If you’ve experienced it, you know exactly why it has been so endearingly termed “red eye.” If not, imagine an abbreviated nights’ sleep sitting upright between a couple of strangers a few thousand miles above the Earth. The thought may not initially be very appealing, but once you look beyond the drawbacks, there are quite a few perks to taking an overnight flight.
For some it is ideal, an opportunity to rest and allow the time to pass as opposed to a mid-day flight where you are subject to crossword puzzles, flimsy literature and the Russian Roulette of the person next to you either getting up repeatedly to use the bathroom or striking up unwanted conversation.
Some of the benefits of taking an overnight flight come to light even before you board the plane. For a start, you will likely encounter less traffic on the way to the airport. Just as there will be less cars on the road, you will also find it quieter within the airport. Often if you arrive at the airport after 8pm, you will be one of only a few checking in and going through security, quite a relief considering you are required all the little procedures that must be endured and the amount of people that still don’t seem to understand the process. Once you get through security, the terminals are quiet and fairly empty, ideal for getting a bit of work or reading done.
With overnight flights, you will often find that the flight itself is also quieter than a mid-day flight. The last few overnight fights that I have taken, I have had at least one seat, if not the whole row, next to me for a bit of breathing room. There also tend to be less fussy children and general noise and bustle. Additionally, you will generally find more space for luggage and carry-ons overhead. Because they are less in demand, a ticket for a red eye flight will sometimes cost less than one during the day for the same destination.
All of these perks considered, there are some slight drawbacks to flying overnight, particularly when covering long distances and jumping multiple timezones. No matter what, an airplane seat is no substitute for a bed and since you will spend the duration of the night onboard, you will want to make the best of it.
Before you go, consider packing your carry-on with a few comforting items to help you sleep during the flight. I like to make sure I have warm wooly socks to keep my feet warm and so I can slip in and out of my shoes without getting cold. It may also be good to pack a small pillow, earplugs and a sleep aide. If possible, consider booking in business or first-class seats for a bit of extra room to stretch out. If not, try for an emergency row seat to avoid the person in front of you leaning back into your lap.
Whether or not you get a good nights’ sleep on the flight, it is best to push through the first day at your destination. Avoid running to a bed for a quick nap to rejuvenate, but rather take the day to acquaint yourself with your immediate surroundings and schedule. You won’t want to plan too much activity as you will likely be a bit tired, but if you can avoid a nap and go to bed in relation to local time, you will find that you will more easily adjust to your temporary timezone and avoid rubbing your red eyes for days to come.