Embarking on long-haul flights for business can be a valuable opportunity to make the most of your time in the air by enhancing productivity. With flights lasting over 6 hours, savvy business travellers know the value in seeking ways to optimise their work efficiency during travel.

Discover how to create a conducive in-flight workspace and make efficient use of your time in the air and on the ground with our tips to maximise your productivity. Explore these strategies in detail to transform your next long-haul journey into a productive business session.

Easier Said Than Done: Why Working On the Go Poses So Many Challenges

Distractions, Disruption and Difficulty Concentrating

Working while traveling, especially on flights, brings distractions and disruptions that can challenge even the most focused individuals. The confined space of an aeroplane cabin is a breeding ground for noise and movement, with the hum of the aircraft, conversations of fellow passengers and the frequent bustle of cabin crew.

Such disturbances can make it difficult for business travellers to focus on their tasks. The environment is far from the quiet of a typical office with its concentration-conducive acoustics and requires effort to maintain focus. Additionally, the discomfort of seating and the variable conditions like cabin pressure and temperature can further hinder your ability to concentrate. Business travellers must find ways to minimise these disruptions to stay productive during their journey.

Other Common Issues with Getting “In the Zone” Whilst Travelling

Apart from the obvious distractions, there are other, less tangible barriers to productivity on flights. A major factor is the psychological impact of being in transit, which can make settling into a ‘work mode’ tough. The anticipation of arrival, the mental preparation for meetings or even personal considerations can occupy the mind and detract from the focus required for deep work.

Additionally, the limitation of physical space often means that business travellers can’t spread out their work materials as they would in an office, which can further impede the organisation of thoughts and tasks. The irregularity of meal times and service interruptions also play a role, disrupting work flow and concentration. Overcoming these challenges requires a combination of mental discipline and practical travel hacks to create a semblance of a productive workspace in the air.

Optimising your In-flight Workspace

Cabin and Seat Choice

Choosing the right cabin and seat can greatly affect your ability to work effectively on a flight. For those looking to maximise productivity, obviously booking a seat in the business class cabin where the environment is more conducive to work, with more space and quieter surroundings, is going to be a huge help. After all it’s called business class for a reason!

If business class isn’t an option, you can still make the most of your flight for working but bear in mind there are inevitably sacrifices you need to make and you should mentally prepare for the fact that it won’t be smooth sailing. For deep work you’re likely to want a window seat if possible, so as to minimise the disruption of neighbouring passengers needing to get in and out. Selecting a seat towards the front of the plane generally means less disturbance from passenger movement too.

Exit row seats can also offer additional legroom (usually for an additional fee), which can provide a more comfortable overall work setting, but be aware of the restrictions on where you can store your personal items with these seats as you may have to use the overhead bins for takeoff and landing, then retrieve your “office-on-the-go” once permitted to do so. is a great site to help you identify the best seats on any given flight, depending on your requirements. Additionally, becoming a member of the airline or associated alliance’s loyalty program can offer the benefit of priority seating, giving you an edge in securing the most desirable workspace on the plane. Not to mention the fact that if you are a frequent flyer with the same alliance you have a higher chance of getting upgraded.

Maximising Productivity on Tray Tables

The compact nature of tray tables in aircraft seats poses a challenge to maintaining productivity during a flight. However, with a strategic approach, these small surfaces can actually be transformed into efficient workspaces.

Start by organising your essential items—laptop, documents, paper and pen—before takeoff, ensuring everything is easily accessible (remembering that everything needs to be stowed away before you’re in the air). Ideally you’ll want a slim, lightweight laptop or even a tablet with keyboard to maximise space, and consider investing in a foldable stand to elevate your device to eye level, reducing neck strain. Lightweight, portable, adjustable stands are a cheap and easy to carry addition to your travel essentials that can have a huge positive impact on productivity and comfort.

To prevent items from slipping, you can bring along a thin non-slip mat as a base. If additional space is needed, keep secondary items like notebooks or phones in the seat pocket or storage cubbies for quick access. By streamlining your workspace and keeping it orderly, you can turn even a cramped tray table into a productive area where focus and efficiency are possible despite the limited real estate.

Workspace Essentials for Long Flights

For long flights, having the right tools can make all the difference in staying productive. A must-have is noise-cancelling headphones, which can block out much of the cabin noise and significantly aid your concentration. Ensure your electronic devices are fully charged, and carry a high-capacity power bank for backup (don’t forget to charge this too). Many modern portable power banks will power laptops as well as phones, tablets and headphones etc. – Just remember to keep your laptop in low power mode by only keeping open essential apps as you need them.

Some travellers swear by the importance of physical documents; keeping a few essential hard copies organised in a slim folder can be invaluable for when you need them most. This can be especially useful when you’re trying to refer to several things at once with limited screen space. Even the most travel friendly of portable monitors is unlikely to be suitable for use on a plane so a few paper copies you can easily refer to or make notes on can save endless switching between open applications on your screen.

An eye mask and a neck pillow can also be essential for quick power naps to recharge your mind. Keep a small, refillable water bottle to stay hydrated, as it’s easy to forget to drink water, which is crucial for maintaining focus and avoiding jet lag on long-haul flights. You don’t need to buy bottled water at the airport and can bring your own reusable bottle with you as long as it’s empty before heading through airport security. Then just fill it up from a tap or fountain in the terminal. is a great resource to help find places to fill up.

Leveraging Productivity Tools and Techniques

Utilising Productivity and Task Management Apps

Productivity and task management apps are essential for business travellers aiming to stay on top of their work during long flights. Before your trip, pre-load your device with user-friendly apps that sync across your devices, ensuring you can seamlessly continue your work in-flight. Apps like Trello, Asana, ClickUp or help organise tasks with a clear visual layout, which is especially helpful when working within the constraints of a small screen in a confined space.

For note-taking, apps like Evernote or OneNote allow you to jot down ideas or meeting notes that can be synced and accessed offline. To avoid distractions, consider using focus apps like Forest, which encourages you to stay productive in pre-set chunks of time while planting virtual trees. You can use this in conjunction with the Pomodoro technique to really supercharge your productivity.

Remember to download any important documents for offline access, as Wi-Fi connections on flights can be unreliable, costly or simply nonexistent. With the right apps at your fingertips, you can turn flight time into a productive extension of your office.

Performing Deep Work in-flight

Deep work, the ability to focus without distraction on a cognitively demanding task, can be challenging during flights. However, with some preparation, you can create a conducive environment for high-intensity work.

Start by identifying a key project or task prior to your flight that requires your undivided attention. Set a clear goal for what you want to achieve during the journey. Use noise-cancelling headphones to block out cabin noise and listen to white noise or music that won’t disrupt your thought process.

Break your work into defined segments with short breaks in between to maintain your focus and avoid burnout. By deliberately planning your work and creating a distraction-free bubble, you can take advantage of uninterrupted time to engage in deep work and make significant progress on complex tasks while in the air. In fact many frequent flyers find that time in the skies can often be the ideal time to get on top of tasks they’ve been putting off, knowing they have hours of uninterrupted time ahead during which they have nowhere else to go and be distracted!

Combating Time Zone Changes

Managing productivity while dealing with time zone changes requires a strategic approach. Before your flight, try and adjust your schedule gradually to the new time zone if possible. Utilise apps that track time zones, to schedule tasks aligning with business hours at your destination.

Stay mindful of your body’s natural rhythms; if you tend to be more alert in the morning, plan to tackle tasks that require more focus during this time. Similarly, use periods when you’re typically less energetic for less demanding activities. To minimise the effects of jet lag, try to set aside time for rest during the flight and avoid caffeine and alcohol.

Though it can be tempting to hoover up everything that’s coming if you’re new to business class, more seasoned business travellers will tell you that those glasses of free bubbly will soon ruin your hopes of getting anything useful done and the jet lag will be all the worse after you land too.

Upon arrival, exposure to natural light can help reset your internal clock. By planning ahead and using these techniques, you can maintain productivity despite the challenges of crossing time zones.

Keeping Healthy and Energised

Stay Hydrated, Stay Productive

Staying hydrated is crucial for maintaining productivity during long flights. The dry cabin air can lead to dehydration, which in turn can cause fatigue and reduce cognitive function. To combat this, be sure to drink plenty of water before, during and after the flight.

We’ve already highlighted the value in avoiding alcohol, which will leave you dehydrated, so stick with the water from that reusable water bottle you were smart enough to pack. Some productivity apps also offer hydration trackers, which can be set to remind you to drink water at regular intervals. Keeping hydrated helps ensure that your body and mind are functioning at their best, allowing you to stay focused and efficient throughout your journey.

Balancing Sleep Cycle on Long Journeys

Maintaining a balanced sleep cycle is essential for productivity, particularly on long-haul flights where time zone changes can disrupt your body’s natural rhythm. To manage this, try to align your sleep on the plane with the night hours of your destination. Use an eye mask and earplugs or noise-cancelling headphones to block out light and sound, creating an environment conducive to rest.

If you’re using in-flight entertainment, avoid screens at least an hour before you plan to fall asleep to reduce blue light exposure, which can inhibit sleep. This can be a good time to opt for the comforting feel of a paperback book to mark the shift from screen time, to wind down time.

Consider short naps instead of long sleep periods to avoid deep sleep inertia, which can leave you feeling groggy. Depending on your flight time and the quality of your seat, you may have little choice here anyway! By prioritizing your sleep cycle, you can arrive feeling refreshed and ready to tackle your tasks efficiently.

Feeling Refreshed Upon Destination Arrival

Arriving at your destination feeling refreshed is just as important as being productive during the flight. This is one of the reasons business class seats command such a premium. To arrive feeling ready to go, it’s crucial to manage your activities and environment on board.

·      Dress in layers and choose comfortable clothing to easily adjust to temperature changes.

·      Use a neck pillow and blanket to enhance comfort and encourage sleep during rest periods.

·      Engage in light stretching or walk down the aisle when safe to do so to keep blood circulating.

·      Consider a brief meditation or mindfulness exercise before landing to reset your mental state.

Additionally, hydrating and eating light, healthy snacks can prevent lethargy upon arrival. Plan your flight schedule to allow some time for relaxation or a refreshing shower at your hotel before diving into work commitments. By taking these steps, you can ensure you step off the plane feeling rejuvenated and ready for the business challenges ahead.

Plan for Potential Challenges

What’s Your Can’t Connect Contingency?

An unexpected loss of internet access can derail productivity plans no matter where you are. To prepare for such scenarios, establish a ‘can’t connect’ contingency plan. Prioritise tasks that don’t require an internet connection, such as reviewing documents, writing reports or strategizing for upcoming meetings.

Have all necessary files downloaded onto your device or stored on a USB drive. If you rely heavily on cloud services, use apps that offer offline functionality and ensure they are synced before your trip. Carry a notepad as a backup for jotting down ideas. By planning for the possibility of no Wi-Fi, you can avoid frustration and make the most of your flight time, keeping your productivity on track even when you’re offline.

If you sync your emails before boarding, you can catch up with messages offline and pen your responses ready to send as soon as you’re connected once more. If you are without a connection for the whole flight, just take advantage of the lack of distractions and see how close you can get to inbox zero.

Coping with Flight Delays and Interruptions

Flight delays and other disruption are an inevitable part of air travel that can impact your productivity along with your stress levels. To cope with these challenges, it’s important to have a flexible mindset and a backup plan.

Always carry essential work materials in your carry-on luggage so you can access them during unexpected waiting times. Use airport lounges to find a quiet, connected space to work, or invest in a portable hotspot for a reliable on-the-go internet connection.

Take advantage of every opportunity to keep your devices charged at a wall outlet and carry a power bank with all necessary adapters to avoid running out of battery at crucial moments. Also, inform your colleagues about the possibility of delays, so they can adjust their expectations for your availability. By staying adaptable and prepared, you can turn delays into opportunities to catch up on reading, administrative tasks or planning, ensuring that your time isn’t wasted.

Making the Most of your Ground Time

Choosing and Using Appropriate Airport Lounges for Business Travel

Selecting the right airport lounge can significantly enhance productivity during ground time. If you’re flying business class you will likely have access to a good quality lounge designed for getting work done. However if lounge access is something you need to organise yourself, look for lounges that offer amenities tailored to business travellers, such as high-speed Wi-Fi, charging stations and quiet work areas with office standard tables and chairs (you aren’t going to get any quality work done from a bean bag and a coffee table). You’ll also find that some lounges are tailored to families so it’s best to avoid these if you don’t want kids running around tripping over your charging cables.

Membership in airline loyalty programs can provide complimentary or discounted access to lounges, while various credit cards may offer lounge benefits as a perk (take a look at this post for more info on maximising frequent flyer program benefits). Research in advance which lounges are available at your departure and arrival airports, and check user reviews for real-time insights into their suitability for working.

Once inside, maximise the use of the lounge’s facilities to prepare for meetings, respond to emails or complete tasks that require concentration. The calm environment of an airport lounge can provide a productive refuge from the bustling terminal, ensuring you make the most of any layover or delay.

Navigating the Airport: A Guide to Efficiency

Efficient navigation through the airport can save precious time for business travellers. Before arriving at your departure airport, check-in online and download your boarding pass to your phone to avoid queues (though do double check that the airport accepts mobile boarding passes as there are still some out there requiring physical print outs).

Use apps like Google Maps that often include airport layouts to find the fastest routes to your gate or lounge. Keep a close eye on flight status updates to avoid unnecessary waiting at the gate for delays or boarding time changes. Pack your carry-on strategically so that laptops and liquids are easily accessible for security checks. Consider investing in TSA PreCheck or Global Entry to expedite security and customs processes for busy airports where delays are likely.

Remember to also factor in time for public transportation delays when planning your airport arrival. By streamlining your airport routine, you can minimise stress and dedicate more time to work or rest before your flight.

Get More Done In-Flight; Enjoy More Time for Leisure

The Growth in Bleisure Travel

The trend of combining business and leisure, known as ‘bleisure’ travel, is on the rise as professionals seek to balance work demands with personal enjoyment. By maximising productivity in-flight, business travellers can carve out later time for leisure activities on their trip.

To embrace bleisure travel, plan your work tasks around your flight schedule, focusing on efficiency. This could mean completing urgent tasks during the flight to free up time for exploring the destination afterwards. If possible, choosing flights that align with your work and leisure goals can be a huge help; for instance, a red-eye flight might allow for a full day of meetings followed by evening entertainment. Moreover, extending a business trip by a day or two can offer a mini-holiday without additional airfare. By incorporating leisure time into your travel itinerary, you can return from your trip feeling both accomplished and rejuvenated.

After all why stress about working from your hotel once you’ve landed, if you can have everything done before you’ve even hot off the plane?

Get That Head Start and Switch Off Sooner

Achieving a head start on your workload during your flight can lead to an earlier switch-off time once you reach your destination. To facilitate this, prioritise tasks that will have the most significant impact once you land. Addressing critical emails, finalising presentations, or strategising for upcoming meetings can all be done with the in-flight time.

By focusing on these high-priority items, you ensure that the essential work is completed, which can grant you the peace of mind to relax earlier upon arrival. It’s also beneficial to set a ‘cut-off’ time for work-related activities during your flight. Determine a point when you’ll power down your devices and shift your focus from work to rest or leisure.

If you’re on an 18 hour flight, you’re obviously not going to be able to use all of it for productive activity. So figure out when you’ll get your head down and when you’ll take time to perhaps check out a movie on the IFE.  This disciplined approach allows you to enjoy the leisurely aspects of your trip fully, knowing that your essential tasks are already accomplished.

Make Sure Your Travel Arrangements are Properly Planned Out: Utilise the Travel Management Experts

Proper planning of travel arrangements is essential for a stress-free business trip that also allows for leisure time. Utilising the expertise of travel management professionals can save you time and ensure that all aspects of your trip are streamlined for efficiency. A specialist business travel management company will handle flight bookings, accommodation and transportation, ensuring that your itinerary is optimised for productivity.

They can also assist with securing seats on flights that depart at convenient times with the best carriers. In addition, the best travel managers are adept at navigating airline loyalty programs, potentially granting you access to premium services and lounges, maximising your points earning potential at the same time. By having a well-organised travel schedule, you can focus on work during your flight, knowing that all other details have been taken care of, which allows you to switch off and enjoy leisure activities without the burden of last-minute travel logistics.

For total peace of mind, let Traveltrust take care of your business travel itinerary, leaving you to take heed our tips and get the most out of your travel time!