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.
In this post:
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.
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.
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
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?