How I beat jet lag

Ashwini Phadnis | Updated on November 08, 2019 Published on November 08, 2019

Comfort ride: The new Polaris business class of the United Airlines offers a small locker at your seat where you can store your phone and passport   -  BLOOMBERG

Our correspondent flew long-haul from Delhi to New York and back, to test a few tips on ways to beat jet lag

After flying over 24,000 km between India and the US (and back) in 93 hours or 3.87 days, I still live to tell the tale.

Aisle seat 9K on United flight UA 82 was my bed, seat and workplace for the 15 hours and 20 minutes non-stop Boeing flight connecting Delhi to the Newark Liberty Airport in New York. Besides the thrill of going on such a long flight after four years, I thought it would also be a good opportunity to check if all the advice I’d been given on ways to beat jet lag — some scientific, some not — actually worked.

I’d faithfully followed all the tips before the flight — slept for two hours in the afternoon and, after clearing all the formalities at the airport, walked through the duty-free area to exercise the limbs and keep the blood circulating.

Not everything, however, went according to script. I had been advised to have light meals on long-haul flights. But I made the mistake of asking for lamb — and got four huge pieces with mashed potatoes, a salad and bread. Just one piece of lamb would have made my meal back home. I did, however, follow the other bit of advice — I avoided alcohol to prevent dehydration and focused instead on juices and tea.

My co-passenger, an Indian settled in the US, told me that this was the old business class. By then, slightly tired after all that walking up and down, I was glad that I at least had a full flat bed to help see me through the next 15 hours or so of flying. I overlooked the fact that every time my co-passenger at the window seat wanted to stretch her limbs or visit the washroom, she had to jump over me.

I slept fitfully for about two hours and did some inflight viewing for another two hours. My pilot friends and sleep doctor had urged me to shift my body clock to my final destination as early as possible. It was night in the US, and I started feeling tired to keep myself in sync with the American clock.

Having been advised to walk up and down the aisle, I did so, especially since I didn’t have to jump over anyone to get to the galley. The ever-helpful attendants wanted to bring my tea to my seat. No, thank you, I replied. I was going to fetch it myself — and warned them that I would come back for more.

But I was soon about to flout a rule I had already broken once. I was simply unable to avoid heavy food! Breakfast arrived about 90 minutes before touchdown. I waded through an omelette, fruits, bread and curd, and waited for the plane to land.

As soon as the aircraft’s doors opened, I charged out to the immigration area as my connecting flight to Chicago would leave in just 90 minutes; I had to clear immigration, customs and then recheck my bags. I was in for a surprise. I was the lone person in the immigration queue. I made a mental note to book future trips and connections through Newark Liberty instead of JFK, if there was a choice. Just 35 minutes after landing in the US, I had boarded my next flight.

I made myself comfortable and, yes, tucked into another breakfast of eggs, fresh fruits and panini washed down with orange juice. The panini was so huge that, despite my best efforts, I couldn’t finish it. Why do airlines give such large helpings? I also wondered why I didn’t refuse the meal. I don’t know if there’s been any research to support this, but flying does make people hungry. I was famished!

We touched down at O’Hare Airport almost 16 minutes before our scheduled arrival time. I thought after over 17 hours of travel, I would be able to spend some time soaking in the sun, which I was told was the best way to beat jet lag. But no such luck.

I was with a group of journalists invited to meet the airline’s officials in their hometown Chicago for an update on the company’s future strategy, and latest customer innovations. I spent the next 48 hours on the ground discussing airline seats, rebranding, uniforms of in-flight crews, meals on board, and how the airline helped the environment. And soon, it was time to head back.

We boarded and I was welcomed to the new Polaris business class, complete with a small locker at your seat where you could store your phone, passport and so on. Only aisle seats here, which meant no one jumped over me, and I leapt over no one either. I walked up and down to keep the blood circulating.

But before that? You’ve guessed it. A short while after takeoff we were served dinner. I was a little confused — why were we being served dinner when we had taken off at 6.30 am? But then it was night in Delhi, so I dutifully finished my meal.

I made it a point to stay up for another three hours so that I could time my nap with my Sunday afternoon siesta. This worked like magic. I slept like a baby, tucked in my duvet on my Saks 5th Avenue pillow, for close to four hours. I forced myself to wake up so that I could set my body clock to Delhi time. I brushed my teeth, walked down the aisle and made regular trips to the galley for juice and water.

About 90 minutes before reaching Delhi, we were served breakfast. By then I had stopped questioning the logic of airlines. Perhaps my flight was jet-lagged!

The day after landing, I was back in action. No jet lag, nothing. The advice worked. And I was happy that I was once again eating at regular meal times, one lamb chop at a time!

(This correspondent was in Chicago at the invitation of United Airlines)

Published on November 08, 2019
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