Is This The Worst Timed Westbound Domestic Flight?

Filed Under: Alaska

It goes without saying that everyone has different preferences for flight times. For example, some people are morning people, while others are night owls. Some people can sleep on a plane without issue, while others struggle to sleep without the perfect conditions.

As a morning person I’ll take a 6AM flight over a midnight flight any day of the week, while I’m sure a night owl would have exactly the opposite preference. Nonetheless when it comes to eastbound flights, I often get stuck on flights that aren’t ideal, but that I still tolerate.

For example, I hate taking eastbound domestic redeyes since I struggle to sleep on planes without a flat bed. When I find myself on these flights, I usually hate myself the entire time for having chosen to book the flight. But when I get to my destination I sure do appreciate the efficiency of it, and usually feel great after taking a nap for a couple of hours upon landing.

So there are a countless number of US domestic eastbound flights that are redeyes, though it’s much rarer to have something like that on a westbound flight.

On that note, I think I may have come across what might be the least pleasantly timed westbound domestic flight ever.

There are quite a few airlines that operate late night flights from the east coast to west coast. For example, JetBlue has a flight that leaves New York at 10:58PM and gets to Los Angeles at 2:13AM.

However, Alaska has a seasonal flight that I think takes that to the next level. Take a look at Alaska’s seasonal Chicago to Anchorage flight, which operates with the following schedule:

AS135 Chicago to Anchorage departing 12:55AM arriving 4:35AM

Ouch! That’s a 2,847 mile flight that’s blocked at 6hr40min, and it’s a full-on “reverse redeye,” as I’d call it.

If I’m flying business class I quite like JetBlue’s late night flights from the east coast to the west coast, since I can sleep most of the way. But personally I couldn’t imagine taking the above Alaska flight in either first class or economy, as I’d be miserable for almost the entire seven hours.

Obviously a lot of people will still choose this flight, I’m sure. Alaska is popular in summer, there’s a lot of daylight, and it’s a great option for someone to finish a day of work, have dinner, go home, pack, and still fly to Alaska that night.

Furthermore, this is extremely efficient aircraft utilization, since the plane would presumably otherwise be sitting on the ground somewhere.

However, I’ve never seen a domestic US westbound flight that’s this long with a schedule like this. Alaska Airlines also operates some overnight flights from Seattle to Alaska, but those flights are over three hours shorter, and the time change isn’t as significant.

Does anyone know of another domestic flight with a schedule like this? Would you take this Chicago to Anchorage flight for how efficient it is, or avoid it?

  1. I don’t see why that Eastbound flight is so bad. It departs when most pax should be ready for sleep and arrives when most pax should be more than ready to wake up (had they been i the departure time zone). If (and this is of course the big if) you can sleep on the plane, the sleep timing is just about spot on.

  2. If it had a flat-bed I would love this flight. Perfect timing for me to work a full day and still catch a connecting flight from NYC and arrive with a full day in Alaska.

    Unfortunately with recliner seats, I would avoid.

  3. I’ve taken this flight and I’ve loved it. I can sleep in not-verticle positions, so I got a good amount of sleep and woke up in Alaska. Plus, it allowed me to leave after work, which most other options don’t allow.

  4. The sun rises at around 4.30 AM in Anchorage in June-July, so the arrival will feel just like normal red eye flight.

  5. Without a flat bed, seems quite uncomfortable. I think I would avoid it – I’d be dead tired the whole day after this flight.

    With a flatbed, I’ve been on a couple of much longer westbound trans-pacific red-eyes (LAX-SYD, BOS-HKG) – loved them! Get to the destination early in the morning, well rested with enough total sleep time during The Long Night, as long as you don’t have to fight the Night King 🙂

  6. I dont get the issue. At 1am, youre tired enough that sleeping in economy is fine. The only annoyance would be finding a decent breakfast at 5am. Since many of the passengers are connecting to a cruise, this provides a good buffer if there are flight delays.

    Whats much worse is having a red-eye that is interrupted by a connection, meaning you cant sleep well for either flight.

  7. I also don’t see the issue. It’s the same as a red eye from the west coast to the central time zone. I personally hate those flights, but as you say, it’s an efficient use of time.

  8. Living in ANC, I appreciate flights like these and the late night SEA-ANC which let me spend the day on the east coast. I wish DL would add some more to ANC like these.

  9. For me, being a morning person or a night owl has nothing to do with choosing your flight times. Instead, choosing a time comes down to what you need to get accomplished upon arrival, or conversely, what you just completed and now you’re ready to fly out.

    For example, if I’m booking a short flight for leisure, I would prefer to book a morning flight and land some time around lunch, even if I’m a night owl. This way, I still have at least half a day on the ground to explore, as opposed to arriving late at night, and the day is basically gone.

  10. @bgriff that hawaiian flight is actually ideal for alot of locals who travel to LAS, ive done it multiple times since alot of people love to fly up on the weekends to Vegas and get back in early in the morning to go to work right away

  11. I’d love to take a flight like this from continental Europe to the States…flying in the night is so much better…

  12. I actually wish ther were more of these. To me, something like a 2am departure from the East coast, landing at 5am on the west coast, would be the perfect transcon schedule because I can sleep the whole way.

  13. I’ve taken it, the plane was half empty, anyone who wanted got three seats to sleep. That said, I don’t actively seek out flights on schedules like this.

  14. United has a Reno to Chicago flight that is a red eye that is bot even 4 hours (11:15 pm – 4:52 am) I am taking it soon as I have a friend who leaves out in the wilderness in California I am visiting and PThen I will connect to DC and be home by 9 AM. I have love hate relationship with this as I will not have to waste a whole day getting back.

  15. I think the mid-continent (eastbound) redeyes from the West Coast are the most brutal flights. Especially the ones to Texas. From here in the Bay Area, both AA and UA have middle of the night departures (to DFW and IAH). They leave between midnight/1AM and land around 5/6AM. You basically get less than three hours of sleep and arrive at 3/4AM west coast time. Then you zombie until your connection – which is usually an 8AM, 1 or 2 hr flight. Similarly there are the Chicago redeyes – but at least they are a bit longer in flight time.

  16. “But when I get to my destination I sure do appreciate the efficiency of it, and usually feel great after taking a nap for a couple of hours upon landing.”

    How do you take a nap when you arrive at 06:00 without paying for the previous night in the hotel?

    I have Marriott Titanium and rare is the property that will allow me check-in much before noon.

    For those who don’t see the problem with these flight times, they must be in the minority who can actually sleep in a coach seat, although NO ONE sleeps well in them.

  17. I don’t get the issue. The timing fits a general sleeping schedule almost perfectly. As long as you can sleep in flights, you can catch some zzz’s and reach Anchorage fresh and awake.

    But I am opposite of you. I’d rather catch midnight long haul/transcon redeye anyday than a 6 a.m. flight. Because for a 6 a.m. flight, you have to be at the airport before that, leave your house/lodging before that and wake up even before that.. around 2.30 a.m. or so for me. Whereas for a midnight flight, you can get all the work done, have dinner, catch the flight and wake up fresh to your destination. You are essentially being transported while you are sleeping! Although I would probably hate redeye short haul flights.

  18. Love flights like this … Volaris used to have a 2am departure from JFK that arrived Mexico City before rush hour started so you could quickly get into the city and have a full day ahead of you.

  19. “For example, I hate taking eastbound domestic redeyes since I struggle to sleep on planes without a flat bed“.

    Ben truly is tone-deaf, privileged, and out of touch.

  20. I hate these flights that land at 5am or 6am. Even if you sleep a couple of hours on the plane you are then stuck roaming the h streets till you can check in 7 or 8 hours later feeling lousy from almost no sleep.

  21. For many Alaskans this is a very convenient flight because it allows for near-perfect one-hour connections to Fairbanks, Bethel, and Kenai.

  22. Would doubt if it’s nearly “bad”. There are lots of flights between Southeast Asia bounding west as overnight. The most annoying overnights are those that don’t depart until after 2 am… or arrive by 4.

  23. I dont understand the issue? You fall asleep on the plane since its like 1 AM and you wake up when the sun is rising by the time you arrive….so like…a normal redeye….?

  24. I love the super late night departures from East Coast to Europe so why is this any different? Just board and sleep. Even in coach it’s easier. I personally love morning arrivals anywhere and that feeling of jet lag…makes you feel like you actually have distance from wherever you are originating from.

  25. It is a rough itinerary. Indeed, I was able to secure saver F space in August for a buddy who will join me in ANC for some fishing. He is connecting from DCA on a “late” flight that gets in at 10:00 pm. I am confident he will do his level best to let AA’s barmaids (AKA flight attendants) get him lit from DCA to ORD. But he will surely lose his buzz during the 3 hour layover waiting for this AS flight, especially given that nothing will be open at ORD to entertain him at that hour.

  26. I quit flying domestic red eyes years ago. I don’t believe east or westbound matters in my case – I just can’t sleep unless it’s a flat seat. Sleep is something I am reluctant to trade off even for a discounted fare or other accommodation.

  27. @Bernardo

    I agree that I wouldn’t mind overnighting it from ORD to ANC in a comfy recliner seat (I sleep fine in these). I don’t mind to be the comment police or anything, but there really is no need to describe another person as “privileged and out of touch” in the comments. It’s just not necessary and doesn’t add anything or help anyone.

    What’s the point of that comment?

  28. Count me in with the “what’s the issue?” crowd. LAX-HKG is a regular flight for me, and my preferred flight departs around midnight and arrives about 6:30 am. Despite the 15+ hours of air time, I arrive with no sense of jet lag, ready to start my day.

    Now eastbound red eyes are who other matter. Every time I fly to the east coast, I’m acutely aware of the lost 3 hours of night — and having to wake up each day at 3am body time while I’m there 😛

  29. Spirit Airlines has Niagara Falls to Ft. Lauderdale (IAG-FLL) that takes off at 2:35 AM and lands at 5:37 AM.

  30. Seems like a decent flight to me, 5 hours of sleep and arrive in the morning. No different in economy than a traditional west to east redeye or a lot of east coast to Europe flights.

    If you are looking for terrible flights, I’d suggest the ~3.5 hour block time redeyes that AA runs from DEN to places like CLT, PHL, and MIA.

  31. I’m an early bird too, but this flight seems ideal. Leave a little later than a normal bedtime, land in time to start the day. Especially good if you are able to sleep in first class

  32. Love this schedule. If Airlines could figure out how to do more of the Westbound long-haul overnight flying (internationally and domestically) – I would travel more! Saving a day or two (considering red eye return) would allow for more “long-weekend” trips that otherwise are impractical – great opportunity for redeeming upgrades for lie-flats (fewer biz travels to compete with) and saves a night or two at a hotel. Even if the flight is not full – I would suspect that the additional aircraft utilization absorbs a portion of the fixed costs, lowers CASM (cost available seat mile), offers more options (value) to passengers and creates more jobs. RASM (revenue available seat mile) may be damped by half-empty aircraft but if variable costs are covered (labor, fuel), the margins will improve and contribute to the bottom line. As someone who works during the typical business hours, I am all for more of the night flying as an option! For all of the folks who would never take this flight – you can thank me for not being on the daytime flight next to you of an already over-crowded aircraft (the load factors are an all-time high, approaching 90% based on the latest airline quarterly filings).

  33. I’d love westbound redeyes; the longer the better. Too short and it just isn’t possible in any cabin to get enough sleep (some intra-Asia flights are awful about this)

  34. I would consider this a better option than the LAX-ANC red-eye that AS flies. That flight takes off at 11:55 pm PDT (1:55 am CDT) and lands at nearly the same time. One less hour of potential sleep. At least the ANC AS lounge opens at 5 am

  35. @ UGC

    Try the IB westbound red-eye from MAD to MEX! Allows for a full day in Europe with connections to the US west coast first thing in the morning. For me, far more preferable than leaving Europe mid-day and getting into the west coast after dinner

  36. Frankly, for me it all depends on the efficiency of the service. If they get to the caviar, amuse bouche, appetizer, main and cheese course in a reasonable amount of time, I’m prepared to skip the dessert to get a solid bit of sleep (after the cognac, of course), then I’m good to go on landing.

  37. Are you aware that JetBlue runs a 3:50 DEN-JFK red eye? That’s seems even worse by your metrics.

  38. I am flying PBG-FLL this month. The flight leaves PBG at 2:53am and arrives in FLL at 6:15am. Do you think an east coast red eye like this better?

  39. The worst redeye I’ve taken (that I can remember off the top of my head) was SU2113, ATH-SVO departing 12:30AM, arriving 04:30AM. The worst type of redeye is the one where you don’t have any time difference to help you out once you land. The best redeye is the new SU123, leaves JFK at 00:55 and arrives in SVO at 17:20. You’ve got the full day in New York, then a full night of sleep, and you arrive in the evening to go to sleep again and adjust to the time difference quickly. I just realized it’s kinda weird that both my best and worst redeyes have been with Aeroflot…

  40. I would love this flight but only with a lie flat seat. Even if sleeping was difficult, once you land you could take a couple hours nap and still have most of the day free. But I would skip the meal since that’s too late.

  41. If it’s the worst times flight or not, they’ll still rake in huge $ gUaP $. Why? Because the travel industry will never come to a schreeching halt in making money.

  42. Loving all the awful new routes I’m learning about in the comments section here, hah!

  43. @1KBrad — depends on the city of course, but I’ve used Nap York in NYC before (currently closed) to nap for a few hours after landing on a red-eye and dropping off my luggage at my hotel. Made a world of difference.

    To the people who think just bc it’s 1am and a normal time to be asleep that it’s no problem, I’m happy you can sleep on planes. No matter how many hours I’ve been up, for some reason I just can’t sleep on planes, even in F (although I haven’t had the opportunity to try lie-flat seats yet). I’ll only fly red-eyes now when essentially forced to due to AA’s ridiculously terrible award space.

  44. @ Bernardo — You’re misinterpreting what I said, and it’s something I’ve written about before. I’m not a person who can sleep in any position. This has nothing to do with airplanes. Some people can easily snooze in a car, on a couch, etc. I wish I were one of those people, but I’m not.

    For example, Ford can fall asleep anywhere, but can’t stay asleep. I’m exactly the opposite. I can’t fall asleep anywhere, but when the conditions are right, I can stay asleep for a long time.

    Us all having different sleeping patterns doesn’t make anyone tone-deaf, privileged, or out of touch…

  45. @ Bob – “If you are looking for terrible flights, I’d suggest the ~3.5 hour block time redeyes that AA runs from DEN to places like CLT, PHL, and MIA.”

    THANK YOU! Living in Denver this is the nightmare I’ve come to know. I’m taking NK 116 this Thurs due to an ill-timed meeting. DEN to BWI 11:10 PM to 4:36 AM. That’s a college all-nighter for me.

  46. For someone who has a regular work schedule and have to take time off to go on vacations, I actively seek out this flight. The timing is absolutely perfect. I probably can’t catch a decent sleep in Econ, but I’ll punch through the next day.

  47. “For example, Ford can fall asleep anywhere, but can’t stay asleep. I’m exactly the opposite. I can’t fall asleep anywhere, but when the conditions are right, I can stay asleep for a long time.”

    Ben,i think it a question of habit,when one is really really tired he/she will sleep just anywhere .

    If you are exhausted it is scientifically proven you can’t stay awake no matter the conditions so the best is that you party party party the night prior to your redeyes flight without taking a nap before departure and believe me you ll be snoring even in the line to get onboard .

  48. Nice to know these west bound redeye gems as they can save the day when schedule is tight and a day flight is not an option. There is also a Hawaiian Air redeye flight from Las Vegas to Honolulu which is pretty much the only redeye from north America to Hawaii (best of my knowledge) that might work good for some biz travelers with tight schedules (good luck scoring the lie flat 1st class since its usually sold out weeks if not months out).

  49. 6 hrs sleep, awesome! It’s the 3 hr redeyes that are sadistic. I flew redeyes every other week for 8 yrs (no lie flat :p ). Just bring a blow up pillow, get a window seat and sleep against the wall. Even better than FC because F seat is too far from window.

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