What to expect on an eleven hour flight

What to expect on an 11 hour flight from London to San Francisco - Travel for a Living

We’ve just come back from a week in San Francisco. And what shall I say, it was amazing. We’ve been looking forward to the San Francisco trip ever since we booked it. If only it wasn’t for the rather long flight from London to San Francisco. I mean an 8-hour flight from London to New York is bad enough. But an eleven-hour flight from London to San Francisco? How on earth were we meant to survive that. With Mr T being bored to death after about two hours, I was preparing for the worst. And since this was our first 11-hour flight, I also didn’t know what to expect in terms of food. Would it be one meal shortly after take-off and then starve to death until the end of the flight? Or would it be a main meal and a snack? Two main meals? Eleven hours is a long flight, especially if you are stuck in a small metal tube with nothing to do than watch movies and eat. But enough of the introduction, let me tell you what to expect on an eleven hour flight in economy.

What to expect on an eleven hour flight: Before Take-Off

Our British Airways flight from London to San Francisco was due to take off at 10.40am. And as with all long-haul flights, we were advised to arrive at the airport three hours before departure. To allow for sufficient time for bag drop and security. And a lengthy breakfast in the British Airways lounge obviously.

Boarding commenced around 10am. As long-haul aircrafts tend to be considerably larger than the standard short-haul aircrafts, boarding does take its time. And our flight from London to San Francisco was no exception. It seemed to take forever for everyone to board, stow away luggage and settle down. Not the least because we had an almost full flight. But it was not just us that took a while to board. Luggage was a little late as well, resulting in a slight delay right from the start. Instead of the planned 10.40 departure time, it was 10.55 when we left the stand. Only to join the rather long queue at the runway. By the time we eventually took off, it was already 11.30. Meaning we started our 11-hour flight to San Francisco with 50 minutes delay.

What to expect on an eleven hour flight: Hour One

Although the weather looked fine in London, we had a very bumpy start for around 10 minutes. Until we broke through the clouds and flew above 3500m.

15 minutes into the flight we were informed that the onboard Wi-Fi was now available. To be honest, this was the first time that I had onboard Wi-Fi on a British Airways flight. It seemed to have taken them a while to jump on the band wagon when it comes to inflight internet. However, unlike some other airlines, British Airways did not offer the onboard Wi-Fi for free. Instead you had to buy an internet package (regardless of whether you are a frequent flyer or not). I don’t know if Business Class and First Class had free Wi-Fi access on board, but I suspect they might. We decided not to spent money on the Wi-Fi, so I can’t really tell you if the British Airways onboard Wi-Fi is any good. I can however tell you that one hour of browsing starts at 4.99GBP (or 14.99GBP if you want to buy Wi-Fi for the entire flight). Streaming is 7.99GBP an hour (or 23.99GBP for the entire flight).

Thirty minutes into the flight the crew started handing out the first round of drinks, along with a little snack of pretzels. As by now it was already midday, we had the full bar service on offer. Plus, we were offered red or white wine to go with our lunch later.

12.11: Are we there yet? This must be a new record for Mr T. It had taken him a mere 41 minutes to ask the dreaded question. But to be honest, I think he just wanted to wind me up a little. For the rest of the flight he bit his tongue and did not ask again.

What to expect on an 11 hour flight - Travel for a Living Food to expect on an 11 hour flight with British Airways - Travel for a Living

What to expect on an eleven hour flight: Hour Two

As we started the second hour, lunch service started. And first up were the special meals. Up to 48 hours before a long-haul flight you have the option of requesting a special meal, like vegetarian / vegan, halal, coeliac or simply low fat / low calorie. Mr T had opted for the low-calorie option, whereas I decided to chance it with the standard meal. Therefore, his meal came way earlier than mine. The British Airways low-calorie meal option on our flight was a bean salad, steamed chicken with polenta, sauce and steamed broccoli, a bread roll with margarine and a fruit salad.

As the British Airways standard meal, I had a choice of chicken and mash or pasta with pesto (the pasta being the vegetarian option). Along with a side salad, bread roll and butter, cheddar cheese and crackers and a mango and passion fruit posset for dessert. Plus a Graze box, which I kept for snacking later.

This wasn’t the first time Mr T opted for the low-calorie option. But this time he was a little disappointed. As instead of giving him some low-calorie snack options, they just left out half the things. Compared to my standard meal his did look rather sad.

What to expect on an eleven hour flight: Hour Three

With lunch service over and trays cleared, everyone was settling down. It was time to watch a movie or try to close our eyes for a little while (wishful thinking, I know).

After approx. 3.5 hours we flew over Iceland. And were in for some amazing views of snow.

By the end of the third hour, there was another round of drinks (water and juice only).

11 hour flight from London to San Francisco - Travel for a Living Flight from London to San Francisco - Travel for a Living

What to expect on an eleven hour flight: Hour Four to Six

As we flew over Greenland there was more snow scenery to be seen. Other than that, the next two hours were fairly quiet, and we were all either watching movies or trying to sleep. Somewhere in the sixth hour we had a round of ice cream, to keep us going.

What to expect on an 11 hour flight - Travel for a Living

What to expect on an eleven hour flight: Hour Seven to Nine

Not much happened for the next two hours either, we just continued watching movies or sleeping (divide 11 hours by your standard movie time of 90 minutes and you’ll get an idea just how many movies you could get through during a long-haul flight).

In the ninth hour it was time for dinner. This time we were served a folded pizza with either pepperoni or mozzarella/pesto filling, along with a pasta salad, followed by a flap jack. Meanwhile, a rather disappointed Mr T was served the same chicken dish as earlier (SPOILER ALERT: for the flight back he changed his meal preference and opted for the standard meal instead).

What to expect on an 11 hour flight from London to San Francisco - Travel for a Living What to expect on an 11 hour flight - Travel for a Living

What to expect on an eleven hour flight: Hour Ten to Eleven

As we were nearing the end of the flight, it was time to finally fill in that customs declaration form for entering the US. The crew had handed the landing cards out right at the start of the flight, but until now I hadn’t bothered filling it in.

With that completed, all we could do was get ourselves organised, pack away our stuff, put our shoes back on and wait for the aircraft to land into San Francisco.

There you have it. What to expect on an eleven hour flight:

Two hot meals and loads of movies.

I was surprised that in the end the eleven hour flight felt nowhere near as bad as I feared. And with a whole week of exploring San Francisco ahead of us, we were in best spirit and ready to hit town.

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  1. gail buckieMumforce

    I have never been on a plane for longer than 4 hours, i dont know what i would do for 11!! Great post

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  5. Carole Dickinson

    Thank you