The first direct, non-stop flight from London to Perth boarded in March. The 17-hour flight, which proved to be an endurance test for most passengers, seemed to not faze one man who didn’t leave his seat for the entire journey.
Researchers at the University of Sydney, who have been studying the behavior of passengers aboard the lengthy flight, were amazed by the man’s patience. “The one thing we couldn't believe was how little [he] moved,” said Professor Stephen Simpson from the Charles Perkins Centre.
The man, who was seated in business class, commented that he felt so comfortable in the flat bed that he wasn’t compelled to move. According to Healthline, if anything, the passengers should have felt a pressing need to use the restroom since most humans frequent the bathroom between four to ten times a day. Experts also advise that it can be dangerous to remain seated for such a lengthy period of time since it can put passengers at risk of developing deep vein thrombosis (DVT), which is the result of blood coagulating within the deep veins of the lower leg.
DVT can lead to a pulmonary embolism when clots are released into the bloodstream, blocking the flow of blood to the lungs, which can result in sudden death. In 2015, on a flight from the UK to Auckland, Jonah Lomu, a veteran New Zealand rugby player, died of a blood clot at the age of 40 shortly after reaching his destination.
Dr Richard Dawood, a specialist in Travel Medicine at the Fleet Street Clinic, says that “keeping mobile gets blood flowing and prevents clots,” advising passengers to tighten and relax their calf muscles frequently, and to stand, stretch or walk around the cabin at least once every hour.
“Avoid sitting in the same position for a prolonged period, set alarms to remind you to move about, and don’t take sleeping pills unless you are able to sleep in a fully flat position,” he advises.
Data for the University of Sydney study has been gathered by fitting passengers with two medical devices that record sleep, physical activity and changes in posture. The devices are worn on the wrist and thigh. Subjects must also complete questionnaires regarding their state of mind, eating and drinking habits, and their wellbeing before, during and after the flight. The study aims to improve cabin conditions and reduce jet lag.
In March, prior to the first Perth to London flight, Qantas debuted its Perth International Transit Lounge, with includes light therapy in the shower suites, which helps passengers adjust their internal clocks, as well as a wellbeing studio that provides stretching classes.
“We’ve also worked together to influence the menu and timing of the food and drinks service on the Perth to London route, as well as the cabin lighting design and temperature in the 787,” said Professor of Sleep Medicine Peter Cistulli, of the Charles Perkins Centre. Also, the Qantas “cabin lighting [which has nine scenarios from sunrise to sunset] is designed to fool one’s body clock into resetting itself.”
Though according to Cistulli, “the most promising innovation from my point of view is the cabin atmosphere, which theoretically benefits from increased humidity (so your eyelids don’t feel like sandpaper when you wake up) and a cabin pressure equivalent to a lower altitude.
“I can honestly say I feel a lot fresher than I thought I would (and that’s the consensus among the group I’m travelling with). Though it’s possible of course that all this talk of melatonin, circadian rhythms and colour phases has simply had a placebo effect.”