Qatar Airways Auckland to Doha: What it's like to be an economy passenger on the world's longest flight

The flight schedule says 17 hours 30 minutes, but your body knows its much longer than that.

On a normal long-haul flight, you stagger around after almost nine hours and snatch a peek at the flight info to find that you are only another two or three hours away from the stopover. But on this Qatar Airways flight it still shows another nine hours left at the half way point.

It does take quite a bit of getting used to, but then you've got quite a long time to do that.

I tried following the best advice, from all the available long-haul survival tips and stayed well hydrated throughout the flight, guzzling at least a couple of litres of bottled water supplied by the ever cheerful cabin crew.

When someone reclines, you're forced to do the same: The domino theory in practice.

A group of Russian men, built like oil rig workers, also managed to stay hydrated for the first nine hours at least, but their liquid was mostly from the duty free bottles of booze they were passing around. Something to do with the Baltic constitution I guess.

The Boeing 777-200 LR aircraft we flew on was packed to the gunwales and it became pretty obvious that a large part of our economy section were competitors returning from the Master Games event in Auckland. 

How could I tell? When you see people doing stretches and extensions up the aisle, it's a dead giveaway. And I got to rub shoulders with some gold medal winners outside the toilet. They were the British soccer team who beat NZ Defence Force 6-1 in the final. 

Then there was the Scouser, from Liverpool who I could only partially understand, although I got the bit about his bottom being square from nine hours of sitting in an economy seat, the Geordie from Newcastle whose singsong dialect was a delight to listen to, even though I only half understood what he was saying, and the Rodney Hide look-alike from Glasgow who may as well have been speaking English backwards for all I could tell.

But a nice bunch of lads they were; the kind you could call on if the Russians got a little out of control.

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The food was pretty good. A nice hot meal of beef or chicken with potatoes or rice and veges and as much wine as you could ask for to wash it down with.

I stuck to tomato juice and water as I had a car to pick up in Paris and a long drive down to Lyon ahead of me. The food highlight of the trip was delicious pieces of roast chicken in an Italian tomato sauce on a bed of polenta with garden fresh peas. Perfect combination of tastes for that hour of the morning.

The cabin staff were the stars of the show, constantly walking up and down the aisles offering drinks, snacks and even ice cream in the ungodly hours. The ice-cream was a real energiser. 

How they keep their smiles and their service up throughout this marathon flight is obviously one of the tricks of the trade.

The seats in economy seemed just like all the others, although there was fairly decent legroom underneath the seat in front. 

There is however, that infernal problem that you just can't escape from and that is the curse of the reclining seat. 

When the person in front of you pops the button, your breathing space becomes claustrophobically small, your arms suddenly become about a metre too long and the TV monitor moves to within millimetres from your face, so you have to do the same to the person behind you. The domino theory in practice.

See also: Plane passengers have every right to recline their seat on a flight

There was a good range of modern pulp fiction movies from Hollywood, Bollywood, Arabic, Middle Eastern and the World Cinema, enough to keep the eyes pinned open for the hours that you can't sleep, and for me that turned out to be at least 17 of the nearly 18 hours of flight time. Without those two or four glasses of wine that work the sleep magic on me, I barely caught 40 winks on this longest commercial flight in the world.

Just after we landed at Doha, the pilot made the following announcement, (or words to a similar effect) "Congratulations for surviving the worlds longest scheduled airline passenger flight". 

Would I do it again? Absolutely.

OK, it is a bit of an endurance test, but with such lovely cabin crew doing their best to make it as pleasant as possible, it certainly knocks a large chunk of the trip off in one hit.

The remaining flight from Doha to Paris was a mere six hours or so. Peanuts in comparison. 

Paul and Anna Restall paid for their own tickets flying return economy class on Qatar Airways from Auckland to France.

 Stuff.co.nz

See also: Tips on how to survive the world's longest flight

See also: The best plane seats in economy class and how to get them

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