood pressure is elevated, though not high, and my heart rate picking up. My mood is light, though darkening very gradually.
I’m so sorry your mood is darkening as the chef prepares a beautiful meal for you!
But it’s exercise time!
Marie Carroll, a professor at the University of Sydney who’s overseeing the passenger research on the flight, rallies her troops at the back of the plane. “This is the time, guys, when we really have to work through this,” she tells them. Moments later, they’re leaning against the food trolleys in the galley, stretching. Next, they perform upright press-ups among the empty economy sets. As a finale, they attempt synchronized dance moves in the aisles. All in the name of science.
All in the name of science…
I once did a mileage run from LAX-HNL-SFO-SYD-SFO-HNL-LAX ($551) without any stopovers between flights. The San Francisco to Sydney to San Francisco flights were both in economy class!
Somehow I “survived” and those 747s did not have in-seat power, wi-fi, or even individuals TV screens.
I would have loved to have been part of that flight. Perhaps subtle envy has played a role in my gentle criticism. But please, a business class seat for 19.5 hours is very manageable. The true guinea pigs will be the ones who fly in a middle seat in economy class on the 20-hour London to Sydney flight. Where do I sign up to volunteer?
Adventures in deep-vein-thrombosis undoubtedly await…
On a serious note, kudos to Mr. Whitley for an entertaining read and for surviving the historic journey.
Photo of Qantas CEO Alan Joyce by James D Morgan/Qantas