I don’t hate redeyes anymore…

I don’t think anyone actually likes redeyes. Well, actually, maybe some non-frequent flyers that have been listening to too much “Airplanes” by BoB/Hayley Williams do.

Anyway, I’m proud to say that as of a couple of weeks ago, I don’t actually dread redeyes anymore. After 200 or so domestic, sub-five hour redeyes under my belt, I’ve actually started to appreciate them for what they are. The funny thing is, the reason I’ve started to appreciate them is because I spent most of last year trying to avoid them, without good reason. When traveling east, I’ve actually found redeyes to be far more enjoyable than daytime flights for a few reasons:

  • They’re huge timesavers. This goes without saying, but it’s nice to not leave the west coast at the crack of dawn and arrive on the east coast in the dark. It’s much nicer to leave the west coast in the dark and arrive on the east coast at the crack of dawn.
  • My email inbox appreciates it. The biggest pain about daytime flights going east is that I end up arriving home at around midnight, only to be up until the wee hours of the night catching up on email. With redeyes, I get a head start on the day by being able to check my email at 6AM upon landing, and then throughout the day. Admittedly, this assumes you fly an airline that doesn’t offer Wi-Fi aboard…
  • Post-redeye sleep is the best. I’m a pretty light sleeper, except after a redeye. Nothing beats the feeling of going to bed early after a redeye and waking up refreshed the following morning at a reasonable hour.
  • Upgrades are easier. This isn’t true across the board, though is true for me. I travel on weekends, and redeyes on Saturdays are much easier than daytime flights on Sundays.

But those are all factors that I’ve known from the beginning. What has changed is that I realize that redeyes don’t have to be so bad. For one, I’ve finally figured out the most comfortable redeye sleeping position (which doesn’t involve drugs or alcohol). The key (for me) is to have a non-bulkhead seat and a hoodie. Recline your seat all the way, put the pillow behind your lower back, adjust the headrest widgets so you can rest your head against them, put in some in-ear headphones and listen to quiet music, stretch your feet out all the way under the seat in front of you, put on a hoodie and zip it up (and rest your hands in the pouch), and pull a blanket all the way up to your face. Works like a charm for me. If done properly, it’s almost as comfortable as an angled flat bed (at least for a few hours).

But the key, for me at least, is to not try to force myself to sleep. The issue I always had is that I felt like I needed to get as much sleep as possible on a redeye. That caused me to spend more time on a redeye thinking about sleep than actually sleeping. Instead I sometimes have the snack and start watching the movie. If I end up not sleeping, so be it. But almost always I end up asleep about 10 minutes into the movie, without ever feeling like I forced myself to sleep.

And there you have it, that’s why I don’t mind redeyes anymore!

On a slightly unrelated note, United’s new redeye snacks are abso-friggin-lutely amazing. It’s rare that I’ll say that about domestic airplane food, but the cold chicken pasta and even the tomato and mozzarella sandwich are really, really good. I would actually rather have that than the normal lunch or dinner offerings.

Filed Under: Travel
  1. If you fly Virgin America you can use a computer with Internet & power the whole way across the country…

  2. All true if you get the upgrade. But for me they’re the exception (*G). I find that they take 2 days to recover from now that I’m over 60. It wasn’t so much of a problem 10 and 20 years ago.

    My favorite alternative is the 9AM EWR-LHR flight.It arrives just after 9PM local, and I get to bed at the hotel around midnight. Up at 6AM with a normal amount of sleep and I’m on time-zone schedule. When I go anywhere in EU, I take that flight the day before, usually Saturday, then a morning flight to wherever on Sunday.

  3. I can attest to that post-redeye sleep. It’s so good. I’ve found the other nice thing about red-eyes is that my wife finds it much more palatable to be married to a mileage runner if I’m back the next morning before she wakes up. One less day away from those family and friends that think/know I’m totally insane.

    Good to know about the food. I turned it down this last weekend and now I’m regretting it. šŸ™‚

    Overall, I’ve been really impressed with the food on United lately. Some of the items you can buy in the back are really good as well especially for healthier eaters.

  4. I LOVE the redeyes coming east for the time saved and getting to my destination early in the morning. I feel like I’ve a leg up on the world. A catnap during the day gets me back on track with lost sleep. Welcome to the redeye fan club!

  5. Glad to know that United’s awful movies serve a purpose — to put people to sleep!

    Agreed that the food on UA lately has been fantastic. Incredible actually. Even the snack basket is awesome — Toblerones (yum!), nut packs, funky chips….. I honestly can’t figure out why someone who has sat on a plane for 4-6 hours needs an energy bar, but Clif bars aren’t cheap so I won’t complain! And the fact that they pass a snack basket, in addition to a meal, on a 3.5 hour DEN-BOS flight is impressive.

    As for sleeping, I’m amazing 2 for 2 this year in terms of sleeping for 75% of my red-eyes. After 5 years of empirical testing, I believe the key for me is to get my feet up. If I put my wife’s mini-roller in front of me, it makes a perfect footstool. Then it’s eye-shade, ear plugs with headphones over top. And depending on how hot is on the flight, I pulled out my ultra-light super-compressible sleeping bag. You can laugh all you want, just keep the noise down…….

    My gripe last weekend was that the purser was practically yelling the menu choices….. only now do I understand why a ‘tomato and mozzarella sandwich’ kept chasing me in my dream!

  6. You really must try Ambien. 1/2 pill with the snack, and you’ll be asleep in no time. My life would be hell without Ambien.

  7. I’ll go along with everything said by Lucky except the upgrade part. I take a redeye about twice a month from LAX to the east coast, and upgrades are impossible. I was on a US Airways flight LAX-PHL a couple weeks ago, and the GA told me there were 36 Chairman’s Preferred in coach. I have several colleagues who are Diamond on Delta, and they have never been upgraded on a redeye from LAX-ATL (and Delta has three redeyes a night!). I think business travelers recognize the benefit of not losing an entire day of work being in the air, and as a result, weekday (especially end of the week) upgrades are I would guess, among the hardest to get of any routes in the country.

    Now granted, I’m sure the Saturday nights that Luck is flying are a different story than the Thursday night redeyes I normally do.

  8. I’ve been telling you for years about the virtue of redeyes! šŸ˜‰

    But I must say I was quite impressed when you said last fall that instead of taking a redeye home, you were going to get a bump on the 5:45a SFO-DEN Monday morning flight. And you did!

    That really impressed me. I find it harder to get bumps on redeyes (only two for me in the last few years).

  9. Gene- agree that pills make sleeping on planes so much better (I’m a Lunesta guy myself). I’d just warn people who have to drive upon landing that the effects may not wear off completely in 4 hours.

    I had a friend who took one on SEA-ATL and fell asleep for a split second at a stoplight when driving home from the airport!

    Luckily I live in NYC so I can snooze in the cab šŸ™‚

  10. @ The Points Guy — Yes, and I’ll add that it might be best to try these types of pills at home before using them in public!

  11. I fly AA (AA Exp) but Iast summer, I was on UA metal using 25K CO miles. I flew LAX–SFO-ORD-MBS where SFO-ORD was a Thursday nite redeye. The LAX-SFO had a mechanical so I had arrived about 15-20 min before the SFO-ORD redeye. Lucky for me, the ORD flight was at the next gate in SFO. Thanks to a helpful agent @LAX, I got put on the volunteer list. They ended up needing 50+ Volunteers and that was on a 767! I got $400 VDB vouchers, free night at the SFO Hyatt & a flight the next morning. I was able to use my $15 dinner voucher toward a nice buffet breakfast @ the Hyatt.

    I like redeyes but my wife hates them.

  12. Sunday night red-eyes are really difficult for upgrades out of SEA as a lot of business travelers have the same idea. I also choose red-eyes for the time savings but the upgrade is key.

    I prefer straight up earplugs to earphones because the music keeps me awake. The ones from Etymotic Research are great, comfortable, and inexpensive. http://www.etymotic.com/ephp/er20.html

    As long as I’m tired enough when I get on the plane, sleeping isn’t a big problem. I end up with a short night and then I’m tired in the evening on the east coast so I adjust to the time zone in one day.

    That being said, I refuse to fly mid-con redeyes (e.g., ORD, MSP) because they’re too short to get enough sleep to be useful.

  13. Ben I typically do LAX-MCO 8-10x/year and love it. It’s enough time to sleep (~ 4 1/2 hours) and I arrive in MCO around 6am which means a quick nap before I have to head to work.

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