first class plane passenger RCGj.width .jpg

When Is the Best Time of Day to Fly?

A smiling airplane passenger listening to music and looking out the window.

Image source: Getty Images

Everyone may have different travel plans when they’re on solid ground, but during air travel, most passengers want the same thing: No delays or cancellations. A smooth flight, hopefully without too much turbulence. And if you got a good deal on the airfare, whether you paid in cash or miles from your credit cards, all the better.

The departure time of your flight plays an important role in all three of those things. If you book a flight at the right departure time, you could increase your odds of an easy travel day at an affordable cost.

Here’s the best time of day to fly

Sorry, fellow night owls. The best time of day to fly is the morning, ideally before 8 a.m. Your odds of experiencing flight delays increase throughout the day. Analytics site FiveThirtyEight calculated average flight delays based on 2013 data from the Bureau of Transportation Statistics. Here’s what it found:

  • Flights that departed between 6 a.m. and 7 a.m. were 8.6 minutes late, on average, which was the lowest of any time frame.
  • Flights that departed before 6 a.m. and from 7 a.m. to 8 a.m. were nearly as good.
  • Delay times increase from there. After 8 a.m., for every hour later you depart, the average delay time increases by about one minute.
  • The average delay time peaks at 20.7 minutes from 6 p.m. to 7 p.m.

There are a few reasons why morning flights are less likely to suffer long delays. Late aircraft are one of the main causes of delays, and they’re not an issue in the morning. The planes arrived the night before, so they’re ready to go. Since the planes are at the airport overnight, there’s also ample time to fix any technical issues.

As the day goes on, flight delays push back departure times, and these delays can cause a domino effect. Each delay not only affects that flight, but the next flight using that plane.

Airports are also less busy in the early morning hours. There are fewer departures and arrivals, so personnel can focus on getting the first flights of the day out on time. It’s much busier the rest of the day, making it more likely that takeoffs and landings will be delayed.

More benefits of early morning flights

A smaller chance of delays is reason enough for many travelers to opt for morning flights. Even if you’re prepared with travel insurance, it’s nice when you don’t need to use it. There are also quite a few other advantages of booking early morning flights:

  • They tend to be cheaper. There’s not nearly as much demand for these flights, since you need to get up extra early for them.
  • If there are any issues, you’re more likely to have other flight options that same day. There’s probably a good chance you can find an alternative if your 7 a.m. flight is canceled. You’ll have far fewer backup options if it’s a 7 p.m. flight.
  • You might have a better commute. If your flight is early enough to avoid rush hour, you won’t need to deal with much traffic.
  • The flight is less likely to experience turbulence. While thunderstorms can occur at any time, they occur most often during the afternoon and evening, according to the National Severe Storms Laboratory.
  • The flight and the airport may not be as busy. The lower demand for early morning flights could also mean fewer people on your plane and at the airport. This isn’t always the case, though. Some airports are busy at all hours of the day.

Pick the time that works best with your travel plans

Flying in the morning has its benefits, but there can also be advantages to flying later. For example, if you’re returning home, you may prefer a later flight so you can have one more day of activities and enjoying your vacation.

It’s also much easier to get a good night’s sleep when you don’t need to wake up at the crack of dawn. And in some cases, there aren’t even morning flights available.

If you don’t mind early morning flights, they’re definitely worth taking when you can. But if they don’t work for you, there are other ways to improve your air travel experience.

Checking airline reliability statistics can give you an idea of which ones are the likeliest to get you to your destination on time. And you can save money on airfare by using travel rewards credit cards. These tips can help you pick the right airline, and spend less on airfare, no matter what time you fly.

Alert: highest cash back card we’ve seen now has 0% intro APR until nearly 2025

If you’re using the wrong credit or debit card, it could be costing you serious money. Our experts love this top pick, which features a 0% intro APR for 15 months, an insane cash back rate of up to 5%, and all somehow for no annual fee.

In fact, this card is so good that our experts even use it personally. Click here to read our full review for free and apply in just 2 minutes.

Read our free review

We’re firm believers in the Golden Rule, which is why editorial opinions are ours alone and have not been previously reviewed, approved, or endorsed by included advertisers.
The Ascent does not cover all offers on the market. Editorial content from The Ascent is separate from The Motley Fool editorial content and is created by a different analyst team.The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Related Posts