A redeye from Europe to North America… finally!

For years I’ve been (quietly) wondering why there are no redeyes from Europe to North America. There are obviously redeyes from North America to Europe, and there are even daytime flights from North America to London, which I find to be a bit of a waste of time, given that they take up a whole day.

I can certainly see the logic in them, that you arrive in London late in the evening, get a good night of sleep, and are fresh to work the next morning, though it’s not quite that straightforward to me. If you started in Chicago, for example, and get to bed in London at 10PM (after landing an hour prior), that’s really 4PM Chicago time. I don’t think it ends up being any better for jetlag than just taking a redeye from the US and getting at least a few hours of sleep.

But I’ve always thought it would make sense to have redeyes from Europe to the US. Many flights from India and Asia to Europe are similar, leaving late at night or in the wee hours of the morning, and arriving in Europe at the crack of dawn. To me it just makes sense. Maybe you won’t arrive all that well rested, though at least you didn’t waste a day.

Along those lines, for the first time that I can remember, I see that Lufthansa has a flight in the schedule for next summer that’s a redeye from Europe to North America. Specifically, they’ll be launching five times weekly service from Munich to Mexico City on March 26, with the following schedule:

Lufthansa 520 Munich to Mexico City departing at 10:25PM and arriving at 4:25AM
Lufthansa 521 Mexico City to Munich departing at 10:25AM and arriving at 5:05AM (+1 day)

Yes, the return flight sucks, but am I the only one that would be all over the outbound?

Admittedly the flight is on the long side, around 13 hours from Munich to Mexico City, but the same model could be applied to other routes.

For example, Frankfurt to Miami currently departs at 9:55AM and arrives at 1:50PM, so it arrives about four hours after it departs (in local time zones). I’d love a flight that departs at 2AM and gets in at 6AM instead. I could sleep most of the way (and unlike on the way to Europe, the flights are a bit longer on the way back).

Or here’s a totally different option. Lufthansa’s flight from Frankfurt to Seattle, for example, presently departs at 9:55AM and arrives at 11:25AM. that means it arrives 90 minutes after it departs (in local time zones). How about instead switching the flight to a 10PM departure with an 11:30PM arrival? That way one could get in a full day of work and still get a good night of sleep before the next day.

I’m not suggesting these types of changes will work for everyone, but I am pointing out that there’s a lot of competition among transatlantic carriers. Many routes have over a dozen frequencies a day and are trying to find ways to differentiate themselves. Something like this wouldn’t work well on a flight that currently has a single frequency, but when an airline has a handful of flights a day, why not try something like this?

Am I that crazy to think that some innovation with flight times would make sense? Of all the airlines flying from London to Los Angeles, for example, how about a 9PM departure that gets into Los Angeles at midnight?

Anyway, just throwing out some ideas. Would anyone else actually favor a redeye (or night departure with a very late night arrival) over a daytime flight?

Filed Under: Advice
  1. I love the lax-CDG/LHR flights that leave at 9p and arrive at 6p. A nice dinner, a couple of drinks and a great night sleep and no jet lag. I’d like to try a 9p departure on the return although if you sleep on flight, how do you get to sleep when you land at lax at 9p?

  2. @ Michael — Well, it would probably make sense to stay up for most of the flight (ideally the whole flight), and then be tired when you land. During a normal daytime flight on the return you’d otherwise be awake the whole flight, waste your time aboard, and land in time for bed. Seems like a wasted day, vs. a saved day if done correctly for a late night departure.

  3. The biggest problem is connecting flights. Most flights (from the US or Asia or India) get into Europe in the morning. Thus late even departures from Europe don’t make sense for connecting flights. Furthermore, getting into the US in the evening means no connecting flights. With the hub and spoke model, I’m sure you’ll find some business fliers (NYC-LHR) for whom this would be nice, but losing all the hub and spoke traffic due to no connections is a pill that needs to be swallowed with a very large volume of non-stop traffic.

  4. Largely due to cost of landing in MEX I believe. UA had some SFO/LAX flights landing in the middle of the night for the same reason.

  5. USA – EUROPE I have always preferred the LH SFO-MUC when it left at approx 9pm or the 7:35pm Swiss to Zurich…….. works the best and the MUC-SFO departing at 4:15pm …. from Europe arriving at 7pm. I remember Iceland Air had a really late US departure and also a late evening arrival back to SFO when they served that route.

  6. I’m a big fan of the daytime flights from the Northeast to Heathrow. Take Continental’s 900a departure from Newark for example – it means I’m getting to the airport about 730a, and with traffic in the morning, I’m leaving the house at about 645a. That means I’m up at about 545a, which (at least for me) is a very early morning (considering I don’t go to bed until midnight). I stay awake through the flight, land in Heathrow at 915p, and by the time I clear HM Customs, it’s 10 p.m. Hop on Heathrow Express, check into the hotel and drop my bags off, go have a “late dinner” and go to bed at midnight, by which time I’ve been up for about 14 hours after a short night and am pretty tired. Get a full night’s sleep and I’m pretty well-adjusted to the local time for the next day with no jetlag issues, having gotten onto a normal sleep schedule and doing so in a real bed, not a lie-flat seat.

  7. I agree with Hans that the connecting traffic argument is probably the biggest reason airlines don’t go for this.

    However, I would love as a traveler to leave Europe in the evening, arrive in the US late at night…or even your Frankfurt to Miami example. Actually, in that case, passengers would have all the connecting options in the world, arriving at 6am!

    Also, I think you switched your times or labels for your FRA-SEA example…I think you mean a 10pm departure with an 11:30pm arrival.

  8. @ Hans — That’s a great point. That’s why I guess this would work best in markets with a lot of frequencies where many passengers are O&D. That being said, it seems like the very late night/early morning departure with an early morning arrival would be best, with lots of connecting options.

  9. @ Jeff — Fair enough, though as a fellow night owl I sure as hell don’t want to get up at 5:45AM if I don’t have to!

  10. Yeah, I agree with Jeff…I think the East Coast-LHR daytime flights are great. It’s really only a little bit longer than a SFO/LAX to JFK flight, for example, and there are a ton of those that operate during the day, and no one blinks an eye at taking those.

    SFO-JFK is usually just shy of 5 hours in the air (sometimes a little quicker with a good tailwind), whereas JFK-LHR is right around 6. I honestly wish there were morning to evening flights from the US to other destinations in Europe other than LHR.

  11. One more comment…the other nice thing about flight from Europe to the US that leave later is they leave time to actually do something in Europe on the day you leave. My wife and I flew United on LHR-IAD back in May, and with a 4:20pm scheduled departure from LHR, we still had a solid half day to tour London before having to head to the airport…whereas with an 11am departure, you really can’t do much on the day you leave.

  12. You must like CO’s CDG-IAD that departs 5pm and gets in at 7pm or something. Seems to fit your idea. Of course, I doubt you’ll be jumping to fly a 757 TATL anytime soon, even if it is operated by ‘the best in the business’.

  13. I think the biggest obstacle is that US Customs and Immigration is not open at non-traditional hours at many airports. Remember “Snow-kyo”? (Look it up on FT 🙂 ) One of the reasons that flights were cancelled even after the snow stopped was that US C&I would be closed when the planes arrived. The other was that the flight crews would have timed out.

  14. I would not want to deal with public transport at SEA for a flight arriving at 11:30 at night. The very last train leaves there at 12:10a.m. The same could be said for BART at SFO where the last train leaves just before midnight. Public transit on the west coast is just not set up for moving folks around after midnight.

  15. As someone 45 mins away from hopping an LAX-SYD redeye & who’s taken Lufthansa’s FRA-SEA flight for work, I couldn’t agree more!

  16. Iberia has a similar flight since ages, so its a first for *A, although I remember taking a 7.30pm FRA-JFK LH flight in late 2000.

  17. Westbound redeyes are tough to schedule. There are a few – but not many. Though not quite Europe, LY offers westbound redeye flights, leaving tlv around midnight landing NYC the following morning. EK runs a 2am departure from dxb back to JFK. The flights really have to be comfortably over 11 hours to make them feasible.

    The other factor is curfew. You obviously need the airports on both sides to allow early or late aircraft movements. Places like syd this wouldn’t work.

    One that would work is NYC-anc. Local arrival time is six or so hours after departure. At present, this is only offered as a day flight westbound.

  18. Just to add to what I said earlier, some of the most frustrating flights for my clients are the following ones (which spring to mind) which don’t conform to the arrive early morning into Europe, depart mid-morning or early afternoon mold:
    LH1330 FRA-CMN 1020p-0100a+1
    LH0572 FRA-JNB 1030p-1015a+1

    (We’ve talked to our LH rep about the JNB flight (because we do a ton to Jo-burg) and she said they’re really not interested in competing on US traffic to SA. SAA has daily flights from the US and LH fills their planes with EU-based folks to SA, so they’re happy.)

    What it means (if they want to take LH, which is often the best option) is that they need to spend all day in FRA. This is one place, however, that an 8a-9p IAD-FRA or a 7a-9p ORD-FRA would make a lot of sense, but once again, there are very, very few US cities that can connect to an 8a out of IAD or a 7a out of ORD. We sell the ET IAD-ADD quite a bit, but now that they’ve moved it from early morning to 11a, we sure sell a lot more because it doesn’t force an overnight at IAD (even though ET pays for your hotel).

    (The nice *A JV option to CMN is the BD 0720a-1035a LHR-CMN. Often I’ll take a customer in on the BD flight and out on the LH flight (the LH return flight CMN-FRA is 210a-640a). BD CMN-LHR is an abysmal 1125a-250p, which allows you to catch the 420p UA flight to IAD, but gets you there at 825p which is too late to catch most US-based connections.)

    CMN is at the top of my mind right now because I just finished struggling through an exhausting RAK-based adoption with a customer of mine (our TA specializes in int’l adoption travel) that had Irene thrown in as a special bonus after they insisted on taking the horrible AT JFK-CMN, which of course was canceled.

  19. If you consider TLV to be Europe (close?), several airlines run a midnight to 1 AM departure, 6 AM arrival going westbound. 11 hours of flight time, no daylight.

  20. “Waste of time” is relative. As someone who often does SFO-PVG, SFO-NRT, and SFO-FRA turns several times a year, I prefer arrivals around 4pm. Walk in the sun, dinner and wine, then a solid sleep and I’m kicking ass the next morning. I can’t sleep on planes, at least effectively, no matter how hard I try. So I’m the annoying dude in biz with the light on the whole time banging on his keyboard. Lots of work done without the distraction of the net. Definitely not a waste of time, and I’ll even admit to having scheduled a long mileage run in the past just to get away and get work done… on the plane! Ok perhaps that is a bit sad. A beach may have been just as good.

  21. @Tom911

    The T in Boston is just as bad. Last run from the airport is about 1230AM — I used to write letters to United anytime they’d be delayed past 1230AM and demand they pay for my $60 cab fare. Course, that was back in the day, and usually they’d give me a $100 voucher! 🙂

  22. While a redeye flight westbound could work, it will surely throw off the eastbound flights and mess up tons of connections… I am not too concerned about intra schengen flights, but flights to the Middle East, Africa, and India.

    Routes like SFO, LAX, IAD, and some others who sees multiple flights each day on LH and *A partners can afford to have a redeye flight since there are already 2-3 other flights that can cater to the long haul to long haul traffic… The redeye flight will be more catered for O/D traffic and Schengen passengers as well as couple other long haul markets like JNB, SIN, HKG, etc… Right now, I really like the MUC-LAX flight and the evening FRA-SFO flight on UA.

    I don’t think a pure westbound redeye is possible logistically speaking unless they can rely on 80%+ O/D traffic to fill up the plane. But I would like to see a late afternoon departure from Europe arriving in the US sometime around 1800-2000… I hate the noon departures with a passion. Late afternoon departures will allow us to have a couple of hours in the morning to do whatever we want [wrap up meeting, see a spot or two, grab a nice lunch, less stress checking out and getting to the airport, etc] and arrives in the states in time to grab a brunch, utilize whatever available public transportation, and be in bed at a reasonable time…

    Talking about MUC-MEX, they only have to shift all the flights 2 hours forward then the schedule would be PERFECT and it will not hamper connections in MUC either with a 7am arrival rather than 5am…

  23. The late LHR-NYC departures are always very popular (6pm, 7pm and 8pm, all arriving about 3 hours later). The 8pm in particular allows people to get nearly a full day’s work in and it arrives early enough in NYC to allow for a proper night’s sleep and a full day the next day.

    All the redeye eastbounds from the East Coast to LHR are problematic because they are short flights and it is impossible for most people to get adequate rest for the next day. Those that arrive very early in the morning are particularly bad (apart from folks who wish to make some sort of misguided macho statement) since passengers will be fading badly mid-afternoon the next day.

    For me, the trick going westbound is to move a couple of hours of time change before the flight – so I always choose later departures if at all possible. Departures before 1pm are to be avoided, since they require getting out of bed before 9:30 am, which is 7:30 am on my new schedule.

  24. For me, the beauty of travelling westbound is gaining time. I guess I don’t see the value in gaining time just to arrive at 11pm or something similar.

  25. Ben, 100% with you on this. The 8pm LHR-NYC bank of flights is my favorite, and the 7pm CDG-JFK almost makes it worth flying AF. Wish there were substantially more options like these out of Europe…no doubt the NYC market could support them, either.

  26. It seems the rest of the America’s prefer this option of late night departures out of Europe. For example, Alitalia has only one daily FCO – EZE flight and it departs very late evening and arrives early in the AM like your example. If you look at the time tables you’ll see this as a fairly common schedule in the America’s. It seems the airline
    industry concluded this is not a schedule that the U.S. or Canadian customer wants. I would welcome a redeye going west however.

  27. Your logic works great – for anyone able to sleep overnight in a flat-bed seat. But your logic ends with those of us flying in economy. I get exactly zero sleep on red-eyes. Perhaps a daytime flight wastes an entire day, but if you arrive after a red-eye as a zombie, you still waste that same day…and likely the day after it when you are trying to catch up to local time. For the time being, I’ll stick to daytime flights and then get some rest in a real bed whenever I have the choice.

  28. Its all about the connections on both ends as previously mentioned. Except for NYC-LHR/CDG, pretty much all other routes depend on connecting traffic.

  29. Ironically, westbound redeyes are a lot more common in entertainment than in reality. I constantly see books and movies in which the characters leave Europe in the late evening and arrive in the United States the following morning, and I agree – I wish there were more of those flights.

  30. I dislike the current schedule of LH’s FRA-SEA and SEA-FRA. It sucks in both directions. 9:55am FRA departure means any inbound connections require unpleasantly early airport arrivals – and even with an 11:25 am arrival, the day is largely lost. Conversely, the SEA departure is so early that is really hard to fall sleep on the plane and get more than a 2-hour nap.

    However your proposed schedule with 10pm departure from FRA and 11:30pm arrival in SEA has several problems. It will arrive after all connecting flights are gone for the day in SEA – and the flight does need to serve connections to places like PDX, GEG, BOI, ANC, FAI, as well as smaller towns. And the return departure time around 1:30am or 2:00am is not attractive, and then the arrival back in FRA is late.

    What I’d prefer is a 430pm departure from FRA, 6:00pm SEA arrival which will still be good for most connections. The return flight can depart at 8:00pm, a quick meal and a good sleep, and many onward connections available at FRA.

  31. SAA used to have this option on both their US flights to IAD and JFK from JNB. However, along with making JFK the only non-stop, they have now completed the shafting of the IAD route by changing it to a 1030am arrival. The JFK flight to JNB also benefits from having better connections into Africa as it leaves JFK at 11a and arrives 7am in JNB, while the IAD flight departs almost 6pm arriving after 3pm.

    Before, the IAD flight left JNB around 7pm and arrived at 6am. This allowed someone on the coasts, CPT or DUR, to enjoy one last morning, before they hoped on their connecting flight to JNB, or someone in JNB, the whole day, before going to the airport. Fly overnight and arrive at IAD first thing to connect on those early cheap flights or head home to sleep or work for a half a day. This flight now leaves JNB around 10:45pm, giving you more time in SA, but the almost 11am arrival pretty much limts you to afternoon connections (bad in summer weather) and a useless day.

    JFK flight leaves around 7p now and gets into NYC around 6am, making it a good use of time. You can connect on early morning to anywhere in the country. Or get in and head to work!

    I definitely would love a red eye from each european capital back to the States.

  32. I used to travel between EU and South America.

    The flights would leave at midnight and arrive at 7am and it was an all night flight with sunrise just before landing.

    Just like the one I took to Sydney from LAX

    never understood why NA has that restriction but should be traffic I guess

  33. I always prefer the red-eyes when they are available… You don’t lose a day and you also save a night of hotel cost!

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