Staying Productive at 40,000 Feet: How to Work While Travelling

by Thom Tracy

2 min read

Working while flying has its challenges. Many flights don’t have internet access, and cramped seating makes it difficult to get comfortable. With advanced planning, however, you can get enough work done to hit the ground running when you reach your destination.

Pay for Wi-Fi in Advance

Airlines still have a long way to go when it comes to offering in-flight free or paid Wi-Fi. Air Canada is one of six airlines operating in North America that offers Gogo, an in-flight internet service provider. When a flight offers paid internet service, paying in advance can cut the cost by as much as half. As of 2016, only eight airlines, including Emirates and Air China, offer free Wi-Fi. Check online or call your airline in advance to find out if your flight will have Wi-Fi. Many international airports offer free or inexpensive internet access to travelers, which can be useful if you want to catch up on work while waiting to board your flight.

Work Around a Lack of Wi-Fi

If your airline doesn’t offer Wi-Fi, download any documents you need to access in advance. You can also plan to work on projects using the software loaded on your laptop – if it doesn’t need internet access – such as writing, updating spreadsheets, and data entry. When you’re still on the ground, charge up any devices you might need for work in-flight, such as your laptop, tablet, and smartphone.

Plan Your In-Flight Work Schedule

Checking in, going through security, and getting to your gate in time can be exhausting. Most people just want to relax once they settle into their airplane seats. Given these realities of travelling, it’s a good idea to plan your work in advance. You might be too tired to brainstorm how your company’s app upgrade will work, but some tasks can be accomplished in-flight with minimum effort, such as responding to emails and social media comments, reviewing and giving feedback on projects, and going over your sales pitch for an upcoming client meeting.

Ask for a Seat With More Room

Economy class seats can be crapped, and you might not get any work done if you’re uncomfortable. If you can afford to pay for a seat offering a bit more legroom, it’s a good idea to do so. Not every flight is full – so once you’re on board, ask a flight attendant if you can move to a row where you can have access to an empty seat.

Airlines often offer ticketed passengers discounts and perks during online check-in. If business class doesn’t fill up, for example, your airline might make those seats – which normally cost thousands of dollars – available for a few hundred dollars extra.

Consider a Lounge Membership

You might want to pay for an airport lounge membership if you travel for business often. Airport lounges offer comfortable surroundings, free internet, and device-charging stations, which let you get a lot of work done during a long layover or if you arrive at the airport early.

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