I have talked about stitching on airlines, but I thought I would put all my suggestions in one post to help people who are planning to fly and stitch.
Before You Make a Reservation
Not every flight is a good candidate for stitching. Although I have stitched on the one hour flight between San Francisco and Las Vegas, you will only have about 30 minutes to actually stitch. The rest of the time your tray table will be packed away and so will your stitching. Any flight over two hours is a good candidate for stitching.
I am a right handed stitcher. Stitching is much easier for me if I have an aisle seat with the aisle on my right hand side so that I can extend my arm into the aisle without hitting a fellow passenger. That means I request seat C in a six seats across plane and seat B in two seats next to the window plane. I have stitched in the middle seat and a window seat, but be sure to keep your thread short and your movements compact. Stitching will be very difficult in a bulkhead seat. You are not allowed to have anything on the floor in front of you, though I have put small purses under the seat on some flights. Your tray table will also pull up and out from the armrest and will much more difficult to deal with than a tray table that pulls down from the seat in front of you.
Choosing a Project
This is no time for beading or complex charts. This is not the proper environment for over one stitching or stitching on dark fabric. Ornaments, biscornus, freebies, and zipper kits are ideal. It is also best to choose a chart with a large area of one color to stitch. Switching colors is more complex in a restricted space. Your lighting is also much dimmer, particularly on night flights, than stitching with your daylight balanced light. This Bent Creek Zipper kit (three threads over two on 25 count linen) is perfect for flying.
Before you leave, make sure your traveling kit has everything you need in a compact closeable envelope. Separate your threads and label them so that you are not stitching 310 when you should have been stitching 3371. Bring an extra needle. If your chart is large, make a smaller, enlarged photocopy of the part of the chart that you going to be working on. Make sure this is handy in your purse or carry on bag that fits under the seat in front of you. You don't want to have to go into the overhead bin to get your stitching. I always have some stitching done on the piece I am stitching on a plane. It is so much easier to bury a new thread in the back of an already stitched area than try to find the center of a piece and start new stitching.
The most important question people have asked me is "What kind of scissors can I bring?" TSA has an entire web page of Permitted and Prohibited Items. The key provision for allowed scissors are "Scissors - plastic or metal with blunt tips" or "Scissors - metal with pointed tips and blades shorter than four inches in length." These are the two items I always bring with me, my LoRan needle threader and my machine embroidery scissors that have a cutting area of only 1/4 of an inch in a half circle area of the blade. International travel can have many more restrictions. A pointed pair of scissors with a three inch blade was confiscated in Narita (Tokyo, Japan) airport, but my blunt embroidery scissors have never been questioned. Knitting needles and crochet hooks are allowed on US flights.
Stitching On the Plane
I use 8" x 8" Q-Snap frames on airline flights. I do have a 6" x 6" frame, but you don't need a frame that small. A pulldown airline tray is about 15" wide and 10" deep. I make sure that I wash my hands just before I get on the plane or wash them immediately when the seatbelt sign goes off. When the flight attendant announces that it safe to start your electronic items, I put down my tray table, pull out my iPod and earphones, thread my needle with a new thread, and put my threads and kit away in the seat pocket in front of me. The only things on my tray table are my iPod, my chart and my frame with fabric and threaded needle. I might not stitch the entire time of a long flight, but will rest my eyes and just listen to my iPod or read. Fifteen minutes or more before you land, the flight attendant will ask you to return your tray table to the upright position. Make sure that all your threads, needles, and orts are tucked away in your stitching kit. Put your stitching kit back is in your purse or carry on bag.
When you have landed and are ready to start stitching again, check your progress against the chart. If you have any area that you need to frog, now is the time to do it, but I hope you won't have to.
I stitched most of this Bent Creek Boo! Betty Sheep on a flight from Chicago O'Hare airport to Las Vegas. I had started some of the orange sign and the dark letters before I got on the plane. I got bored with just stitching orange and dark brown, so I switched to green during the last hour of the flight. It took a little more glancing at the chart to get the stitches in the right place and one frog of an errant stitch right after I made it, but it is turning out well so far.