Is This The Best Or Worst Domestic Redeye Ever?

Filed Under: United

We all have different preferences when it comes to the time of day we prefer to fly. As someone who is nowadays a morning person (I get up super early and go to bed super early), I’ll take a flight that leaves at 6AM over a flight that gets me to my destination at 10PM.

While redeye flights are efficient, nowadays I generally have a “no redeye” policy for domestic flights, unless I’m in a flat bed. I’m not trying to be a diva, but as I get older I’m making an effort to prioritize a good night of sleep more than in the past. Over the years I’ve taken hundreds of domestic redeyes, so I feel like I’ve had my fair share.

The past couple of years I’ve noticed airlines offering more and more very late night westbound domestic flights. This is only logical as it helps maximize aircraft utilization, since the planes would otherwise often be sitting on the ground until they fly again the following morning. For example, JetBlue has an 11PM flight from New York to Los Angeles, which gets in after 2AM.

These flights typically have attractive fares as they’re not quite as popular, but even beyond that there’s some merit to them:

  • They’re typically easy upgrades
  • They allow you to skip traffic at your origin and destination
  • They let you still have a full day at your origin airport

I took a similar flight on American several months ago, leaving JFK at 10:30PM and arriving at LAX at 2AM. It was simultaneously one of my favorite and least favorite flights. My real issue with the flight was that by the time I get into bed and am mentally ready to sleep it’s around 4AM, and that’s pretty close to the time I usually wake up. So for a night owl it’s awesome, but it’s less awesome for me.

Well, for a limited time over the holidays United is running a flight between Boston and San Francisco that I love. It might be my favorite timed domestic flight ever. Specifically, United has a Boston to San Francisco flight that departs at 1:10AM and arrives at 4:50AM.

This is a flight that I like so much more than any of the above flights, because to me it’s a true redeye that works with my schedule. The flight has flat beds in business class, so you can potentially get some real sleep, you have a full day at both your origin and destination, and you get in at an hour where you can actually start your day (I realize that’s bad to some, but to me that’s a feature). This is also better than an eastbound redeye since it’s longer, so you can get more sleep.

I realize most other people will probably hate this flight, especially if they’re not in a premium cabin (which is most people) and if they’re not morning people.

However, if you’re a morning person and in business class, this might just be the greatest redeye within the lower 48. Too bad it’s just operating for a few days around the holidays.

What do you make of this flight? Would you prefer a flight leaving at 10:30PM and getting in at 2AM, or a flight leaving at 1:30AM and getting in at 5AM?

(Tip of the hat to Joseph)

  1. While I appreciate this post.. BOS-SAN isn’t the most practical market for rounding up all the night owls. I mean, how many times will you fly this, Lucky? Maybe once, if that, just to review?

    This route won’t last.

  2. Worst ever redeye period was Comair’s LAS-CVG flight on a CRJ, with a fuel stop in OKC.

    Talk about being a zombie the next day.

  3. Ok I take back my comment I missed the part about it just being temporary flights for the holidays. 😉

  4. I’ve always wondered why there weren’t more flights like this. If you’re on the West Coast and take a quick trip to the East Coast, and stay on West Coast time, you can potentially get on a flight at 10 PM your time and get six hours of sleep and get a head start on your day back home.

  5. If you are discussing the lay-flat aspect of the seats, it would be nice if you mentioned the equipment type. I know..I know..I could look it up, but for future reference, you may want to consider this.

  6. The worst red eye for me is SEA-MSP. It leaves SEA at 12:30AM and lands at MSP at 5:50AM. Problem is that it is only a 3h 20m flight which you can barely sleep. Also, I usually have dinner in Seattle but still get to the airport around 8:30PM so a long wait at the SkyClub to get into the plane. You don’t sleep at all and go straight to work when you land. Terrible!!!!

  7. Agree with PHX => DFW being the worst: only 2 hours on a regional jet! I’ve also seen some 2am to 5am layovers on American’s website: awful!

    Worst for me (internationally tho) was Beijing to HKG on Dragonair: 3:10 am to 6:35 am, followed by a 17-hour layover before flying Cathay back to the US. How I avoided falling asleep in the city, I cannot say…

  8. United has also been operating a similar EWR-LAX flight the past few night. Left EWR around 1am. Wish it would be year round. Also wish we can get a red eye LHR-LAX

  9. Most of these are not true red eyes. Landing at 1-2 am means you can still get a full night sleep in a real bed (at home for those of us who live on west coast). The true redeye is the east to west coast where you are lucky if you get 4 hours sleep in a mediocre angled F seat. I don’t do these anymore.
    As an insightful colleague once opined, I’d rather try to work 5 good hours on the plane than 8 unproductive hours in the office.

  10. In Israel we have something worst: The most busy time is a bank between 4:30AM-6:00AM to be at Europe just to start your meetings day.
    This even not a red eye – since usually around 1:00AM you will head out to the Airport (single INTL airport for small country), so it’s absolutely 0 sleep night.
    IMHO TLV is the only airport with such early and busy pre-morning bank.

  11. @mike: There’s a similar bank of westbound flights leaving India around 3am-4am, to similarly time with mornings in Europe. You leave for the airport around 11pm, endure hours of Indian security, and board the plane exhausted.

  12. I regularly go OGG-SFO on UA for work and take the latest flight out since the upgrade chances are highest. The forward time-shift and favorable jet streams usually mean it’s the equivalent of a 1am – 5:30am flight PST. No flat seats. Less than motivated flight crews. Sometimes old Continental metal…
    I’ve seen worse though…
    Count yourself “lucky” that you have status 🙂

  13. @BigDaddyJ: True, except for a key difference is that the India-Europe flights are actually long enough to get meaningful sleep (and are operated with lie-flat true business class) as opposed to the TLV-Europe flights which are too short (at 3-4 hours in length) for real sleep and are often operated with pointless intra-Europe J.

  14. I don’t know how anyone actually sleeps. Let’s say the flight is 5 hours. At the most, you’re going to sleep 4 hours. I say that because the last 30-45 minutes the lights are on and everyone is preparing for landing. Plus, it’s at least 20-30 minutes until the plane is at cruising altitude after departure. Plus, some of these red-eye flights still have some level of service. Unless you’ve taken sleeping pills or are drunk, does anyone actually sleep?

  15. Do not mind flights arriving after midnight. If arrives before around 2 a.m., I can still get a good night’s sleep. With a 5 a.m. arrival, I would be a wreck the next day. Only problem with flights that arrive much after 1:30 a.m./2 a.m. at Newark is that there is no public transportation to the City (depends on day of week).

  16. For the busiest travel day of the year it makes sense. Perhaps the load SFO-BOS was good enough to justify it? Return back to SFO to begin a new day on Monday.

  17. funny — i just took this BOS-SFO flight today. i found the timings excellent and easily used an RPU to have a beautiful sleep. didn’t realize it was a temporary flight over the holidays

  18. Best redeye is anything on SQ in Business on an A380 leaving Singapore between 10pm-1am and arriving in Europe in the morning after 12+ hours. Zurich and London are two examples, as is Frankfurt. Flat seats (granted a bit on the hard side but with privacy and space like no other), great meals and drinks, excellent service, nice lighting and cabin temperature, generally very quiet (even with children they’re usually out in a half hour or so), easy to sleep at least 6-8 or even more, for some, hours and then have a nice breakfast before starting your Europe day.

  19. I wouldn’t even try to sleep on anything short of 7 hours. I struggle at the best of times (even with a flat bed) so I’d rather just not try on a flight that short.

  20. Sure, I’ll play. Many years ago when I was in grad school in the San Francisco Bay Area, all of my interviews were on the East Coast. Delta ran a flight from ATL to SFO departing ATL at 12:20 a.m. and arriving SFO a bit before 3 am. What this meant was that I could interview all day and attend an interview dinner in New York City, Philadelphia or Washington, catch a Delta flight after dinner to Atlanta that connected to the 12:20 a.m. redeye, and arrive back at my rather meager apartment in time to catch a few hours of sleep before classes. Perfect!

  21. Korea LOVES the worst red eyes. Like HND-ICN on KE 2:30 AM departure, 4:30 AM arrival.

    And there are TONS of SE Asia short hops like HKG/MNL-ICN that barely clock in at 3 hrs but are 1:30-5:30 AM with time change. And of course they serve a meal right after take off.

    They do it to maximize vacation (and also connect to US flights in the morning bank).

  22. Agreed, going west is not a red eye since you can still sleep when you arrive.

    I do love these late flights though going west. You can have a whole day before you go to the airport and still get some sleep in CA before heading to work.

  23. The worst as far as I’m concerned are the double red-eyes from Europe to the East Coast of Australia. Overnight from Europe to either the middle east or Asia, and then a second overnight for an early morning landing. Given I don’t sleep much – even in J – on a 22-24 hour flight and a 8-11 hour timezone difference depending which hemisphere has daylight saving, these lay waste to the landing day.

    The lunchtime departures that arrive the evening of the next day are so much better. A few hours before settling in a proper bed for the night, and a chance to reset the body clock are invaluable. First world problem – but I’m annoyed that QF 010 to Melbourne is changing from a lunchtime departure to an evening departure when they reroute the flight via Perth.

  24. Both sound absolutely rough, as I’d likely not get much sleep either way, but if I had to pick, I’d rather arrive at 2AM.

  25. @John: you probably searched a day that it is sold out since it is always packed. I take SEA-MSP at 12:30AM all the time and it is alive.

  26. OT, but Amtrak used to have a train that left Penn Station in NYC at around 1 AM and arrived in Union Station in DC around 5:30 AM.

    And you could board the Amtrak train in Penn Station at 11 PM and immediately settle into your sleeper cabin for about 6 hours of solid sleep in a real bed with linens, blanket, and pillow.

    Unfortunately, that train is no longer available.

    My wife and I are retired, so we’ve taken Amtrak cross country several times with a sleeper cabin complete with its own shower, sink and toilet. The meals in the dining car are included. And there is a room porter who keeps things neat and clean. Cost wise for a coast to coast trip for a private cabin with bathroom and with meals costs about $1,500 for a 3 day trip. It’s always been a wonderful experience.

  27. Similar to the SEA-MSP flights, the AA DEN-CLT redeye is pretty bad. Usually a 2h45m flight (or even less with favorable winds), departs at 1:15AM MT, usually arriving at/before 6AM ET (4AM MT). Even if you conk out immediately, you won’t sleep more than 2h. And that’s if you’re lucky considering announcements, lights, cabin service, etc., not to mention, of course, no flat beds.

    I’ve arrived in DEN around midnight and seen people dragging themselves to the gate for this flight. I truly pity them.

  28. Landing at 2AM is still better (assuming to get home/to hotel by 3AM). At least that’ll give solid early morning sleep for 3hrs+. Landing at 5AM won’t make further sleep and I’ll end up being sleepy for rest of the day.

  29. Westbound transcon red-eyes are interesting. Guess it is slightly easier to adjust too.

    Worst red-eye I ever did was CX HKG-SIN. 01:50 – 05:30, and they do a full meal service after takeoff leaving little time to sleep.

    JetStar SIN-HKG also a red-eye is pretty rough as well.

  30. I was sad when AA ditched the 10:30pm westbound JFK>LAX, as it was always good for upgrades. Usually tired from a day of meetings in NYC, so it was a good chance to catch a solid nap before getting some sleep in a real bed at home. The 9:30 is hit-or-miss w/upgrades since it’s much more popular.

  31. Technically, not a red-eye, but the 7-hour Delta flight from Tokyo-Narita to Singapore that lands just after 12 a.m. in Singapore is brutal because you can’t really sleep on it. If you do sleep, you will arrive in Singapore wide awake and unable to sleep overnight. Yet Delta turns all the lights off for 5 1/2 hours, making it difficult to stay awake.

  32. Honestly, going westbound, none of these “redeyes” are ideal. The best time to fly transcon westbound is 7 or 8 AM. You arrive on the west coast around lunchtime and can have a full afternoon / evening after you land. Also, you can pretty much nap all the way over, so you arrive pretty refreshed. Going east. I like afternoon flights (3 or 4), so you land on the east coast late night and can go to bed immediately.

  33. My worst Red-eye was from DFW to MIA – it would take me like an hour and a half to tell the whole story but basically I was coming home from my grandmother’s funeral and ended up sitting next to this creepy guy who tried to make me help him with some crazy plot to move a guest at the hotel where I work from one room to another. Talk about wanting an upgrade! He got my dad involved in the plot which (spoiler alert!) if you know my dad, you know that’s a bad idea! Rude flight attendants too and the lavatory was awful! I do NOT recommend this flight!

  34. Im jealous of any 5-6hr redeye. That’s enough sleep for me to function fine, and I can sleep like a baby in a window seat in economy.
    Its awesome to be able to travel entirely while you sleep.
    My worst redeye was PHX-SAT. It left at 1230AM and landed at 430AM, the problem is that its only 2 hours away. that was a rough morning.

  35. Seems fine, given your bodyclock is 3 hours later so you’re not truly landing at what will feel like 5am

  36. All of the Mexico City to USA flights that are overnight fall into this category. This includes JFK, IAD, YUL, YYZ, ORD, LAX, BOS to or from Mexico City. This applies to Delta, Volaris, AeroMexico, etc.
    Also Tijuana to Mexico City is a scary overnight flight.

Leave a Reply

If you'd like to participate in the discussion, please adhere to our commenting guidelines. Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *