The idea that dressing like a business traveller will get you an upgrade to business class? It’s largely a myth. Almost all upgrades are automated these days, based on your frequent flyer status rather than your sense of style.
And where there’s any room for human intervention, which seems increasingly rare these days, smart casual will almost always going to be good enough to get you the nod.
(And if you’re going straight into a business meeting at the other end of your flight, pack your business kit into a carry-on garment bag or checked luggage using the roll-and-fold system.)
So what’s good to wear in the air? Here are my own tips, based on international (not domestic) travel.
Firstly: if you care at all about how you look then please, try a little harder than shorts and a T-shirt.
My own in-flight wardrobe is basic and fuss-free, but doesn't look out of place in a first class lounge or at the pointy end of the plane.
Pants: a pair of all-cotton chinos, in a soft-to-medium colour from sand to taupe. I find jeans are too ‘heavy’ and constricting compared to chinos which are light, breathe well and still look good even with some in-flight creasing.
Shirt: either a non-branded polo top (short sleeve or long sleeve, depending mainly on your destination) or a long-sleeved casual shirt. Both all-cotton, and usually in black – because black looks good against the chinos and doesn’t show creases as much as lighter colours.
Shoes: slip-on shoes are made for breezing through airport security checkpoints and quickly slipping off once the flight begins, but if they’re too tight a fit you’ll have trouble slipping them onto your feet after 8+ hours in the air.
If you’re only travelling with the one pair of shoes – which may be the case for a day-and-night trip – choose dressy slip-ons with a little more give around the sides, or comfortable lace-ups.
Jacket: what about your suit jacket? Don’t pack your jacket, wear it.
It’ll look sharp in the lounge (if you choose the right clothes to wear on board) and once you’re on the plane you can have it hung in the business class wardrobe or gently folded and stowed in an overhead locker.
Just place it on top of your carry-on luggage, not beside it, to avoid other passengers shoving their bag in and scrunching your jacket up.
We'd be interested to hear your own tips for what to wear in the air. Share them with other Australian Business Traveller readers in the comment box below or join the conversation on Twitter – we're @AusBT.
About David Flynn
David Flynn is the editor of Australian Business Traveller and a bit of a travel tragic with a weakness for good coffee, shopping and lychee martinis.