This really has nothing to do with airlines, specifically, but rather with flying in general: I was thinking how there is really no feeling quite like jet lag. If someone who has not had jet lag came to you and asked you to describe it, it really has no equal. You’d start with the exhaustion: like when you have a newborn and you’re up every 3 hours. Only like if the newborn were up every hour. But it’s not just the exhaustion. In addition to that, you feel like you had slurped down several margaritas 3 hours earlier. And that you hadn’t taken a bath in a week. The stench that emanates is always surprising considering how little sleep has occurred. When arriving in a new place, there is an added level of confusion, as you have no idea where you’re supposed to go, or how you get a taxi, or catch that train. And the dreamlike state continues as everyone around in you the airport is fresh as a daisy.
Then you have two choices at the hotel: give in and take that nap you need, or power through, leading to a stroll in a trance-like state through the streets of Munich (it is Munich, yes?) Maybe a couple of cappuccinos will help here. Or maybe they will just make you jittery, paranoid and further confused. It seems like the most obvious route – that coffee – but you’ll be paying for that at 9pm later when you just want to go to sleep (you’ve made it that far!!) but you’re now very, very jumpy from the coffees you’ve been downing to allow you to meander through the back alleys of Paris (it is Paris, yes?).
And there’s no way to recreate it — you can only get jetlag on a plane. You can stay up all night at home, then get very little sleep, but it’s not the same. Jetlag, in all its misery, is flight-unique.
That’s a long way of saying this: there’s no one to blame for this, really, but since the airlines are blamed for everything else, why not assign them 2% of the blame for their in-flight meal service. An 8pm flight from the East Coast to London, for example, often kicks off with a drink service at 8:45pm, then dinner at 915 or so. That might be OK, except you’ve only got 6 hours to sleep and 1/4 of it has been taken up with 3 ounces of soda and a cheeseburger in a bag. The lights are then dimmed, until 12:30am New York time when the lights are brought up so that they may serve you 3 ounces of orange juice and a croissant.
This is where the jet lag kicks in, because under no other circumstance would you sleep for 3 hours sitting up, then have a hankerin’ for a very small amount of orange juice and an old baked good. You then sit there in a daze for 75 minutes until you land and begin your day at 2am. British Airways used to market their evening London service as, strangely enough, offering none of the services normally found on board, with no meal service and no announcements. Genius. Of course people would complain if you removed the croissant from the coach service – those people are fools. Airlines have re-thought every other aspect of their onboard service over the past few years; it’s time to let us sleep.