First world problems

Soon there may be non-stop 19 hour flights from New York to Sydney, Australia:

On long-haul flights, cabin lights are typically dimmed about two hours after take-off and turned back up about two hours before landing, said Sveta Postnova, a senior lecturer in neurophysics and brain dynamics at the University of Sydney. Depending on the destination, that practice can make jet lag worse, she noted.

One of the test [19 hour] flights from New York will follow the normal pattern. But on the other flight, lights will stay on for about six or seven hours after departure. Researchers will compare passenger data from the two flights to determine whether the lighting change affected jet lag. Meal service will be aligned with the lighting, Ms. Postnova said.

Light plays a key role in regulating sleep, but “recently we are learning that meals, exercise and other environmental factors also affect our body clock,” Ms. Postnova said. A big unknown for air travel is how to schedule lighting, meals and exercise to minimize jet lag.

Here is the WSJ article.  My preference is for them to keep the lights on, and the windows open, for much longer than is currently the case.  Eyemasks are cheap and underused.

Also, it may be my imagination, but anecdotally I observe that screen viewing has (additionally) replaced reading to an extraordinary extent even in just the last five years.  True?


Whatever happened to looking out the window? It’s all I ever want to do.

lol, when I read "windows open," I was thinking, golly, which flights leave the windows open? Wouldn't a little fresh air be nice.

Oh, duh. window SHADES...

On long flights it isn't about the jet lag it is about the boredom and the uncomfortable accommodations. If I can sleep through most of it I can deal with the post flight issues.

True. But 10 years ago it was typical to have a rather limited selection of movies on your screen. The long haul airline I fly for has an inflight entertainment system with over a thousand movies and shows, large music collection of all genres and languages. Live sporting events. Games, language lessons etc. and of course internet.

Though I do wish they would upgrade Kasparov Chess to a higher level, to make it harder to beat. Even at the top level I have no problem winning all of my games. Recently however in some B-777 plane that had more modern computer software and hardware for the in-flight entertainment, I did lose a few games, which was a welcome challenge.

" neurophysics and brain dynamics"

What happened to econophysics? Did that ever go anywhere or did it become the econ version of string theory?

'I observe that screen viewing has (additionally) replaced reading'

Which makes one wonder how much reading is done on screens at this point, or are we slowly starting to enter part of Gibson's future?

Having a bad day? Or are you drinking and posting? That was rather belligerent.

That was weird. "Jet lag from a flight to the other side of the world" is a very small problem compared to the challenges that much of the world's population face, and it's also a problem that stems from being in a very privileged position (able to afford an extravagant amount of travel). This is what "first world problems" means...what part of that do you disagree with?

I find the routine depends on the length of the flight and which direction I'm flying. Going east, I generally like to sleep more so that when I arrive in Europe, say, in the morning or midday, I am better able to stay awake until the new local bed time. But if I arrive later in the afternoon (from the West Coast, for example), then I can sleep less on the plane. I find it very important to get onto the local schedule immediately for things like meals, and avoid taking a nap on arrival day. Then I get up early on the next day, perhaps 7 am, plus or minus. This has all worked well for me, allowing me to be about 85-90% of the way to being on local time by the day after arrival.

I find that sleeping a few hours on an overnight flight to Europe (from the east side of the U.S.) leaves me fully aligned to the new time zone. No problems at all. Jet lag? What's that? But I haven't figured out anything that works well for me coming back.

Europe must be easier. But Asia can be a struggle with 12+ hour time difference.

Screen viewing is better than browsing that Sky Mall catalog in front of every seat. A completely unnecessary collection of half-baked products that looks good at first but doesn't survive scrutiny when you think about it for more than 3 seconds.

Sky Mall went bankrupt 4 years ago and was resurrected as a website only.

Sky Mall went bankrupt 4 years ago

Which made me sad. Of course I never bought anything, but it was always good for a few minutes of amusement.

Among my favorite Sky Mall products were the Big Foot yard art and the pressure jackets for dogs to treat their anxiety. I am sad the magazine went under.

Then just save up some Sharper Image catalogs and take them along for the flight. Or those Dr. Smith pet supply tomes

2 Int'l flights last month:

80% of travellers glued to screens, 15% asleep, 5% reading.

One guy walking up and down the aisles?

If everyone's watching a screen anyway, what does it matter if the airline dims the cabin lights or closes the window shades? What's the purpose of the experiment, in that case?

I don’t understand — surely some of those “glued to the screen” are reading? Or does this specifically refer to the built in aeroplane screens?

I assume that a Kindle counts as reading. But, what about a phone with a book pulled up?

I suspect that jet lag is mostly the result of dehydration. Frequent flyers such as Cowen know that avoiding dehydration is the key to avoiding a bad case of jet lag. Maybe Cowen will share with his readers how he avoids dehydration. [Sure, mother's advice to drink lots of water is great advice, but if we always followed mother's great advice we would stay home.]

Avoiding dehydration is simple: Do NOT drink like a modern office drone (in sips). Drink like a modern infantryman - guzzle a liter of WATER after a every meal or long sleep. You'll be good for hours in an airplane.

Yeah, you may have to get up and pee more. Deal with it.

File under "There is No Great Stagnation"..? Although the two aircraft Qantas is considering for 'Project Sunrise' do not exist yet -- Boeing has pushed back development of the 777X and Airbus hasn't yet introduced the A350-1000ULR ('ultra long range').

Of course Qantas already flies Perth - London and is launching Brisbane - Chicago using existing aircraft. Neither is the longest flight in the world.

The longest flight today is Newark - Singapore. Singapore Airlines operated this 2004 - 2013 operated uneconomically with a flying gas can. They re-launched it last year with new more fuel efficient aircraft. It is 9534 miles. Sydney - New York JFK is just 416 miles longer than this. (Sydney - London Heathrow is 1000 miles farther still.)

Regarding turning the lights out bear in mind that they're subduing passengers and keeping them more docile...

"the two aircraft Qantas is considering for 'Project Sunrise' do not exist yet"

I suspect it's a bit chicken and egg: until the airlines verify that they can make such long flights work operationally and financially, and are ready to pre-commit to some orders, Boeing and Airbus aren't going to commit to the necessary investment in new aircraft

If there are means to regulate sleep well without the use of strong drug, then that's kind of not exactly a first world problem, since poor adaptation to changes in day length / low coincidence of modern life's patterns with natural sleep cycles is probably a cause of significant ill health.

(Hey, this is one instance where I'm actually willing to wish jet setting elites well in finding an answer!).

I'm surprised they have experimented with light on caged rats in the aircraft cabin first, instead of passengers, but probably there is no difference.

I would be more concerned about the alertness of the person flying the plane than a drowsy passenger on long haul flights.

lemme guess... if they make the seats just a little bit smaller....

When might we expect to begin seeing steep annual declines in the numbers of global commercial air passengers?

As data accumulate, "ozone taxes" or some kind of discouragement will (need to) be implemented to curtail even more extensive damage.

This means that in due course air travel will be restricted to military aircraft and to the "really important" people in government and business (which means academics, pop musicians, and other entertainment specialists will have to rely on ground- and sea-transport).

"Death to convenience" is ready to become a global motto, since it is our conveniences that have begun to demonstrate their lethal capabilities.

Climate austerity will be every bit as unpopular as fiscal austerity. You can't even get people to dial down the air conditioning or drive a little slower or eat less meat.

Current passenger aircraft don't have much effect on the ozone layer as they fly below it. Higher altitude supersonic aircraft could be a risk.

CO2 emissions are a problem, but they can be captured from the atmosphere and sequestered or CO2 neutral fuel could be used.

"One of the test [19 hour] flights from New York will follow the normal pattern. But on the other flight, lights will stay on for about six or seven hours after departure."

Perhaps I'm unique, but I find my experience of jet lag on west to east flights is brutal while east to west is absolutely easy.

I find the constant lights on lights off on international, particularly over night flights akin to sleep deprivation torture. Turn the lights off, give everyone a vodka and a Xanax. Keep the crappy food. No jet lag.

WHY cannot they STACK us in horizontal modules that take the same space but let us LAY flat, for God's sakes? If I could simply lay flat I could sleep - that's what you get in business and first, and it's a god send.

It takes much more space.

I have been flying, mainly business class, for the past 30 years and have definitely seen a strong drop in anyone actually reading print materials..
when awake, the passengers generally play games, watch movies or TV live, our just stare into space. This was not at all true in the past-not at all. Passengers generally read business mags, popular novels or business best sellers. and once in a while history or biographies...

"First World Problems"? Not something I would have expected from you. Are dwellers in "developing" nations immune to jet lag? Do people still fall into immiscible categories even when 30,000 feet up? Are the stewardesses'* time and talent being misapplied in some way? Do you wish we in the West could rewind the clock and have the problems that remain unsolved in the Third World? Do you not like our problems and wish we had different ones? Why?

You can tell from my reflexive use of stewardess over "flight attendant" that I haven't been on a plane in nearly 30 years - so for all I know, this might as well be a Third World problem as a First.

How often do residents of Third World countries take transcontinental flights? Especially if we exclude expatriates and the local elites who are living First World lifestyles?

Even within the US, international travel not surprisingly made it onto the list of "Stuff White People Like":

Why would you exclude local elites, unless you also exclude the non-elite of the "First World"? In which case you don't need that stupid framing at all - unless you really believe that the world would be better off with a great reset, whereby people in a midsize American city no longer enjoy, say, clean water and sanitation?

We can make that happen. It would be so, so easy. The hackneyed, unthinking use of the phrase "First World Problems" is a good start.

On my last flight I binged Akira, then Captain Marvel, then played Plants vs Zombies. It made time in an uncomfortable seat pass.

If you ever see a gray haired guy who can't quit Plants vs Zombies as the plane lands, say hi.

By the way, I support Greta Thunberg's ocean crossing. I'm sure it's a great experience. Everyone should do it at least one. I've never crossed an ocean, yet. My longest haul was Mexico to San Francisco. It was a bit rough. 40 kts of wind and 12ft seas. 4 hrs on, 4 hrs off. Puts life in perspective.

By that I mean it's actually fun to be on the helm in those conditions at midnight.

WKPD: "The airline had installed special lockers on the aircraft to store the corpses of any passengers that died en route, since the flight's routing over the Pacific Ocean and the North Pole meant that there were few, if any, possible unscheduled stops."

At least they didn't opt for 'burial at sea'.

Good engineering would allow the galley fridge to convert to a morgue. Of course, you have to move all the food out first. Thus an in-flght death is always immediately followed by meal service.

I prefer private jets with my name on them, as I am able to sleep better.

I don't know what all you folks are complaining about.

I think windows down is more to prevent screen glare than to facilitate sleep. I think the battle for open windows is a loosing one since airlines have stopped handing out sleep masks and started handing out tablets.

True, and just as true of coffee shops in major cities.

Almost no reading -- last week on my JFK to London flight, I was the only one reading in my area. Wife wanted me to watch something, and turn out the light. Reading is now, relatively, embarrassing.

Keeping the lights on longer would be better for those of us who want to read.

If Qantas optimize the meals, lights etc. on these flights as well as they (and their competitors) do on their US to Australia flights, it's going to be a fiasco.

The US-Australia flights all leave LAX/SFO between 10:30 pm and midnight. Remembering this is a 13-14 hour flight, you ought to be able to get a solid stretch of sleep, which you need since you arrive in Australia at 6 or 7 am, meaning you want to stay awake all day if possible. But when you're body clock is telling you it's one or two or three am depending on where in the US you've started your day, they want to spend two hours giving out drinks and then feeding you a heavy dinner! (A great thing about business class on that route is that you can go to sleep and have them save your "dinner" until you wake up).

The only thing worse is the return flight, which leaves Australia about lunch time. By the time you're ready to sleep you're almost in LA where you arrive bright and early, meaning you spend your first day in the US fighting a desperate urge to sleep. My wife and I now fly back to the US via stops in Asia and Europe. Travelling west definitely helps with the jet lag.

Do Kindles count as screens? I'm trying to gauge my level of contempt for them.

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