The Best Time of Day to Travel by Airplane

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The best time to fly may depend on the airport you use and the time of year you travel.
The best time to fly may depend on the airport you use and the time of year you travel. (Image: Creatas/Creatas/Getty Images)

If you've ever missed a connecting flight or found yourself paying nearly twice as much for a plane ticket just because you didn't want to book the red-eye, you know that certain times of the day are more favorable to airplane travel than others. Your itinerary and your budget probably drive your choice in flights, but if you have a little flexibility, try to get the first flight out or the last flight in, particularly if you want to save money and stay on schedule.

Saving Money

When you want to fly cheap, your comparison shopping will probably give you the best deals early in the morning and late at night. The cheapest flight of the day will probably be the first one out, according to U.S. News & World Report. If you don't mind getting up early, grabbing that first flight out will save you money and also avoid problems such as overbooking. If you're looking for a low airfare but you can't get to the airport that early, check flights around the lunch and dinner hours. Red-eye flights are often less expensive than other flights during the day, but you'll have to get a good night's sleep on the plane.

Staying On Schedule

It's best to fly earlier in the day if an on-time arrival is important to you. The percentage of on-time arrivals drops after 3 or 4 p.m. at most airports and with most airlines, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation. Morning flights are best because there is not a lot of traffic at airports and in the sky, which means your flight can leave and arrive on schedule. Delays will occur as the airspace gets busier, and a ripple effect can occur. Once one flight is delayed, all the flights after it are likely to face delays as well. .

International Flights

When you fly to another country, you can maximize your time overseas by flying at night. For example, leaving the East Coast in the evening will usually put you in Europe early in the morning the next day. This gives you a full day to start your international trip and can help you combat jet lag if you are able to sleep on the plane.

Other Considerations

Deciding on the best time to fly can also depend on your personal travel considerations, including which airport you are departing from and what kind of connection or layover might be involved. If you are traveling with small children, flying during their nap times might be a good way to keep them quiet on the plane. The time of year and local weather patterns also play a role. For example, late afternoon thunderstorms in the summer can create a higher chance of flight delays, and winter snow and ice can result in cancellations no matter what time your flight is scheduled.

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