Travel News

An Air NZ pilot shares her expert tips on how to make long-haul travel a breeze

Penny Lewis asks Air New Zealand pilot Alison Whyte how to beat jet-lag and make long-haul travel just that little bit easier.

By Penny Lewis
Alison Whyte is a Second Officer on Air New Zealand's Boeing 777 fleet, flying to North America, the Pacific Islands and London. She lives in Palmerston North with her husband and their three young children, and commutes to Auckland for work.
What are your tips for combating jet lag?
I have a strict routine. As soon as I arrive at my hotel, I sleep for three hours maximum, which keeps me going until a reasonable bedtime hour. The first night at my destination, I don't let myself go to bed before 8.30pm.
As a pilot, I generally don't really suffer from jet lag as I make an effort to keep my body on New Zealand time during layovers. In the US, I'll go to bed at 2am (9pm NZ time) and wake up at midday (7am NZ time). This approach works for me and is what my body clock is used to.
Adjusting to the 12-hour time difference in London is more difficult. I nap when I arrive, but I keep to my three hours' limit and set two alarms or I will sleep the whole day. Once I'm awake, I get out into the fresh air and go for a walk. I make plans to keep myself busy during the day, taking in a museum, a tour or a spot of shopping. If I wake up in the middle of the night, I try to read myself back to sleep.
How do you keep your energy levels up?
I'm naturally a big sleeper, so it is important to try to catch up on any lack of sleep. I also try to make good food choices when I'm away. I stay away from sugary foods and drinks, and drink at least two litres of water a day. I work out most days, whether that's a cardio session at the gym or a walk in the outdoors. I'm an active person, so that helps with my wellbeing.
Ready for take off! Air New Zealand pilot Alison has bigger commutes than most young mums.
Are there any special ways you avoid getting coughs and colds?
If I feel a cold coming on, I'll take a nap at some point through the day and try to listen to my body. In general, I eat a balanced diet and I like to get plenty of sleep. I also keep pretty fit, am health-conscious and use hand sanitiser.
What meals do you eat on the plane – are they the same as what the passengers eat?
We eat the same meals that the passengers eat and if we have dietary requests, we can order a special meal.
Do you have a staff loo?
We use the same toilets as our customers. We have a designated crew rest area above the Business Premier cabin with two bunks and chairs so we can catch up on sleep in our downtime.
When you travel as a passenger, what do you like to do on long-haul flights?
I like to move around and stretch my legs regularly. I make an effort to stay hydrated and get as much sleep as possible. Alcohol has a bigger impact on your body in the air than on the ground, so I'm careful around my alcohol intake.
Window seat or aisle seat?
I prefer the window seat because I find it easier to sleep – nobody has to get past you and you won't get bumped by travellers moving up and down the aisle.
What should everyone carry in their cabin bag?
Bring your water bottle and fill it up prior to boarding. I recommend stocking your cabin bag with lip balm, eye drops, hand sanitiser, a spritz face spray and a good hand cream, along with a light-weight scarf and comfortable socks. Ear plugs and an eye mask are essential to maximise sleep. The cabin can sometimes be cool, so I wear a few light layers and pick natural fibres like cotton, merino or linen so my skin can breathe.
What advice would you give to someone who's a bit relaxed about getting travel insurance?
I always recommend travel insurance – you never know when you will need it. A friend of mine got strep throat in America and the doctor's appointment plus a prescription was about $600.
What is your ultimate holiday?
I would love to take my family to Singapore – it's a fascinating destination that's easy to get around and explore using public transport. It's easy to communicate too, as English is the most spoken language.
Sentosa Island has a lot of fun activity parks for kids, and the food and shopping are great. From Singapore, it's also easy to explore other parts of Asia. Malaysia is a short flight away. A dream would be to travel to the Maldives (without the kids!) It looks so beautiful.

Woman's Day Health Editor Penny Lewis' top 3 travel tips

  • Always wear knee-high compression socks for long-haul flights. They're not cheap, but they help increase blood circulation and reduce the risk of deep-vein thrombosis. Also, they'll lessen the chance of your feet and ankles swelling up.
  • Remember to notify the airline of any dietary requirements when you purchase your flights. It's too late to mention you're coeliac once you're on board ready for take-off.
  • There are drinks and tablets to combat jet lag, but they need to be taken at regular intervals during the flight. I prefer to sleep as much as I can. I set my watch to the destination's local time a couple of hours ahead of landing.

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