Best & Worst Times of Day to Fly for Cheap Prices & Avoiding Cancellations & Delays (2023)
Not a morning person? It’s time to become one if you are looking for the best time of day to fly. From cheaper fares to cleaner planes, the first flight of the day is consistently the best one for many reasons.
What is the Best Time of Day to Fly? Very Early or Very Late
The best time of day to fly is as early or as late as you can manage. In other words, undesirable times. Ideally, that is 8 a.m. or earlier or 9 p.m. or later. While waking up before dawn can be daunting, early flights have many advantages.
Early Flights Are Often Cheaper
Early morning flights taking off at 8 a.m. or earlier are consistently cheaper than those taking off later in the day. While it is not an exact science, it generally holds that you will pay less if you fly at 7 a.m. than if you fly at 4 p.m.
It all comes down to supply and demand. Everyone wants to fly at 9 a.m. or 4 p.m., while practically no one prefers 7 a.m. Use that to your advantage. Get up a little earlier and enjoy the savings; Additionally, you’ll arrive at your destination earlier in the day.
Early Flights Are Less Likely to Get Canceled or Delayed
As detailed in our How to Avoid Flight Cancellations and Delays guide, flights taking off early in the morning are much less likely to experience a cancellation or significant delay. A cancellation or significant delay can severely impact your trip and costs you a ton of money. While waking up early may not be the ideal start to your vacation, it is much better than being delayed or having your flight canceled.
Cancellations and delays build on one another throughout the day. Even if your early morning flight experiences a disruption, the odds are it will be minimal. Additionally, you will have more flight alternatives to choose from in the event of cancellation early in the morning as opposed to later in the day.
Further Reading: What To Do If Your Flight Is Canceled or Delayed
Early Flights Often Have A Fresher Crew & a Cleaner Plane
Usually, an early morning crew is better than one later in the day; They are generally fresher and rested. That may mean extra attentive service and a more pleasant demeanor.
Additionally, planes are often cleaner during the first flight of the day. While planes are cleaned between flights, certain things are often missed since there is often a rush to get them done. Airline staff generally completes a deeper clean after the last flight of the day.
Late & Red-Eye Flights Are Often Cheap But Have Drawbacks
Flights taking off at 9 p.m. or later are also good options. Like very early morning flights, most people do not want to fly this late. You are either landing in the middle of the night, or you are spending the entire night on the plane. Both of those things are likely to lead you to be tired and groggy the next day. The good news is late flights tend to be cheaper than most other times.
Red-eye flights are also less likely to experience delays and cancellations than those taking off during the middle of the day and earlier in the evening. While delays and cancellations snowball throughout the day, things are usually sorted out by 9 p.m. or later. In most cases, the runways will be fairly clear as there will not be too many flights taking off.
Further Reading: The Best Day of the Week to Fly
What are the Worst Times of Day to Fly? Mid Morning & Late Afternoon
The worst times of day to fly are when everyone else wants to fly; Those times are around 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. and 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. Those looking to start a vacation prefer the 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. slot so they do not begin the trip tired. The 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. slot is also popular for vacationers starting their trip who want to work that day as well as business travelers returning home. Flights during those times are generally more expensive
You also have to worry about delays and cancellations during those times. While 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. is not too bad for disruptions, it could be a real issue from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. Not only could you be paying more for your flight, but your risk of a cancellation or significant delay is higher.
Are There Positives of Flying During The Worst Times?
There are many positives, and they are why those times are so popular. Here are a few.
- You Get to Sleep Later
- You Get Potentially Better Lounge Food (if flying from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m.)
- You Get to Work at Least Half a Day (if flying from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m.)
For some people, those benefits are worth the increased cost and higher chance of disruption.
Your Options May Be Limited
Ideally, your airline flies multiple routes per from your airport to your destination. Unfortunately, that is not always the case. In many situations, you will have only one or two times to choose from on your desired departure day. If that happens, here is what you can do
- Consider Other Departure Days
- Consider Other Airlines
- Consider Other Nearby Airports
- Consider a Positioning Flight
A positioning flight is a flight to get you to another airport for a more desirably flight. There are many reasons to take a positioning flight, but you should make sure it makes sense financially for you.
More Tips for Booking Your Next Flight
Check out these helpful guides before booking.
- Best Days & Times to Book Flights
- Best Days of the Week to Fly
- Best Websites for Booking Cheap Flights
- How to Find Cheap Flights
- How to Use Google Flights
The best times are 8 a.m. or earlier or 9 p.m. or later. Flying during these times generally means cheaper prices and on-time flights.
The worst times are 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. and 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. Those are desirable times, which means higher prices and more people flying.
The Vacationer’s Final Thoughts
While the time of day is important, it is not the only thing to consider when booking flights. Consider the time of year, your airline, your departure airport, and your destination airport. Regardless, I still recommend very early morning flights. More often than night, the price will be cheaper than the same flights later in the day. Additionally, you better your odds of an on-time departure and arrival.
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