Not all business travel takes place in business class.
A large number of professionals shuttle back and forth through the skies wedged into economy where they rub shoulders with holidaymakers, students, backpackers, young families and grandparents.
In fact, many corporate travel budgets that were pruned during the GFC never bounced back to the heady days when business class was the norm for the business traveller.
Company policy, limited project budgets and tight-fisted clients all play a role in pushing business travellers towards the back of the bus.
'Economy only' has become a common corporate mantra on shorter international trips, including the eight-hour haul to Singapore or Hong Kong. Many even have to make do with economy on regular trips all the way to the US or, worse still, London.
At least regular travellers can use their frequent flyer status to soften the blow with lounge access and a better chance of those unexpected last-minute upgrades.
But while being a business traveller in an economy class seat is nobody's idea of fun, here are ten ways to make it less of a chore.
1. Plan ahead
Choose the flights that work best for you and your schedule.
Heading to Hong Kong? Qantas may have just one flight a day while Cathay Pacific can have three or four, depending on which Australian city you're departing from.
If your company isn't locked into flying with Qantas you might prefer a Cathay Pacific flight which departs early in the morning or later in the afternoon.
2. Choose your seat with care
The 'best' economy seats are typically ones with a bit of extra legroom, although you may have to pay for that privilege; seats located away from the baby bassinet positions at bulkheads; and seats not too close to the loo or the galley.
Even if the good seats are all gone, you can at least avoid booking yourself into a bad seat that will expose you to any or all of the above.
Bulkhead rows – the ones behind the cabin divider walls – are a mixed bag. In some aircraft they've got an extra few inches of legroom, in others it's a fairly tight fit and you'd be better off being able to stretch your feet out under the seat in front of you.
3. Get an empty seat next to you
Several airlines do their best to ensure the seat next to a top-tier frequent flyer travelling in economy remains empty. In the argot of frequent flyers, this is called a 'shadow'.
It's one of the perks of holding Platinum status with Qantas, for example.
You can place your carry-on bag under the seat next to you to keep your own legroom free. The empty seat's meal tray can hold your drinks or snacks while your own tray is utilised for your work materials.
And you can use the empty seat to spread out your inflight work a little more.
But don't leave that to chance: ask at the check-in desk or the lounge.
Many Platinum-grade frequent flyers will tell you of how somebody was seated next to them even though there were plenty of empty seats throughout the plane.
Even if you're a Gold rather than Platinum frequent flyer it's worth asking nicely, explaining that you've got quite a bit of work to get through and would appreciate the extra elbow room.
You may need to agree to sit further down the plane, but for a long international flight it can be worth it.
4. Arrive early and work in the lounge
Don't expect to get as much work done in the air as you might think. The minute the person ahead of you reclines their seat it's usually 'game over', at least if you've got a laptop.
This is one area where a tablet with a detachable keyboard can make all the difference.
An alternative strategy: arrive at the airport earlier than usual and get down to work at the lounge.
The best example of this is if you're a Qantas Platinum card-holder flying out of Sydney.
Qantas offers all-day checkin at Sydney's T1 international terminal, so even you're headed all the way to London on QF1 in economy (for which you have our condolences) you could check in at 11am for your 5pm flight, have lunch, knock over plenty of work (ask at the lounge reception desk about booking one of the office suites) and maybe fit in a relaxing spa session before your flight.
5. Power up your tech
Even if your economy seat has access to a USB jack and shared AC socket, get your laptop, tablet and smartphone charged up to 100% in the lounge.... because you never know when your seat will be the borked one where the volts aren't flowing.
6. Use priority boarding
While most business class seats have ample space in the overhead bins for your carry-on gear, in economy it can be a bit of a bunfight.
It's a good idea to leave the lounge a little earlier and be at the departure gate when boarding begins.
Your frequent flyer status will let you skip the economy line and board in the business class lane, so you get first dibs on overhead luggage space.
(Getting settled into your seat earlier also affords a little extra time to deal with any last-minute emails via your smartphone while everybody else is still boarding.)
7. Maximise your space
Free up space in the seat pocket for your tablet or reading glasses – or just gain a little extra knee room – by tossing the inflight magazine, duty-free catalogue and everything bar the safety card into the overhead bin.
8. Order a 'special' meal
Most airlines will let business class passengers pretty much dine at their leisure (although you may need to forego hot dishes).
Not so in economy, where the meals are served en masse and the empty dishes aren't taken away until maybe 30-45 minutes after you've finished.
When travelling in economy, my workaround is to order a 'special' meal before I fly.
Vegetarian, kosher, diabetic, gluten-free – there's plenty to choose from, and these meals are all served ahead of the rest of the economy cabin.
If you're a bit of a fast eater as I am, there's every chance you can finish your meal and press the Call Attendant button to have your tray taken away before everybody else is served.
That way you can get straight back to working, watching a video or getting a head-start on a kip. As a bonus, you'll also enjoy a refreshingly different and probably healthier meal than the usual 'beef or chicken?' choice.
9. Drown out the noise
You do have a pair of noise-cancelling headphones in your carry-on bag, right?
I'm a fan of the Bose QuietComfort series, although there are plenty of good alternatives from Audio-Technica, Sony and Sennheiser, among others.
(Stay away from Beats unless you want a high price tag matched to bottom-heavy bass: Beats might rock the doof-doof but are not much chop at anything else).
If most of your travel is in economy there's precious little room around your seat for keeping carry-on kit close at hand, so you might want to consider compact earbuds like the Bose QuietComfort 20. They'll take up much less space than larger over-the-ear cans.
10. Apply for an upgrade
If none of that makes you less downcast at the thought of spending a dozen bum-numbing hours sitting in economy, use your frequent flyer points to apply for an upgrade to premium economy or business class.
The trick is that not all economy tickets are eligible for an upgrade.
In the case of Qantas international flights, for example, you won't be able to apply for an upgrade if you're travelling on a Sale fare, which is the cheapest economy ticket (travel agents will book these in N, O and Q ticket categories).
If you want to use your points to sit at the pointy end of the plane, be sure you're booked on an economy Saver or economy Flex fare.
What are your tips for the business traveller flying in economy?