15 hours in the air can push you to the limit

Sunday January 14 2018

The 15 hours it will take Kenya Airways planes to fly from Nairobi to New York is mind-boggling.

The 15 hours it will take Kenya Airways planes to fly from Nairobi to New York is mind-boggling. PHOTO | FILE |  NATION MEDIA GROUP

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The 15 hours it will take Kenya Airways planes to fly from Nairobi to New York is mind-boggling to some: What will a passenger be doing for all that time?

Mr Gabriel Gatumbi from Gatundu North has a crazy idea.

“I would consume as much food as possible if offered; I have never been in a plane. I will also stare at every mzungu to learn how people who never live in ‘s**tholes’ look like. Unless they offer gym services in the plane, I would be the most bored person,” he said yesterday.

Comedian Lawrence Oyange alias MC Jakakamega, whose longest flight ever was an 80-minute trip to Zanzibar, also contemplates a number of interesting actions.

“I will be opening my eyes wide as I peep through the window to see which country we are crossing on our way to the US. I’ll be keen to check if we will be passing over Canaan,” the radio presenter joked in an interview with the Nation on Saturday.


Moi University lecturer Fred Mbogo shared other unique ways of killing the time.

“You can try find a balance, your chi (personal god). Or you could start an online relationship lasting 15 hours to find love when you land,” Dr Mbogo said.

It may seem like a laughing matter, but long-haul flights are no joke especially on the effects they have on one’s body, as aviation consultant Michael Otieno says.

Mr Otieno said long journeys heading West — just like the trip to New York — throw one’s circadian rhythm out of sync and its symptoms are the so-called jet-lag.

“The circadian rhythm causes us to feel more alert at certain points of the day, even if we have been awake for hours,” he explained.

Kenya Airways will make its maiden flight to New York on October 28. The Boeing 787 Dreamliner dedicated for the journey will be leaving the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport at 11.25 pm Nairobi time, which is 3.25 pm New York time. It will arrive  at 6.25 am New York time the following day.


That literally means travellers adjusting their clocks backwards.

“It will have more punitive effects to the body,” Mr Otieno said. “The circadian rhythm of the body is thrown off track completely.”

Mr Otieno noted there are biological changes outside our control that include sunrise and sunset. Because human bodies have found a way of syncing with the changes, he said, travelling across different time zones interferes with the flow, hence the disorientation most travellers feel.

“Once the body clock is out of sync, most people will experience sleep disturbance, difficulty in concentration, indigestion, confusion, irritability, loss of appetite, memory problems and for women even irregular periods. Depending on the individual, particularly where around 10 time zones are crossed in an easterly direction, these conditions can last up to a week,” Mr Otieno wrote in his column in The EastAfrican in June 2017.

One of the ways to lessen those symptoms, he said, is to shift one’s body clock to the time zone of the destination — by either sleeping earlier or later than the hours a person is accustomed to — before the actual trip.


But still, the flight will last 15 hours, meaning passengers will be confined to the plane for that whole time. What is the best thing to do?

Kenya Airways assures that it will provide all that is needed for guests’ comfort.

“This ultra-long haul flight requires ultra-resources, and we are providing the best for our guests,” the airline’s CEO Sebastian Mikosz said on Thursday.

Mr Otieno said that when he is on a long flight, he kills time by reading, walking around, sleeping “and of course finish off my crosswords backlog. I love crosswords.” Carrying a book to the plane is also a good idea, he advised.

“Reading relaxes the mind and the body. Hitting the bar inflight has its dehydrating effects, as tempting as it is,” he said.

Travel blog canadianaffair.com says other ways to keep oneself busy during flight include watching a film, photographing various features along the way, playing digital games, learning the language of residents at one’s destination and making new friends.