You are constantly on the go. All day long, your mind is like a radio, constantly broadcasting thoughts, making it hard to rest or sleep. So how do you find sleep on a long haul flight?
Virgin Atlantic, a long haul airline flying from the UK to Africa, Asia and North America, has introduced a sleep and relaxation program from Getsomeheadspace.com, available on all classes. The secret to getting some rest is to let these thoughts go and don’t think too hard about them, in the sense of either trying to forget about them in order to sleep, or focusing too much on them.
It can be easy getting frustrated on a flight, from long queues, missing connections to lost luggage, so their relaxation programs can be very helpful in getting your mind in a state of gratitude and peace, all of which helps in getting some rest on the plane as well as before and after the flight.
I have found their meditation audio and video programs easy to follow, and while it doesn’t guarantee sleep, it did help me fall asleep more easily. The secret formula is for your mind to consciously focus on each part of your body in turn and to “tell” it to turn off, like turning if a light switch. The very act of consciously telling your right toe, then each other toe in turn, “to turn off”, is like giving your body license to rest. It may seem hard to believe but your mind and body do interact. It is like the act of taking notes in a lecture. The conscious act of writing, and the physical act of it, actually helps your mind to remember what you heard. If you can turn your mind on, you can just as easily allow it to turn off.
Of course, it helps if you are in the Upper Class cabin, which is their combined Business and First Class service. The seats fold over to a lie flat bed, with a thick mattress like seat. They even have proper linen and pillows, as well as a doona or comforter blanket of sorts, something that many full service airlines lack. While I did find it too warm after a few hours, the thought of having proper bed linen may be enough to send you to sleep.
The Upper Class cabin for the Airbus A340-600 from London to Tokyo is in a 1-1-1 herringbone configuration, which looks a bit like a fish bone from above. Every seat has direct access to the aisle. The window seats give you the benefit of a view as well as unencumbered access to the bathroom. The middle seat (seat D) for the first 7 rows face left, while the middle seat from row 8 onwards (seat G) fact right. With the privacy screens and the space between the aisles, chances are that you won’t see the other passengers for most of the flight. If you do want to talk to your companion, it may be better if they are seated in front rather than beside you. For example if you are in seat 2G and your companion in seat 3G. There is an ottoman seat for each Upper Class passenger as well, in case you want to eat together. I recommend rows 3 to 7 for the quietest seats, being far from the lavatory, bar and the engine. While the noise cancelling headsets are comfortable and effective, the location of the seat definitely helps in further minimizing noise and traffic. I prefer the middle seat though as it is a touch quieter for sleeping, as the window seat pillows face the windows. The flight from London departs just after lunch, and arrives in Tokyo the next morning, so if you do get some sleep on the way, you are more likely to adjust to local time on your arrival.
Virgin Atlantic is one of the few airlines with a stand up bar where passengers can mingle and have a drink. The bar is located between the Upper and Premium Economy Class sections. It also doubles up as a galley for the crew to prepare meals. The crew has a good mix of Japanese and British staff, with a good balance of sassiness and politeness.
The contemporary menu, while not a standout, is elegant and appealing. The Fennel Risotto makes the most of its ingredients though the rice was a bit underdone. Where possible I would choose the cuisine that reflects its port of origin. So on an outbound flight from London, I would choose the British over the Japanese dishes. The desserts and wine on the other hand, were amazing. The Chocolate Marquis with Raspberry Coulis was velvety rich and a delight to its last crumb. On the other hand, the Malbrontes Malbec/ Torrontes 2012 marry the red Malbec with a touch of the white Torrentes. The Torrentes adds a refined bouquet to the red and is luscious to drink.
You don’t want to drink too much though if you want to sleep well. Of course if you can’t sleep, you can always watch a movie. While the selection is fairly limited, with most foreign language movies not having English subtitles, there is a good TV selection, including the American comedy Veep, starring Julia Louis-Dreyfus as Selina Meyer, the fictional US Vice-President.
Prior to arrival a light breakfast is served. The apple pancakes with Cinnamon butter was a great way to start the day, though if you are hungry, try the full British breakfast.
Postscript: While Virgin Atlantic will stop direct flights between London and Tokyo from 1 February 2015, you can still access Tokyo from its other routes from London to Asia, or the long way around using the London to Los Angeles service.