In For the Long Haul: Flying Tips for Older Travellers


Few travellers look forward to the prospect of a long haul flight with any relish. Hour after hour stuck in a cramped seat is hard to make enjoyable, no matter how many movies you watch back to back.


The older you get, the more daunting long haul travel becomes. Your body takes less and less kindly to the strain of being sat still for hours on end. And if you have a medical condition of any sort or a physical disability, things can be even tougher.


However, that is no reason to avoid taking long trips to far off climes altogether. Whether it is to visit family living abroad, or to realise your dreams of exotic adventure, a long haul flight is a means to a much bigger end. And with a little forward planning, you can do plenty to alleviate the worst aspects.

Talk to your airline

When booking your flight, it is important to speak to them to explain any specific needs you have. These might include:


  • Wheelchair access: Arrangements will need to be made to check your normal wheelchair into the baggage hold and offer you a replacement for getting through security and to the boarding gate. Airport staff will then be on hand to assist with getting onto the plane.

  • Priority boarding: If mobility is an issue for you and standing on your feet in queues is difficult, you can ask for assistance to get through check-in and security quickly, and then board the plane early.

  • Extra leg room: Large jets do have seats with more leg room, which are usually reserved for passengers with young children or with mobility issues.

  • Dietary requirements: If you have a condition such as diabetes, make sure you inform your airline of any special requirements for in-house meals.

  • Medicines: Advise your airline in plenty of time of any medicines you will need to take on board with you to use during the flight. This will ensure security clearance can be arranged, and the flight crew given advance notice.

During the flight

As long as you have informed your airline in advance of any specific needs, the flight crew will be prepared to assist you. Members of crew are medically trained should you feel unwell during the flight.


The rest is about making yourself as comfortable as possible. Take cushions and pillows with you – blow-up varieties are a good idea if you want to save space in your hand luggage. A blanket can also be a good idea as in-flight aircon can get chilly, especially if you try to sleep.


Don’t forget to get up and move around at regular intervals. This applies even if you are no longer the most mobile – ask a member of the flight crew to assist you. This is essential to stop joints and muscles seizing up and causing discomfort later on, but also to protect against more serious problems like deep vein thrombosis.

Find out more

If you are an older traveller planning a trip abroad, or if you have a long term medical condition, make sure you get the appropriate travel insurance. Avanti Travel Insurance specialises in policies for the over-50s, and offers a range of bespoke insurance for specific medical conditions. To find out more, please visit our website.