Eight secrets to flying comfortably revealed by cabin crew

Staff from UAE airlines share tips for travel bliss: stay warm, moisturise and don't forget chamomile tea

Camile Barcenas, a cabin crew member at Etihad Airways, is one of 10 seasoned fliers who share their advice with The National. Photo: Etihad Airways
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We all have our little traditions and habits while flying. Perhaps you like to bring your favourite sweets from home, take off your shoes and slip on a pair of socks, or maybe you’re a neck pillow kind of person.

Whatever you do, there’s always a way to make travelling even more comfortable. Here, The National asks cabin crew from Etihad Airways and Wizz Air Abu Dhabi to share what they do on board to ensure a peaceful journey – in case you feel inspired for your next trip.

Stay warm and wear loose clothes

Michelangelo Cerrato, line trainer of senior cabin crew at Wizz Air, takes a change of clothes on board. “I personally always like to dress up for the flights but once on board I usually change into my black pyjamas,” he tells The National.

Lieche Klaasens, a South African cabin crew member with Etihad, says: “I recommend wearing comfortable, loose and breathable clothes to relax in."

Cerrato also carries an extra hoodie as temperatures on aircraft are kept cooler for medical reasons, he says. People faint more often while flying due to hypoxia, which happens when body tissue doesn't get enough oxygen. It is a condition exacerbated by high cabin pressure and warm temperatures. Cooler air can also help people prone to motion sickness.

Etihad steward George Perte, from Romania, makes staying warm a priority, too. “I always take an extra blanket with me,” he says.

Erin Gibson, who also works for Etihad, does the same. “I like to put my hair up with a silk scrunchie, put some socks on and use an eye mask and blanket,” she says.

Creature comforts are key

Klaasens books a window seat when possible “as it provides something solid to lean against”, she says. “If you find it difficult to sleep, use sleeping aids like eye masks,” she adds. Etihad provides these on long-haul flights.

Cerrato also advises making use of eye masks and earplugs “to make sure you get uninterrupted rest”. Neck pillows are also a great addition to your in-flight sleep kit, he says.

Etihad crew Tahir Irani, from India, has a more ingenious solution, saying: “I also use lavender essential oil on my eye shade and I doze off in no time.”

Drink chamomile tea and bring snacks

It’s well known that flying can dehydrate passengers. The Aerospace Medical Association recommends drinking about 250ml of water per hour while on a plane, and seasoned fliers prioritise their hydration.

Filipina Camile Barcenas, who works for Etihad, sips chamomile tea and it also helps her fall asleep, she says. Perte and Irani also suggest chamomile tea as a soothing sleep aid.

Barcenas advises taking a reusable water bottle, “which always comes in handy”.

Valdene Van Graan, another South African cabin crew member with Etihad, avoids or limits caffeine intake before flying – as coffee or tea are diuretics (increases urine production) exacerbating dehydration – and makes sure to drink plenty of water throughout the flight. “My packing tips: bring an eye mask, charger, book to read and some snacks,” she adds.

Etihad crew Ecaterina Dmitrenco, also from Romania, takes her favourite snack – gummy bears – along for the journey, and she enjoys them while watching a movie.

“I try to eat healthy food and stay hydrated,” says Andrea Gigli, an Italian crew member with Etihad, who likes to be well-rested on board. “This keeps me strong and focused.”

Curate your toiletries

The lack of humidity at 35,000 feet means the air gets dry on board and so can your skin, so crew members frequently moisturise. Perte recommends applying cream before the flight.

“I never travel without my hand cream and face cream,” says Gigli. “These basic skincare products can really make the difference on the flights.”

Muhammed Said, a Turkish flight attendant with Etihad, takes it a few steps further. “I bring travel-sized items, including foaming gel, a face mask and, of course, vitamin C serum to stay hydrated after flying,” he says. “Sunscreen and SPF are also important to pack, too.”

Cerrato advises taking lip balm and hand lotion to counteract the dryness, but also toothpaste and a toothbrush “to feel fresh after a meal or waking up”, and deodorant, “particularly for long flights or long waits”.

Keep moving

Perte hits the gym before any flight, so he can be tired and ready to sleep.

Many others keep moving while on board. “Get up from the seat and walk around as it will help with blood circulation and your feet won’t get swollen,” says Irani.

Klaasens agrees. “Stretch by taking walks around the cabin,” she says.

Gibson, who is from the UK, also advises stretching your legs when you can, while Van Graan says keeping good posture will help keep you comfortable in the long run.

Invest in noise-cancelling headphones

“If you’re a light sleeper like me, then noise-cancelling headphones are one of the best investments,” says Irani. He likes to put them on and connect to in-flight entertainment so he can listen to meditating music and audiobooks, which, he says, “works like a charm” to help him nod off.

Dmitrenco brings along her noise-cancelling ear pods to listen to classical or relaxing music while resting or taking a nap. “I also love to watch a good movie or TV series that is really entertaining and helps to pass the time," she says.

Turn off the screens

It’s easy to turn your attention to the back of the seat in front of you and switch on an episode of Friends or one of the latest blockbusters, but many of Etihad’s cabin crew members avoid screens – if only to get better sleep.

“Read your favourite book, which will help you feel more tired and have a nap on board,” says Gibson.

Klaasens and Van Graan also recommend books over screens.

Barcenas, meanwhile, tends to pack a book she’s been meaning to finish for a while. But she doesn’t avoid screens altogether. “I download some shows and games on Netflix,” she adds.

Be nice to the crew

Arguably the most important tip comes from Cerrato, who says keeping a smile on your face “works wonders on everyone around you”.

“I always bring some sweets for the crew because having a big smile on their faces just makes it the most comfortable journey,” he adds.

“It’s not about the destination, but the journey."

Updated: September 29, 2023, 5:50 AM