Top tips for stress-free flying

Stuart Watkins looks at some of the best toys and gadgets on the market to help make flying enjoyable again.


The Co50 Valkyrie is now available for pre-order

Flights can be a tiresome and tiring experience. But it doesn't have to be that way. Why not book aboard a private jet instead? Or buy your own?

On an average day, Luton airport's main terminal processes more than 30,000 passengers with the efficiency and warmth of an industrial abattoir, says Simon Usborne in the FT. But just yards away, at the private jet terminal, the first officers personally greet their passengers both of them with a warm handshake: in fact, the whole experience of going private is "ridiculously stress-free".

You might think that flying by private jet is the preserve of the 1%, but you'd be wrong more like the 0.1%. Buying a jet would set you back millions. Chartering one could be tens of thousands. But that is changing with the introduction of smartphone apps and sharing clubs that allow you to book spare seats on flights (see below for more details).

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Such apps threaten to disrupt the private-jet chartering business. Others hope to disrupt jet ownership. French aerospace engineer David Loury, the CEO and founder of Cobalt Aircraft, has for ten years been trying to change the face of the private-aircraft market with a new category of light planes that are "design-centric, fast, easy to fly and very safe", says Alex Doak in Wired magazine. They're bordering on the affordable too. The Co50 Valkyrie (picturedabove), which is now available for pre-order in the US, has a range of 2,656km and seats five including the pilot. It could be yours for just $595,000.

For those of you still joining that queue at the abattoir, you might be forgiven for wanting some escape. In the early days of commercial flight, people would dress up for the occasion and marvel at the whole experience. Nowadays, we would rather just screen it and everyone around us off and pretend we're not flying at all, says The Economist's Gulliver blog. Doing that just got easier.

A French start-up called SkyLights has produced a virtual-reality headset with noise-cancelling headphones that envelops travellers in a cinematic world. In mid-December of last year, XL Airways, a French low-cost carrier, became the first to offer SkyLights to flyers for $16 a flight.

You could blank it all out the old-fashioned way by getting some shut-eye, but on long-haul flights that can be easier said than done, says GQ magazine. If possible, opt to fly on a Boeing 787. It uses higher air pressure to boost levels of oxygen in your blood, improving comfort. Set your watch to the arrival time zone while on the plane to help focus your mind on the need to get some rest, and resist the flight's film selection: consider reading and a mild sedative instead to help you sleep. Also, make use of the sleep mask and ear plugs and use your travel pillow, rotated to the front, for a nod-free flight. (Alternatively, take your own classier versions see below.)

Also, make sure you pick the right seat, says Mark Ellwood on Bloomberg. If you're on the sunny side of a long-haul flight, you'll have to keep the window shut to avoid disrupting passengers trying to sleep. Get a seat on the other side if you enjoy the views. Put your flight details into to get an idea of where the sun will be during your flight.

Finally, make sure you check the regulations on the website of your airline before you fly to avoid headaches at check-in, says Kristen Hall-Geisler on the How Stuff Works Adventure website. It's also a good idea to take your own travel kit with you a few ideas are pictured below.


Book a private jet for £100

A new breed of smartphone apps is competing to become the "luxury Uber of the skies", says Simon Usborne in the Financial Times, and the competition is bringing prices down dramatically. Usborne flew aboard a six-seater Citation CJ3 plane, a second-hand version of which would set you back several million pounds to buy and much more to operate.

To charter it for a return trip to Geneva could set you back £10,000, if not more. But book with a smartphone app, such as JetSmarter, and a spare seat on a flight to Geneva could be had on a private jet for as little as £100 each way (there is, however, a $10,000 annual fee and a $5,000 joining fee).

Other apps for private flights include PrivateFly, Victor, Lunajets and Stratajet. Private Jet Club UKoffers a similar service: it facilitates the sharing of flights on private jets to and from the UK, Ireland and Europe, for an annual membership fee of £248 and a booking fee of £100 for every seat.

Stuart Watkins

Stuart graduated from the University of Leeds with an honours degree in biochemistry and molecular biology, and from Bath Spa University College with a postgraduate diploma in creative writing. 

He started his career in journalism working on newspapers and magazines for the medical profession before joining MoneyWeek shortly after its first issue appeared in November 2000. He has worked for the magazine ever since, and is now the comment editor. 

He has long had an interest in political economy and philosophy and writes occasional think pieces on this theme for the magazine, as well as a weekly round up of the best blogs in finance. 

His work has appeared in The Lancet and The Idler and in numerous other small-press and online publications.