Always, always pick your airline carefully AND the type of aircraft- especially for long-haul travel. Our nearest airport Cork has only two major airlines, with no Business Class to take you to either Heathrow, Schipol (Amsterdam) or Paris where you can hook up with long-haul airlines I can tolerate sitting squashed into a crowded plane on short-haul for possibly 3 hours, but not longer.
When I first flew to Australia by myself, just two months after my hip replacement I flew with Malaysian Airlines from Heathrow and have no complaints at all except that it was a Jumbo jet and business class was upstairs. A wheelchair took me to the door of the aircraft and I was helped by a number of exquisite tiny hostesses up and into my seat Walking around room upstairs was limited, but apart from that – no problems. The lady in the seat next to me was totally blind and I was amazed to find she flew alone 4 times a year to visit her children in Melbourne !! We helped each other at the stop over in Singapore by looking after each other’s hand luggage whilst one or other of us had a much needed shower and change of clothes. What a wonderful person she was and she greatly inspired me to travel more often !
To get to Port Douglas in Australia from Cork I have to first fly to one of the major airports above, change planes and fly to Singapore. Change planes again here and fly to Brisbane, then change planes again and fly up the Great Barrier Reef to Cairns. At the end of a very long day (night) that last flight is quite amazing and a definite sit-by-the-window one!
Travelling alone is really very easy as long as you book a wheelchair from start to finish and long-haul flights are only excellent at meeting you from the plane, bringing you to the Business Class lounge, collecting you in time for your onward flight, etc. etc. As I have already said, if you travel Business Class there are large showers with all towels, toiletries etc. provided and free food and drink, plus comfy seats to wait in. A change of clothes is a good idea here too.
My next trip to Oz was via Hong Kong with Cathay Pacific. I had this great idea that I could cut out one plane flight by flying to Hong Kong from Heathrow and then directly down to Cairns, but there was a seven hour wait over and because the new landing strip stretches out into the ocean, it was about a half mile walk back to Duty Free – no good for me at all to fill the endless wait. Also despite a good search the only Western food I could find was cheese and biscuits !! The flight itself from Heathrow was also in a Jumbo Jet, but this time with the strangest zip-like seating necessitating full-harness seat belts for take off and landing. The seats were tiny (I am 5’10” tall) so much so that my feet stuck out into the aisle where everyone tripped over them ! Never again !
It was after this trip that I found out it was possible to Google your flight and have a look at the airlines and their specific seating and choose a seat that did not back on to the loo ! Everything was downhill from then on !
I booked the next trip with SINGAPORE AIRLINES, all the way through to Brisbane from Heathrow with a stop over at Singapore and what a great idea that was. The plane I chose was an A380 which is really HUGE, but the seating in Business Class is 1-2-1 making for the largest seats I have ever seen and a 7’ bed, which is even better ! The food and service definitely give it the right to call themselves THE GROWN-UP AIRLINE and travelling with them makes it a really enjoyable experience, and if necessary you can sleep all the way over and all the way back !! It also has plenty of space to take a walk around in – something I find necessary to save me getting too stiff.
The only drawback with travelling Business Class is that it is about twice as expensive as cabin class, meaning that I have to save up between trips and not visit my daughter more often than I would like, but it is well worthwhile in the end !