Flights That Land A Day Before They Take Off

Flights That Land A Day Before They Take Off

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Have you ever wanted to celebrate New Year’s Eve twice? Okay, maybe you haven’t. To be honest, I haven’t either, since I’m asleep before 8PM on New Year’s Eve, just as I am every day. However, if there’s one thing that would get me in the spirit, it would be an aviation angle…

Along those lines, I figured it would be fun to look at the flights that let you celebrate New Year’s Eve (or a birthday, or other special occasion) twice.

The joys of travel & time zones

Airplanes really make the world a pretty small place, as nowadays you can travel to the other side of the globe with a single flight, in less than a day. As anyone who has traveled long haul knows, jetlag can be tough to deal with, and this relates to timezone changes.

The further east or west you travel, the more timezone changes you’ll experience. And in addition to the general timezone changes that happen one hour (or sometimes 30 minutes) at a time, you also have the International Date Line, which can impact the day that it is. The International Date Line is located over the Pacific Ocean, and it’s not a straight line, but is instead mapped out in quite the interesting way.

The International Date Line

So traveling across the Atlantic and traveling across the Pacific are very different in terms of the time change, at least when you factor in the days:

  • A westbound flight across the Pacific will often land one or two calendar days after it takes off, since the International Date Line pushes you forward a day
  • An eastbound flight across the Pacific will often land before it even departs, since the International Date Line pushes you back a day

When I was younger and cared about birthdays, I always thought it would be fun to try to create the longest birthday ever by continuing to fly westbound for as long as one can. Getting a ~40 hour birthday is super easy, by just flying from Asia to the United States.

However, arguably the most interesting flights in terms of time changes are those that land a day before they take off.

Long haul travel involves lots of time changes

The coolest flights to go back in time

United Airlines took to Twitter/X yesterday to promote how “you only live once, but you can celebrate New Year’s Eve twice.” Specifically, the airline promoted its flight from Guam to Honolulu, which takes off at 7:35AM on January 1, and lands at 6:50PM on December 31.

That’s right, you can go back a calendar day, and can even go back to the previous calendar year. This flight is so perfect for this because it’s a short transpacific flight that crosses the International Date Line, essentially pushing back time nearly 24 hours.

So with inspiration from United, I figured it would be fun to compile a list of scheduled passenger flights that go back in time one calendar day.

Now, there are several flights to the US mainland that go back a calendar day, including the following:

  • All Nippon Airways’ flight NH106 from Tokyo (HND) to Los Angeles (LAX) departs at 12:50AM and arrives at 5:50PM (-1 day)
  • Cathay Pacific’s flight CX872 Hong Kong (HKG) to San Francisco (SFO) departs at 12:55AM and arrives at 9:00PM (-1 day)
  • Cathay Pacific’s flight CX800 from Hong Kong (HKG) to Los Angeles (LAX) departs at 12:15AM and arrives at 8:55PM (-1 day)

None of these flights are as cool as United’s Guam to Honolulu flight. That’s because with the above flights, you’ll basically be boarding (or preparing to board) when the clock strikes midnight, so it’s not like you can actually have two New Year’s celebrations.

There are some other fun flights, though, that are worth calling out:

  • Air New Zealand’s flight NZ946 from Auckland (AKL) to Rarotonga (RAR) departs at 8:50AM and arrives at 1:40PM (-1 day)
  • Fiji Airways’ flight FJ822 from Kiritimati (CXI) to Honolulu (HNL) departs at 7:30AM and arrives at 10:40AM (-1 day); the catch is that this fifth freedom flight only operates up to twice per month
  • Talofa Airways operates frequent flights between Pago Pago (PPG) and Apia (APW), which are just 93 miles apart, and the airports are on opposite sides of the International Date Line; Apia is one day ahead of Pago Pago
Fun routes involving the International Date Line

Bottom line

Long haul travel can involve quite some time zone changes. On top of that, the International Date Line can mean that you can take a long haul flight and arrive before you depart. If you want to celebrate New Year’s Eve or your birthday twice, there are some flights you can take where you quite literally go back in time to the previous calendar year. Heck, there’s even a sub-100 mile flight you can take that makes this possible.

Has anyone ever celebrated a special occasion with some time zone fun?

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  1. Paul Guest

    The joy of -1 day on the flight itinerary...
    My BF flew BKK-HKG-SFO on CX, then SFO-DTW on a separate ticket/reservation on United last year.
    His arrival at SFO was delayed... He did a mad dash through customs and immigration in order to recheck to a domestic flight. The agent could not find him in the system...Then, they figured out his actual flight is 25 hours away... He didn't notice HKG departure was...

    The joy of -1 day on the flight itinerary...
    My BF flew BKK-HKG-SFO on CX, then SFO-DTW on a separate ticket/reservation on United last year.
    His arrival at SFO was delayed... He did a mad dash through customs and immigration in order to recheck to a domestic flight. The agent could not find him in the system...Then, they figured out his actual flight is 25 hours away... He didn't notice HKG departure was almost at 1am, whereas his SFO arrival was -1 day local time. He looked up the day of the departure from HKG when booking his separate DTW connection... Luckily, there were cheap hotel offers around for the extra night in SF!

  2. bhcompy Member

    Unless things have changed recently, pretty much anyone on Guam will tell you that United flight to Hawaii sucks. Unfortunately, Delta screwed the pooch when they left Narita, so the alternatives aren't nearly as appealing

  3. JD Guest

    I did this in 2021/2022. I crossed the international dateline and celebrated News Year twice.

  4. JayBay Guest

    You listed Cathay's HKG-YVR route as a flight to the 'US' mainland.

  5. Christopher Guest

    As I recall, Air France once offered a special 3x New Years' Eve celebration. #1 at CDG. Board the Concorde. #2 over the Atlantic. #3 upon arrival at JFK.

  6. Nico Guest

    I had the longest celebration on SQ from SIN to EWR, departing something like 00:50am, arriving at EWR at 6am and flying KL 747 JFK-AMS on upper deck in the evening.

  7. Willem Guest

    United Airlines’ 2nd Shanghai to SFO flight used to be -1 day before the pandemic, with a 12:15 am departure. So was JAL flight 2 from Haneda to SFO in the early 2010s when Haneda limited many international flights to the overnight hours only (there’s probably a few others)

    Many ex-Taipei flights are close, but last I saw they currently all have scheduled departures just before midnight

  8. putout Guest

    "I always thought it would be fun to try to create the longest birthday ever by continuing to fly westbound for as long as one can."

    That won't be fun at all because it would be the shortest birthday ever, not the longest ;)

  9. BeachBoy Guest

    Couple other Fiji Airways flights to add:
    1. Fiji Airways flight from Apia (APW) to HNL.
    2. Fiji Airways flight from Nadi (NAN) to HNL.

  10. grichard Guest

    A pity no Emirates flights manage it. You could cap it off by using the Burj Khalifa elevator to watch the sunset twice.

  11. Dolphin Guest

    Pre-covid, UA used to operate a PVG-SFO taking off just past midnight. The current flight leaves right after 11pm, so with a bit of a delay it would count!

    I once took SQ HKG-SFO on New Year's Eve, taking off right after midnight on January 1, then landed the previous year. This was followed by a redeye out of SFO to the East Coast, where I saw the fireworks from the window... fun times.

  12. InternationalTraveler Gold

    I had quite a bit of fun with our corporate expense report system. It did not allow to file two reimbursements for breakfasts on the same day.

    1. Jim Guest

      I remember encountering a similar issue vis-à-vis APW-PPT. The system developer acknowledged the problem, but said it was so infrequent that they'd never have a chance to fix it, and just put it as "miscellaneous" with an accompanying memo.

  13. EricZ Guest

    not NYE specific but I once booked AKL > PPT not realizing the "-1" in the reservation. Luckily we had 1 night booked at the Intercontinental Tahiti before going for 3 nights to the IC in Bora Bora. So about 1 month before our trip I was checking on all the reservations when something caught my eye and I realized we would be landing the prior day and I didn't have a hotel room! Luckily...

    not NYE specific but I once booked AKL > PPT not realizing the "-1" in the reservation. Luckily we had 1 night booked at the Intercontinental Tahiti before going for 3 nights to the IC in Bora Bora. So about 1 month before our trip I was checking on all the reservations when something caught my eye and I realized we would be landing the prior day and I didn't have a hotel room! Luckily the IC in Tahiti still had rooms available so I was able to book a 2nd night then we decided to do a tour of the island on our free day there.

    Having been to 6 of the 7 continents and flying all over the world, this was almost my biggest blunder, showing up without a hotel room!

  14. thibderoc Guest

    AKL-PPT works too. But I’m not sure it’s a daily flight…

  15. Willmo Guest

    I know quite a few DJs that do this on new years eve.
    Since this is the most lucrative night of the year, many will fly over the Pacific so that they can take 2 jobs on the same night.

    1. John Coctostan Guest

      Cool story bro.

  16. Ana Guest

    Samoa to American Samoa goes back almost 24 hours.
    Easy 2 NYEs. Tons of people do it every year, it's become quite popular.

  17. Richmond_Surrey Guest

    I celebrated birthday twice this year, flying from Micronesia to HNL. Unfortunately, my second birthday was spoiled by blocked toilet on HNL-SFO flight and I lost half a day at the airport. I consider taking GUM-HNL in 2024 on my birthday, because there are no Island Hopper flights on that day.

  18. InterPlace55 Guest

    I've actually done the super long birthday via west bound flights one birthday day one year.

    To cap off a 2 week Asia trip where I flew varying Star Alliance partners all over Asia (except for one leg on JAL cause their space opened up before ANA's did), I flew first class westward all the way back to the US with TG to CDG on an A380 (which I wished it was the TG flight...

    I've actually done the super long birthday via west bound flights one birthday day one year.

    To cap off a 2 week Asia trip where I flew varying Star Alliance partners all over Asia (except for one leg on JAL cause their space opened up before ANA's did), I flew first class westward all the way back to the US with TG to CDG on an A380 (which I wished it was the TG flight to Munich on a B747) then with LH connecting via FRA to IAD on the B747 in the Fanhansa livery! It was one of my best birthdays ever with 12 hours in the old Thai First Class Lounge (connecting back from Burma) with massage and private room before the first first class flight right at the stroke of midnight of my birthday Indochina Time and I didn't get back home until around 7pm ET the same day.

    The only gripe I had was that none of the staff realized that it was my birthday until I told them as we were prepping for landing and wrapping up the flight experiences, but that was a first world problem I can overlook XD

    1. Richmond_Surrey Guest

      I got bottle of champagne from BA on HKG-LHR flight on my birthday and offer to upgrade during the flight, but I preferred to stay where I was

  19. pstm91 Diamond

    Helicopter the ~2.5 miles from Little Diomede to Big Diomede and you've crossed from USA to Russia and the passed the date line. I'm heading there next year.

    1. Richmond_Surrey Guest

      I got bottle of champagne from BA on HKG-LHR flight on my birthday and offer to upgrade during the flight, but I preferred to stay where I was.

    2. Richmond_Surrey Guest

      Wrong thread.

  20. Matt Guest

    When flying from Auckland to Rarotonga (Cook Islands), you generally arrive on the previous calendar day. For example, you could leave AKL on NZ946 at 8.50am on 1 January, and arrive in RAR at 1.40pm on 31 December.

    1. Ben Schlappig OMAAT

      @ Matt -- Added that to post just now, thanks!

  21. HkCaGu Guest

    American Samoa and Independent Samoa are 24 hours and less than 100 miles apart and have frequent flights.

    A few years ago, Independent Samoa and Tonga, both in the UTC+13 time zone, used daylight saving time, so the two Samoas were 25 hours apart in southern summer.

    1. Ben Schlappig OMAAT

      @ HkCaGu -- Fantastic catch, thanks! Just updated the post to add that.

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putout Guest

"I always thought it would be fun to try to create the longest birthday ever by continuing to fly westbound for as long as one can." That won't be fun at all because it would be the shortest birthday ever, not the longest ;)

1
Willmo Guest

I know quite a few DJs that do this on new years eve. Since this is the most lucrative night of the year, many will fly over the Pacific so that they can take 2 jobs on the same night.

1
pstm91 Diamond

Helicopter the ~2.5 miles from Little Diomede to Big Diomede and you've crossed from USA to Russia and the passed the date line. I'm heading there next year.

1
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