Morning Flight or Red Eye? The Best Times to Fly

Airfare changes can seem mysterious, but there are some rules of thumb that can serve you well. One is that you can often get plane tickets cheap by flying first thing in the morning or overnight on the so-called red eye flights.

Good fares for mid-day flights, particularly during the middle of the week, can certainly be had, and for cross country flights, these are the ones where you are most likely to be provided with snacks and meals on board. However, mid-day flights are not always cheap, and many flyers feel as if they disrupt the natural flow of the day.

When to Buy Airline Tickets and More Travel Advice

First Flights in the Morning

Because fewer people want to take the first flight in the morning, you can often get plane tickets cheap if you are willing to fly then, particularly if you are flexible about your travel dates.

Benefits of Early Morning Flights:

  • Napping on the plane can make up for some of the sleep lost from getting up extra early
  • Flying super early allows travelers to squeeze in an extra half-day to a day’s worth of activities at their destination
  • First flights are less likely to be behind schedule. Weather may cause delays, but the ripple effect of delays on earlier flights is minimized
  • Travelers can avoid the extra night’s lodging expense from traveling late in the day and arriving at bedtime

Drawbacks of Early Morning Flights

  • Depending on your distance from the airport, taking the first flight could necessitate getting up at 4 a.m. or even earlier.
  • Those who need breakfast cannot count on getting anything to eat on the plane, and must factor in packing food or buying food at the airport. This can get expensive, particularly when traveling with children

Cheapest Days to Fly

Red Eye Flights

Red eye flights are overnight flights from west to east, which effectively shorten the night for the traveler as time zones are crossed. They generally depart after 9 p.m. and arrive before 5 a.m. the next morning. Airlines offer them so they can take in additional revenue from planes that would otherwise sit idle, and because they can use them to get planes in position for the following day’s schedule.

Benefits of Taking Red Eye Flights:

  • They are often the best option for finding plane tickets cheap
  • Business travelers can maximize efficiency and minimize lost work time
  • Vacationers can maximize the amount of time spent actually vacationing, possibly saving the cost of a night’s lodging in the process
  • Check-in and security lines are usually shorter for night flights and airports generally less crowded
  • Red eye flights are usually less crowded, so overhead bin space, pillows and blankets should be readily available. Flyers can often book more desirable seats for red eye flights than for daytime flights

Drawbacks of Red Eye Flights:

  • Red eye flights disrupt sleep. The more time zones crossed from west to east, the more hours are lopped off the traveler’s potential sleep time.
  • If a traveler crosses many time zones on a red eye flight, jet lag may take a few days to go away completely.

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Published: June 18, 2012