Flying to India: In-Flight Entertainment

Flying to India: In-Flight Entertainment

This second installment in our series about flying to Hyderabad explores the intricacies of in-flight entertainment—the first part is here.  We’ll look at flying on old, cranky aircraft with old cranky crew, discuss diet and alcohol consumption, and even delve into the mysteries of sleep preparation.  We’ll learn a bit about ourselves and maybe even gain a better understanding of what it means to be an entitled traveler aboard a 20 year old India-bound air-train.

The actual flight from London to Hyderabad is usually uneventful.  Common considerations include: delayed departures, wiping down everything that might contact your skin or hair, and checking the bedding for course curlies in preparation for the final, shriveled, gangrenous, leg home. 

Despite consistently being delayed, the flight from London to Hyderabad is typically uneventful. Of course, there are exceptions.

There are horror stories, of course.  Like the time a friend fell into blissful slumber after takeoff from Heathrow only to wake back at Heathrow 10 hours later without a single word from the crew until they were on final.  Although delays are common and those extreme situations make total sense once you’ve spent five minutes on a BA flight to India, they are rare. 

The trip is fairly innocuous; however, it is important to board with the right goal and a plan to achieve said goal.  For example, minimizing the effects of jet lag is a great goal.  Binge watching all of the in-flight entertainment movies less so.  The former allows an easier transition into Indian life, while the latter simply leaves you crabby and less physically prepared for customs and immigration—this applies even if The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel and Outsourced are on the watchlist.

The best way to combat jet lag is to sleep as much as possible during the last part of the trip—which means waking just in time for the descent into Rajiv Gandhi International Airport (RGIA).  The scheduled arrival time is usually around 5:15 AM Indian Standard Time (IST)—but remember, you’ll be late.  Flight time is between 9.5 hours and eternity.  This information is what is needed to back into your personal flight plan.

Note: You may hear IST referred to as Indian Stretchable Time.  This is in reference to the Indian propensity to arrive later than scheduled.  For example, if you make a 1:00 PM appointment for cable television installation, you can expect the cable guy to arrive between 1:30 PM on the day of the event and ‘sometime’ in the next week.  What you can be sure of is he will not arrive early.  It is a fact of life worth embracing—provided you are not waiting on some lifesaving treatment, potable water, or a hot shower.

The champagne is a great way to start the flight.

After boarding—and after double-fisting your champagne—set your Apple Watch, mobile phone, FitBit, iPad, laptop, sun dial, or if you’re old school, plain ole watch to IST.  Despite sleeping for several hours, you will wake groggy and confused.  Your mind thinks you are in the past, but you’ve dragged it into the future.  If you’re lucky, you forgot where you’re going entirely.  There is a sharp pain in your lower back, so you know you’re alive.  But your only link to your present reality is whatever gadget shows the current time.

Once the time is set you can glance at the food menu.  There are probably one or two things that look good, but believe me when I say you will be disappointed.  If you eat a heavy meal, it is probably going to affect your sleep.  Shoveling 2000 calories and 4,000 milligrams of sodium into your system just prior to shutting down is the best way to ensure you get zero nappy time, and at this point sleep is more important than sustenance. 

In addition to the potential for a tedious, sleepless, painfully boring flight, the in-flight meal is gross.  Yes, panipuri, aloo gobi, and chana masala are all quite yummy when consumed in India, but on this aircraft the beef is flavorless, the smell is nauseating, and the chicken is as dry as a menopausal Dayaani teat in the Thar Desert—which I hear is pretty darn dry.  Getting the in-flight meal is a sure fire way to arrive in Hyderabad unrested and possibly with loose motions—a topic for another day.

Since you decided to forgo the equally nauseating buffet in the British Airways lounge you’re probably pretty hungry.  Fear not, weary traveler, you will be able to consume enough to sustain life for the next ten hours.  Your calories will come from the pre-main course salad, and the cheese and fruit offering on the dessert menu, to which you can supplement with an adult beverage or two.  Allow me to explain.

The goal is to wake up less jet lagged, which means getting some sleep.  The salad has greens in it, which are low in sleep-depriving carbs and good for blood oxygenation.  The fruit has some sugar, but it also has needed vitamins.  And finally, as any Wisconsinite can attest, cheese and beer actually makes a meal—besides, not even British Airways can screw up refrigerated cheese and packaged crackers.  It doesn’t seem like much, but it’s enough to satiate without feeling like you’ve eaten a rhinoceros.  Most importantly, you’ll fall asleep within a couple hours of take off because you won’t be waiting on the full in-flight meal service.

As we don’t want to scare away our carb-loving, large-meal readers, it seems a capital time to describe the post-meal nourishment possibilities.  After the main meal the cabin crew will open the snack station—called Club Kitchen on BA—which is full of all the things your mum wouldn’t let you eat as a child, as well as a few things she might.  There are chips—or crisps, if you’re British—candy, crackers, and a variety of savory, sweet goodies which you will avoid because you read this article and know that it will only keep you awake.  Then there are bananas, granola bars, and peanuts, which you can hoard and consume later if you wake feeling like your body is eating itself from the inside.  In any case, you won’t starve.

A plethora of healthy and unhealthy alternatives awaits.

An often asked question when scheduled to fly business class:  “Isn’t the point of flying Business Class to drink the value of my ticket in free champagne, beer, wine, and liquor?” 

Honestly, it’s hard to argue this point.  I’ve totally been there, sipping champagne, drinking wine, guzzling port, and then starting all over again from the beginning.  It is emotionally satisfying every time the cabin crew pours a glass of Taittinger and asks for neither payment nor tip—during an earlier trip to Hyderabad one of BAs finest once noted, “Wow, your drinking a lot of champagne.”  Although no one will judge—well, I won’t judge—drinking is a slippery slope usually ending with a 6-hour nap, two Tylenol, and several extra days of jet lag.  There is a fine line between driving by your exe’s house after a few beers and stalking—stay on the right side of the line.

You do get to drink with my in-flight meal plan—seriously, you’re not going to forgo free booze—however, when you place your drink order it is important, nay essential, to also order a bottle of water.  You should have followed long-haul rule number one prior to boarding: there is no such thing as over hydrating.  Now is the time to top it off so you can sleep without waking up feeling like someone wrapped you in a moisture absorbing silica gel blanket while a mouse nested on your tongue. 

Flight time is between 9.5 hours and eternity. Being awake for it will feel like time is standing still.

The elite cabin crew will likely want to bring you a glass of water.  Sometimes it is enough to explain your desire to get some sleep but need to hydrate first—use small words, speak slowly, and say ‘hydrate’ several times.  Most cabin crew understand the need to stay hydrated, even the crappy one’s you’re likely to encounter on your BA flight.  If not, I find getting up every 60 seconds to ask for more water usually does the trick.  After all, you’re in business class.  BA can certainly spare a bottle of water for the price of admission—especially since they aren’t spending money on much else.

Once the water arrives, drink it all as quickly as possible.  It takes about one hour to fill your bladder after consuming a liter of water.  You want to be asleep approximately two hours after takeoff.  If you consume the water quickly you’ll be feeling a bit of pressure to go at about the time you want to bed down.  Yes, this sounds like a bunch of hooey, but the hypothesis has been tested on numerous long haul flights.  Drink up!

If you’re still following the plan, after about 2 hours flight time you should have finished your water, had your two drinks, consumed a moderate amount of salad, fruit, and cheese, completed one in-flight movie of your choosing, and be ready to bed down.  There is only one thing left before bed time and it is comparatively easy: go pee—and maybe consider brushing your teeth since it’s been something like 18 hours and they are starting to feel like little moss-covered stones. 

Taking the time to exercise the kidneys now saves hours of potential frustration later.  Getting up mid-flight for a potty break is disastrous for two reasons.  First, you might not be able to fall back asleep, and B, due to BA’s crappy equipment, there is a 50 percent chance you have to climb over someone to get to the bathroom.  If you don’t have to climb over someone, then you are likely in an aisle seat, which just sucks because there is a 47 percent chance that someone has to climb over you, which is even worse because people in general are selfish jack-wagons who don’t give a crap about waking you while stumbling to the bathroom after having polished off their sixth glass of champagne—I know, I’ve been there.

Sleep is the goal.

Bodily fluids thusly evacuated, you are finally ready to sleep.  Don your complimentary ear plugs and face mask, lay the seat flat if it is working, pull the nasty blanket over your weary body, extend the seat belt to it’s maximum and buckle it over the blanket so the cabin crew doesn’t wake you during a crash, and drift off into that restless land of slumber where turbulence intersects the stone slab created by billions of passenger miles—this is your temporary, cozy, gross, crib for the next several hours.

If luck is on your side, you’ll wake six hours later to the landing announcement, ready to tackle Indian immigration and customs. 

This is how we fly to India.

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