In commercial aviation, a red-eye flight is a flight scheduled to depart at night and arrive the next morning. While any overnight flight may be considered a red-eye, the term is most commonly used for west-to-east flights that take advantage of time differences in order to move passengers long distances without the loss of a business day. For example, in North America red-eye flights typically depart from the West Coast between 10:00 p.m. and 1:00 a.m. and arrive on the East Coast between 5:00 a.m. and 7:00 a.m. the next day. Due to time changes and prevailing jet stream winds, passengers arrive on the East Coast at the beginning of the next business day without having adequate time for a seven-hour full sleep.
Business and passenger utility
Red-eye flights offer numerous advantages for passengers. For example, passengers do not have to negotiate peak hour traffic reaching the airport at their origin or while entering the city at their destination. These flights are also good for passengers who want to travel to a city and return the same day. They can save the money that they would spend for a night's stay at a decent hotel by taking the flight at night for return. Furthermore, red-eye flights allow passengers to spend a full day at both their origin and destination, especially by giving them time to complete any important tasks at their origin before flying out at night. Because of this reason, red-eye flights are popular among business travelers who benefit more from flying at night than during the day.
A red-eye flight is one that is too short to have a full night's sleep on and thus causes significant distress to optic nerves from fatigue. Flights between Los Angeles and New York are a good example, which are approximately six hours long, depart between 10 pm and 1 am and arrive between 5 am and 7 am.
- Japan Airlines used to operate red-eye flights from Hong Kong to Tokyo Haneda, but they have changed to daytime flights. Cathay Pacific still operates one flight each to Tokyo Narita and Osaka, while All Nippon Airways operates red-eye flights from Hong Kong to Tokyo's Haneda daily.
- Asiana, Korean Air, and Cathay Pacific operate red-eye flights from Hong Kong to Seoul. Asiana and Dragonair operate flights to Busan. Cathay Pacific used to fly a red-eye flight from Seoul to Hong Kong, but the flight is now suspended and the airline operates only daytime and evening flights from Seoul to Hong Kong.
- Cathay Pacific operates many red-eye flights outside of Tokyo and Seoul. These include red-eye flights between Hong Kong and cities in Australia and New Zealand in both directions. Cathay Pacific flights that are red-eye only in the Hong Kong-bound direction include those from Bangkok and Singapore. Cathay Pacific flights that are red-eye only from Hong Kong include those to Seoul and parts of Japan. The Vancouver to New York (JFK) tag flight operated by Cathay Pacific is also a red-eye service.
- Flights that leave India and Southwest Asia around midnight arrive in Bangkok, Hong Kong, Kuala Lumpur, and Singapore early morning.
- Philippine Airlines also operates red-eye flights from Korea and Japan back to Manila, which also have regular late-night flights from Manila to Singapore.
- Many flights from Southeast Asia to Japan, Korea, and China depart in the evenings or around midnight, and land at the destinations in the early morning. There are also flights that depart Japan, Korea, or China around midnight, and arrive in Southeast Asia in the early morning.
- Indonesian airlines operate overnight red-eye flights from Jakarta to the easternmost province of Papua. With a flight time of four to five hours and a two-hour time difference, most red-eye flights depart shortly before midnight and arrive around 6 am. Garuda Indonesia also operates daily overnight flights to the East Asia’s Tokyo, Seoul, and Beijing, leaving Jakarta at midnight and arriving at around 6 am the next morning. Garuda Indonesia applies a similar daily overnight flight schedule for its Australia-bound flight routes, departing from Jakarta and Denpasar just before midnight and arriving in Sydney and Melbourne at around 9 am the next morning.
- Pakistan International Airlines flies red-eye flights to Lahore, Pakistan from Jeddah, Saudi Arabia.
- Turkish Airlines Flies red-eye flights to Istanbul, Turkey From Malé, Maldives
The majority of transcontinental flights are operated during the day, but as of 2010, red-eye flights operate from Perth to Sydney, Brisbane, Cairns, Canberra, and Melbourne, and from Darwin to Sydney, Brisbane and Melbourne. Red-eye flights have previously operated from Australia to New Zealand and Fiji. Red-eye flights to Australia operate from various locations in Southeast Asia and North America, such as Scoot's flights from Singapore to Gold Coast, Sydney, and Melbourne. Jetstar offers red-eye flights between Melbourne and Wellington with the flight departing Melbourne at 1 am and arriving in Wellington at 6 am.
TAM Airlines, Azul Brazilian Airlines and Gol Transportes Aéreos offer red-eye flights, popularly known as "Great Owl", because of a film session in a late night broadcast by Rede Globo. (Portuguese: Corujão) flights in Brazil, with over 50 different routes throughout Brazil, all departing between 10 pm and 6 am. Usually these flights originate in Brasília, Belo Horizonte, Campinas, Rio de Janeiro, Salvador, or São Paulo and are bound for Manaus, Belém, Porto Velho, Northeast Brazil, North America, Argentina, and Europe.
There are red-eye flights out of Madrid, Barcelona, Paris, Frankfurt, and London to Moscow, as well as a red-eye flight from Lisbon to Helsinki. The flight time is of three to five hours, with typical departure around midnight, and arrival around dawn the next day. In 2012, multiple travel agencies offered budget night flights from the Canary Islands or the Cape Verde Islands to the mainland of Europe, also generally having a three to six hour flight time. These were operated by airlines such as Transavia, Thomson, and Norwegian. Most airlines from the Middle East & Asia operate red-eye services from most European destinations including London Heathrow, Paris etc. etc.
Russian airlines operate similarly to U.S. airlines by connecting Moscow to Yakutsk, Irkutsk, and Vladivostok. They last five to eight hours but due to the northerly latitude the flights can cross as many as eight time zones during this interval, drastically enlarging the time difference. The flights depart Moscow around 6 pm and arrive at the eastern cities around 6 am the next day. One of the current examples of red-eye flight is Aeroflot's SU783 from Moscow to Magadan, departing 11:05 pm Moscow time and arriving 2:00 pm Vladivostok Time on the next day, with a flight time of approximately eight hours.
United States and Canada
Red-eye flights frequently connect West Coast cities to East Coast cities. These typically depart the West Coast between 10 pm and 1 am, have a flight time of three to six hours but lose between two and four-and-a-half hours due to the time difference, and arrive on the East Coast between 5 am and 7 am. Red-eye flights also connect Hawaii or Alaska with West Coast mainland cities. Furthermore, flights from Tokyo to Honolulu are considered red-eye flights, as the flights are usually overnight flights that are around six hours.
In the 1930s and 1940s, red-eye flights were not possible, as most airports did not have the equipment necessary to work at night. There are still airports that do not function after certain hours, or have curfews for noise reasons, limiting the number of airports from which red-eye flights can depart.
Red-eye flights in pop culture
- Harper, Douglas. "Red-eye". Online Etymology Dictionary. Retrieved 31 July 2013.
- Gol pede autorização permanente para operar vôo noturno Folha Online. Retrieved on April 07, 2009.
- TAM lança ofertas corujão a partir de R$ 79,50 Rotas e Trilhas. Retrieved on April 07, 2009.