Extreme Red Eyes: The United States’ Worst Night Flights

Arriving at an airport late at night for a relatively short overnight flight means you’re unlikely to get much sleep. At the best of times, red-eye flights leave you tired, dirty, groggy, and unproductive the next day. But what if the times are even more extreme than normal?

Delta B767-400ER
There’s only one extreme red-eye flight by a widebody in the week starting December 3rd. It’s the B767-400ER between Phoenix to Atlanta, and there’s only one flight. On the 6th, DL940 leaves Arizona 00:31 and arrives at 05:54 local time. Photo: Vincenzo Pace | Simple Flying.

Extreme red-eye flights

Looking at US domestic flights departing between 00:01 and 02:00 and arriving between 03:00 and 06:00, we see that there are 126 flights in the week starting December 3rd. It varies from a mere 12 on the 8th to twice as many on the 6th.

Some 25 routes are involved, reducing to 21 at airport-pair level if airlines are stripped out. The average sector is 1,241 miles (1,996km) with an average block time (including flight time, taxi time at both ends, and time for short delays) of two hours and fifty-nine minutes. Twelve airports have them, and Las Vegas, Phoenix, Los Angeles, Portland, San Francisco, and Denver have the lion’s share of flights.

In the examined time period, the first ‘extreme’ red-eye service is American from Los Angeles to Dallas, an A321 that departs at 00:06 and arrives at 05:00. The last departure is Delta from Anchorage to Seattle, a B737-900ER that leaves at 01:30 and arrives at 06:00, just making it into the list.

Frontier A320neo
Frontier uses the A320neo and A321ceo between Las Vegas and Denver, a route with a flight time that can be as low as 1h 17m. Photo: Vincenzo Pace | Simple Flying.

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The 10 ‘worst’ red-eyes

What is ‘worst’ is very subjective, but these are strong contenders based on block times. With a time of 1h 55m, Frontier’s 628-mile (1,011km) link from Las Vegas to Denver ‘wins’. Note that the exact schedule varies slightly per day, likewise several of the routes shown below, so it is indicative only.

  • Frontier: Las Vegas to Denver, leaving 01:09, arriving 04:04; 01h 55m block time
  • Frontier: Portland to Las Vegas; 00:54-04:20; 2h 26m
  • Spirit: Las Vegas to Dallas DFW; 00:59 to 05:25; 2h 26m
  • Frontier: Seattle to Denver; 00:59-04:31; 2h 32m
  • Frontier: San Francisco to Denver; 00:49-04:24; 2h 35m
  • American: Las Vegas to Dallas DFW; 00:59-05:41; 2h 42m
  • United: Las Vegas to Houston IAH; 01:00-05:48; 2h 48m
  • Frontier: Denver to Atlanta; 00:55-05:48; 2h 53m
  • Spirit: Los Angeles to Dallas DFW; 00:59-05:52, 2h 53m
  • American: Los Angeles to Dallas DFW; 01:06-06:00; 2h 54m
Extreme US red-eye flights
Phoenix to Chicago and Los Angeles to Dallas have 18 flights apiece and the joint-most. United, American, and Frontier have extreme red-eye flights to Illinois, while American and Spirit do to Texas. Image: GCMap.

Frontier has almost half of the flights

Of the 126 flights, Frontier has almost half (46%) across 12 routes, as shown below. If the airline and fellow ULCC Spirit are combined, they have almost six in ten flights (59%). More ‘unusual’ red-eyes include Frontier from Minneapolis to Orlando and Houston and Dallas to Philadelphia. The latter leaves at 00:48 and arrives at 05:00.

  • Frontier: 12 routes leaving between 00:01-02:00 and arriving 04:00-06:00
  • American: four
  • Spirit: three
  • United: three
  • Delta: three

What experiences do you have of red-eyes? Share them in the comments.