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What should I expect on a flight to Europe?

I've never done this before. I'm flying (United) out at 5:50pm from LAX and I land at LHR at 12:15pm.

They'll serve dinner and breakfast. That's all I know. The longest flight I've ever been on has been west coast to east coast.

Do they show movies - do you have to buy the headsets to hear the movie? Is there an official "lights out" time? Do they serve a midnight snack? Can I still read with a night light even after "lights out" (if there is indeed one)? Do they really hand out eye masks? What about "cleaning up" in the morning? Does everyone just make their way to the tiny little bathrooms to freshen up? Should I have some kind of ear plugs?

I'm not usually a nervous nelly, but this is my first transatlantic flight and I'll be by myself - I think being prepared will help a lot.


Posted by
705 posts

I haven't flown United but have flown several different airlines and they are all pretty much the same. Yes they will have movies, don't know if you have to buy headsets. They will also have music channels. They will darken the cabin at a certain time but you can use your individual light if you want to read or something. Yes everyone heads to the bathrooms to freshen up. This exodus is generally before or after breakfast. I try to get up before breakfast and use the bathroom but it's a bit of luck how long you have to wait. I flew with AA NY to London and they made announcements that passengers were not allowed to queue to use the bathrooms. You had to stay in your seat and wait until one was vacant before leaving your seat. Not sure if this still applies. I always travel with earplugs as I'm a light sleeper. Don't be nervous, the worst part of the whole trip is the boredom.

Posted by
1763 posts

You can check out the layout and amenities offered on your plane at SeatGuru

I suggest bringing a smaller zip top bag with on-board stuff that is separate from your regular toiletries kit (small toothbrush/paste or the brushups, hand wipes, ear plugs, benedryl/sleep aid). Freshen up after dinner or just before lights out. Do the same on the way off the plane. Avoid the movie unless it's about your destination and try to doze or sleep. I find no matter what level of darkness there is, I can't sleep soundly because 1) there are a bunch of people around; and 2) you're in an airplane seat.

Have fun - I took a 10.5 hour flight from Portland, OR to Frankfurt - it really wasn't that bad and much better than making multiple landings/take offs.

Posted by
9363 posts

As the previous poster said, there will be a time when they dim the lights but you can use your own seatlight. You will have numerous choices of movies as well as a skymap so that you can see where you are in the trip. They provide headphones, but I take my own noise-canceling ones. They will probably serve dinner almost right away. United doesn't do eyemasks (at least they didn't a year or so ago on my China trip). In addition to the meals, they will probably come around with a little snack and/or drinks. But you can ask for a drink any time if you go back to the galley. Have fun!

Posted by
658 posts

This is easy. UA are part of Star Alliance so they have a uniform product. What you get depends a lot on what type of seat you have booked.

Do they show movies ? - yes, seat back screen even in economy.

Do you have to buy the headsets ? - no, just hand them back at the end of the flight.

Is there an official lights out time ? - yes, but that is determined by the captain and first officer on the flight on the day, depending on global position, they relay this to the cabin crew.

Do they serve a midnight snack ? - depends entirely on whether you are economy, premium economy, business or first class. If you're in economy or premium economy on Star Alliance - no, all other categories, yes - just press the button for the cabin crew.

Can you read using the overhead light ( there is one ) ? - yes.

Do you get eye masks ? - yes

What about cleaning up ? - it's a stampede in economy and premium economy, business and first are a little more civilised.

Posted by
936 posts

If you want a snack, just ask the stewardess. On our flight over, I went to use the restroom while everyone was sleeping and there was a basket in the back with all different kinds of snacks.

Posted by
36 posts

We just returned from our 1st trip to Europe.

My suggestion, take a MP3 player and your own headphones. You can turn the MP3 off so the headphones double as ear plugs.

If the airline doesn't provide you with headphones, you'll have to buy them.

Our plane (the night flight over to LHR) was much nicer than the return flight. Blankets, pillows & headsets were in a plastic bag. There was no rush to the bathroom, but sometimes may 2-3 were waiting.
The TV screens were on the seats, with many selections of what to watch. Coming back (out of CDL) there were central TV screen; headphones were not provided. Even taking 2 Benadryl, I couldn't sleep, just a couple of catnaps. Never heard about eye masks, but you wouldn't need them. The plane is reasonably dark.

BTW, we toured London on our arrival day and didn't get back to our room until 11pm. We kept busy and jet lag wasn't an issue

Posted by
1846 posts

I fly United all the time.....there will be a choice of movies, you select from your seat back video screen. There will be cheap headsets for you to use.
There is a lights out time so everyone can sleep, usually after dinner, but you can still watch movies, or watch the progress of the flight
You can also listen to several channels of music.
Look in the magazine in the seatback pocket, in the back of the magazine there is a listing of movies, music and what channels they are on.
I always bring my favorite snack food with me. I have to have chocolate after meals, so I bring a few candy bars.
I've heard that the blankets and pillow offered might not be that clean. YOu might want to spend $20 and buy an Eagle Creek fleece blanket to take in your carry on to use on the flight over and back. it's nice, it has a zipper pocket that you can keep items handy. Take reading material with you, books, magazine to keep your self occupied.
Watch the lines at the bathroom, it's not fun!

Posted by
390 posts

Just a tip - I hate using the airport bathrooms to "freshen up" - You'll travel down a looong coridor when you arrive at Heathrow and there are restrooms on your way to passport control - I always just stop in there and freshen up - it's MUCH larger and nicer! (as far as public toilets go). You don't have to wait in line or try to move about in a teeny tiny box on the airplane.

Posted by
769 posts

just retruend from my second euro-trip - LAX to Zurich and back and also earlier LAX to Muncih and back. The later LAX flights will sever dinner, then you can watch video screne movies (on Lufthansa and swiss)for the whole 10hours if you like - lots to choose! Or sleep if you can. They lower the lights after a few hours... and many sleep for 3-4 hrs... then 2 hours before landing they turn it up again. Thhe attendants came around often with water for those awake watching TVs, and also snacks... I had my own ear-plugs from ipod - but you dont have to bring them. Stay hydrated as it gets dry air - and helps with jet lag. The rest rooms tend to get stampeeded right when all wake up and right after a meal and right before landing!

Posted by
479 posts

Scrapper, there are a lot of posts on this topic already, but there is one thing to keep in mind. I find that you'll never know exactly what is going to be available and not available on the flight until you get on the plane. They should have a movie, but the movies may or may not be on screens on the chair in front of you. It could be a large projection screen or a smaller screen every 3rd row.

They MIGHT charge you for headphones. They MIGHT have headphone jacks on the seats that only work with their particular headphones. I've never been handed a mask. Most people don't "freshen up" in the little bathrooms. They wait to get off the plane either in an airport restroom or their hotel.

There isn't an official lights out time. From MSP they usually serve a drink after takeoff, then serve dinner and turn the lights out after they've cleaned up. Personal lights at the seat are always allowed.

Ear plugs are up to you. With the white noise of the plane it ends up being eerily quiet.

Posted by
808 posts

Some good suggestions here! I especially like the suggestion of freshening up in the Airport Terminal rather than onboard. Not only is this more comfortable for you but helps keep wait times for the Lavs to a minimum.

Hopefully your blanket and headset will come in a sealed plastic bag. This is your only real assurance that it is clean and not recycled from a previous pax. Some airlines now sell blankets onboard for a couple bucks and are yours to keep. You can keep them or leave them behind. Bringing your own small blanket isn't a bad idea if you don't mind it taking up a little extra space in your carry-on.

The comp eye masks found in your onboard toiletry kit are, let's face it, often low quality. Some Pax like to bring their own. Some are cute with silly sayings on them or even gel filled comfort masks. It all depends on your own preference.

The cabin lights will be dimmed after essential services have been completed. There is no specific time.
(Continued below)

Posted by
808 posts

Bring some snacks or your own just incase. It's better to reach in your pocket for munchies rather than having to go looking for something you may or may not like. Besides you could bring your own "nutritious" snacks if you aren't into the often less-than-nutritious seletions they often offer.

Bring a refillable water bottle with a wide neck. A Gateraid bottle will do fine. It can be refilled by the crew. Often water is in the 1.5 litre bottles which can't be given to every Pax so a re-fillable bottle will serve you well.

You might want to bring your own toothbrush on board. Some people hate the colapsable one given in your comp toiletry kit. Or "Brush ups" or "Pocket Packs" those mouthwash things.

Some Pax like those antibacterial wipes. They are good to wipe down your tray table/sanitize your hands etc. And pocket pack tissues. A/C toilet tissue can be rough! Some like to carry an empty mini spray bottle which can be filled on board and used to spritz on your face to freshen up.
Don't wear contacts (if you do) wear glasses. Carry eye drops, you'll appreciate them...worth putting in your TSA baggie. Lip balm is good too. It can get dry.

Posted by
83 posts

In short, international flights are much much better than domestic!
We went on Northwest Airlines, this time I found they had monitors on the back of each seat which included movies, games, maps, etc. I played a trivia game against other passengers & it made the time fly by.
Movies are recent, a lot of them will be newer not released on DVD, and free. But try to sleep if you can. International flights are the best!

Posted by
152 posts

We have flown Virgin Atlantic from SFO-LHR 3 times, next time Sept. 30. Each airline is different, and even each plane may be different. Check with United for specifics.

Very important on those 10-11 hour flights: get up and move around a bit every few hours, and do some foot/leg flexion and extension in your seat as often as you can remember. Use hand wipes or antiseptic liquids, available in tiny bottles at any drug store. If you tend to be cold, wear a sweater or jacket in case they don't have blankets.

I use ear plugs on nearly every flight. To me, the roar of the engines and even the cabin ventilation system is annoying, and pretty much eliminated with earplugs.

The flight will likely be the worst part of the whole trip, but it's only 10-11 hrs. Relax, and have a great time!

Posted by
805 posts

United no longer charges for headphones on ANY of its flights (see,6722,1070,00.html for more info). As to the other questions:

  1. As stated above, you will likely be on a 777, which has seatback video with 9 video channels (showing various movies/shot subjects) and airshow (live tracking system).
  2. They usually dim the lights after the first movie cycle, which is about 3-3.5 hours into the flight.
  3. All seats have reading lights, the switch will either be above your head or in your arm-rest.
  4. Eyemasks, no.
  5. Ear plugs are a personal choice, I don't use them but feel welcome to if it makes you handle the flying better.
  6. United has usually passed out a midnight snack on my west-coast to Europe flights (and I always travel coach internationally), last time was an apple. If you want a drink outside of meal service, walk to the back of the plane and ask the flight attendants, they'll be more than happy to give you one.
Posted by
808 posts

Just keep in mind if you buy your sanitizer in a 3 oz or less bottle you'll need to include them in your plastic bag at security screening. Or just get the wipes and forget about it.

I think most of your questions have been fairly well answered here. But if you want specific answers to specific questions, don't hesitate to call (United) Passenger Service Inquiry number. As mentioned, all policies and procedures vary from aircraft to aircraft and Airline to Airline.

Hopefully your flight WONT be the worst part of your trip. I hope it will be safe, pleasant and memorable!

Posted by
93 posts

Thank you, everyone!

My husband got me some "skull" earphones for my ipod, so I'll be taking those. I'll be able to put all those things listed above in my "purse" carry-on.

I am SO looking forward to my trip!!!

Posted by
93 posts

Jarrod, could you tell me where those other threads are? I wasn't able to find any and I'm not sure what to search for to find them all.


Posted by
42 posts

Great questions! I am learning things as well. I too would like to know where those other threads are Jarod. Has anyone flown Delta over there? I have not seen it mentioned yet. Just wondering if you know what that flight might be like? Especially west coast to Paris.

Posted by
936 posts

We flew Delta over to Europe the past two times. They gave this nice little package with toothbrush/toothpaste, earplugs, eye mask, headphones. On our way back we flew Continental and did not receive those items. BUT, I still preferred Continental, because we had seatback TV screens with On Demand movies, TV shows and games. My husband and I had tons of things to choose from to watch. BUT, on our return flight with Delta last time around, we also had seat back screens, but it wasn't On Demand, they just had several channels you could choose from with the movies and TV shows. If you go to their website, the airline will usually show you what specific plane you're taking, and what amenities are on board...

Posted by
479 posts

Oh, sorry for the misunderstanding. When I was talking about "other posts" I meant that there were other posts in this same discussion thread. I was concerned that I wasn't going to offer much different than other people had already written.

Posted by
1717 posts

Hello ScrapperKimmyD, all of these replies are good. For a trip across the Atlantic "pond", I think the highest priority is to take good care of your health.
That means, get plenty of sleep the night before your flight to London, because most people can not sleep for a long enough time in an airplane. And walk in the isles in the airplane, every three hours.
You asked about the "bathrooms" in an airplane. I suggest do not drink much liquid in the airplane, because passengers can not always go to a bathroom when they need to go to the bathroom: when the sign for fasten seatbelts is on (when the airplane is ascending, and descening) they want all the passengers to stay at their seats. So, drink a large amount of water in the morning, a long time before you get in an airplane. Look at "Travel Store" at this website. I think those eye shades (sleep masks) are the best. All of those products from Rick Steves are very good. Jodi : DELTA airlines to Europe is excellent. DELTA is my favorite

Posted by
4 posts

Hey Scrapper and everyone else - I've been enjoying all the information about flying. My daughter and I are flying to LHR soon so this is all really good stuff to know. I had already bought some of those small makeup remover packs and the hand sanitizer tissues as well.