1040 Minutes: a 17+ hour diary on the world's longest flight

by - Saturday, November 26, 2016

currently: listening to 'All We Know' by The Chainsmokers and Phoebe Ryan



On October 11th, 9.20pm, I left Auckland, New Zealand to travel on what is the world's longest long-haul flight. Emirates currently has the longest non-stop flight duration from Auckland to Dubai - a journey that takes approximately 17 hours and 20 minutes. (This will soon be surpassed by Qatar's newly announced flight from Auckland to Doha by an extra 20 minutes next year.)

That 17-hour 20-minute flight equates to exactly 1040 minutes - 400 minutes short of a full 24 hours. Essentially I was in the same confined space for two-thirds of a day, with very little room to walk about, and few activities to do than the ones on a screen in front of me.

The following 17 hours are an account of what I did on the world's longest long-haul flight.

Hour 0: The New Zealand time is 9.20pm. It's late, it's dark, and I'm full of Pita Pit that I had at Auckland Airport two hours before. I'm wearing my chunkiest clothing and shoes because there's no way I was going to be able to fit it in my small checked-in luggage.I feel slightly overdressed with my leather jacket and boots, but they'll come off as soon as the seatbelt sign is off. Our "couple seats" are near the back and it's nice to be sitting in a row of two - but quite frankly this plane is half empty. To my right, a woman has a complete row of four seats to herself. In front, one woman occupies the three seats to herself. Unfortunately, there is someone sitting behind me, but you can't win them all...

Hour 1: Food! And despite it being 10pm, this is a decent sized dinner meal, complete with dessert, tiny Tic Tacs, and a mini-crackers with dip snack set. This is actually a lot of food, and I know I don't have to eat it all... but then again, I have to eat it all. I paid for this flight. And I don't want to waste food...
For this flight, they've also given us this little gift bag of toiletries, complete with a tiny toothbrush with toothpaste, a pair of socks, and an eye mask. I'm now glad I didn't spend money on any of these things. That eye-mask is gonna get a lot of use...

Hour 2: Eating dinner and then aeroplane second dinner is a bit too much - but I've eaten everything, except the packet of tiny Tic Tacs. They're coming by with the tea and coffee now - but I'm picking wine as I watch Allegiant, in hopes I'll relax enough to fall asleep.

Hour 3: Finished watching Allegiant, and I'm pretty sure I've missed the film in the middle of the Divergent series... But anyway, I feel the need to brush my teeth after all I've eaten so I can properly fall asleep. It's a nice touch in the cabins when they dim the light and little tiny LEDs on the ceiling look like stars. I'm sure I could also look out the window for them but it's still a nice feel.

Hour 4: At some point, I fell asleep to 'Hunt of the Wilderpeople'. Great movie to watch despite me falling asleep through it (I happened to have watched it the week before). But the now-playing audio of some loud British lady called Jo talking about her two children didn't keep me asleep for long... What is appropriate sleep music? After flicking through the plane's music catalogue I'm settling on 'The Fault in Our Stars' soundtrack - because anything that starts with an inspirational and relaxing Ed Sheeran pop ballad is bound to work.

Hour 6: Good soundtrack, crap sleeping position. My body aches a lot, but as soon as I stretch, I stop feeling as sleepy. Also, this gentle turbulence feels like I'm being passive aggressively shaken while I sleep. The woman next to me in the other row is basically sleeping across all four seats like it's a bed. I envy her.

Hour 8: To my head, it's 5am, and I felt I was finally in a deep enough sleep but my friend wakes me up as an attendant gives me a small lamb pie on a tray. And for 30 seconds, I legitimately don't know what's going on or where I am before I wake up to my senses, and to this meat pie smell. Not sure how I feel about 5am breakfast pies. And I don't know when was the last time I got up, but my feet have never felt so fat. I want to walk to the bathroom with my shoes on too, but did my shoes ever feel this tight? Time to watch another movie, and because I've never watched Mamma Mia before... may as well tick that off the list.

Hour 9: So wait, you never know who Sophie's father is?

Hour 12: Actually fell asleep for more than 1 1/2 hours this time. The lamb/beef pie I ate and the movie I just watched gave me some weird dreams. I can't actually recall what exactly happened but I think it involved a wedding on camels in the middle of the desert...

Hour 14: It's 11am NZ time I think, but we're having breakfast now. I'm actually really hungry, despite how that breakfast pie made me feel. What's funny is that we've been travelling through the night for so long that there's really no sense of time. Just permanent darkness out the windows. I'm going through my fourth movie now, a Tina Fey 'Whiskey Tango Foxtrot'. And while it stars Tina Fey, turns out not all Tina Fey movies are ROTFLMAO-sized comedies. However, I really rate the use of Martin Freeman.

Hour 16: We're getting close to landing soon, and while it doesn't exactly feel we've been in the air for hours, we really have. My body aches. The queue to go to the bathroom is pretty long. Thankfully, no one is too weirded out by me lifting my legs and stretching while I wait in the line. However, I still envy the woman who had four seats to herself. She's still asleep.

Hour 17: It's here. It's finally here. My feet don't feel like my feet anymore, and I don't know what it's like to lie horizontally, but we're almost seeing the sun again, and will soon see the tarmac. I'm excited, and tired, and have no idea what the plane cameras are even broadcasting on the services channel. Maybe I'll get what sleep I can.

Hour 17, minute 16: Every few minutes of sleep while flying have been precious but we're finally on the ground, and my body is weak to staying awake. However, the excitement of a new country, a new journey, and another 7-hour flight to get to London is still an unbelievable dream. I've actually really enjoyed this flight, despite my feelings towards tiny lamb/beef breakfast pies when you're barely awake. The food has been pretty decent, the service has been nice. The toiletries bag with the eye mask is now my new favourite thing and I'm totally making use of it for my next flight. But if I could change one thing, it would be the ability to have a row to myself. Half-packed airline flights are my new favourite I think.

Next stop: London.

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