Noise cancelling headsets, healthy food, and drinking alcohol are some of the many ways travellers on long-haul flights try to fight fatigue resulting from jet lag, according to an ongoing study carried out by Qantas.

Business Traveller Asia-Pacific readers will be all too familiar with jet lag, which results in extreme tiredness and other physical effects after a long flight across different time zones and can lead to insomnia, difficulty concentrating and a general feeling of not being well.

Some early findings from the research, which is part of the airline’s ongoing studies carried out in partnership with the University of Sydney’s Charles Perkins Centre (CPC), were released today ahead of the Australian carrier’s first Project Sunrise research flight, which will fly non-stop from New York to Sydney today. The total duration of this flight is about 19 or 20 hours.


The initial findings revealed the following:

  • 54% of people surveyed used ear plugs or noise cancelling headsets to help them sleep on long haul flights
  • 38%  drank alcohol to aid their sky slumber
  • 10% used sleeping tablets
  • 39% chose healthy food when they arrived at their destination to help with recovery

Are passengers doing enough to fight fatigue? 

The study also revealed what passengers aren’t doing. Less than half of travellers (47%) surveyed are not making a conscious effort to go out into the sunshine upon arrival – a proven way to overcome jet lag.

Specialist sleep researcher Dr Yu Sun Bin, who is part of the CPC team, said while most people actively try to reduce their jet lag, the study with Qantas shows they are not doing what is most effective.

“We know that going outdoors for sunlight at the destination is one of the most important strategies for syncing the body clock, but only 47 per cent of passengers made the effort to do it,” she said.

“Drinking more than a few glasses of alcohol will make jet lag worse. It might make us fall asleep faster but beyond a certain point, it also disrupts the quality of sleep and causes dehydration,” Yu added.

The studies were conducted across almost 500 passengers travelling on Qantas international flights longer than nine hours. Qantas says the aim is to establish a baseline to help researchers and the national carrier design new in-flight strategies to promote in-flight wellbeing and reduce jet lag.

Qantas’ Project Sunrise

Qantas will fly two more test flights – one from London and another from New York – by the end of the year as part of Project Sunrise.

“Project Sunrise is pushing the boundaries even further. We know we need to think harder about crew and passenger wellbeing when you’re airborne for almost 20 hours, and that’s why this research is so important,” said Qantas CEO Alan Joyce.

He added: “The passenger research will test alternatives to how airlines have managed inflight service for decades. Usually with night flights, passengers are provided with dinner shortly after take-off and then lights are turned off. But this may not necessarily be the best way to help reset a passenger’s body clock to the destination time zone.”

The first Project Sunrise flight will be flown using a 787 Dreamliner. The jet has a special livery celebrating Qantas’ 100th year of operation.

Qantas unveils new livery on its latest Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner

What are some effective ways to fight jet lag that have worked for you after a long-haul flight? Please share in the comments below.