For decades, travellers have stoically endured jet lag as an unavoidable menace on long journeys.
Now, as airlines push for record-breaking non-stop flights halfway around the planet, efforts to counter the debilitating symptoms are turning into a billion-dollar industry.
Fresh insight into the physical and emotional toll of ultra-long-haul travel should emerge this weekend when Qantas Airlines flies direct from New York to Sydney. No airline has ever completed that route without stopping. At nearly 20 hours, it’s set to be the world’s longest flight, leaving the US on Friday and landing in Australia during its Sunday morning.
This will be more than an endurance exercise. Scientists and medical researchers in the cabin will turn Qantas’ brand-new Boeing Dreamliner into a high-altitude laboratory. They’ll screen the brains of the pilots for alertness, while monitoring the food, sleep and activity of the few dozen passengers. The aim is to see how humans hold up to the ordeal.
The proliferation of super-long flights – Singapore Airlines, for example, resumed non-stop services to New York last year – is partly driven by the development of lighter, more aerodynamic aircraft that can fly further.
The physical burden on customers is putting a renewed focus on jet lag, and creating a supermarket of products and home-made creations to ease the suffering. In that shopping basket: melatonin tablets, Pfizer’s anti-anxiety medication Xanax, and Propeaq light-emitting glasses that claim to get the body back on track. And yes, there’s an app for that and many other possible remedies.
The potential customer base is staggering. The International Air Transport Association (IATA) expects some 4.6 billion people to take a flight in 2019, a total that will jump to 8.2 billion in 2037.
Source: South China Morning Post