A red eye flight is a flight that operates overnight. The flight usually takes off late at night and lands early the following morning.

Red eye flights are common around the world, though some airports do not function after certain hours or have curfews, which means that certain airports won’t offer red eye flights.

  • But is booking a red eye flight a good idea?
  • Are red eye flights cheaper?
  • What should you pack on a red eye flight?
  • Are they less busy?
  • Will you get served food and drinks on red eye flights?

These are just a few of the questions we answer in this article.

What is a Red Eye Flight?

Red eye flights are typically flights that depart late at night and land the following morning.

Red eye flights aren’t usually very long, lasting between 4-6 hours, which means that passengers are unable to get a full night’s sleep and therefore arrive at their destination with red eyes from the fatigue.

Red Eye Flights Aren’t That Long

Red eye flights vary in length, with most people defining a red eye flight as a flight that lasts between 4-7 hours, from late at night until the early morning.

To be more precise, while there isn’t necessarily a set time that determines when a red eye flight is, most people define a red eye flight as one that takes off between 10pm and 1am and lands in the early morning, such as 5am or 6am.

Red Eye Flights Are Usually Cheaper

Red eye flights are usually cheaper because there is lower demand for these flights compared to flying at other flight times.

Related: When Do Flight Prices Drop?

You Might Not Always Be Served Food on Red Eye Flights

Whether you are served food on a red eye flight or not depends on the airline.

Generally, the less budget the airline, the longer the flight, and if it’s an international red eye flight, the more likely you are to be served food.

Red Eye Flights Usually Aren’t As Busy

Due to their late departure and early arrival, red eye flights are usually less busy than flying at other times, even though they can be cheaper.

Besides passengers who are looking to save money, red eye flights are popular with business travelers who don’t want to miss a work day due to flying.

The Term “Red Eye Flight” is Self-Explanatory

Red eye flights received their name from the symptom of having red eyes, which are caused by fatigue.

Even though most passengers sleep on red eye flights, it can still be hard to arrive at your destination well-rested after a night flight due to the flight only lasting between 4-6 hours and the challenge of trying to get uninterrupted sleep on a plane.

How to Survive a Red Eye Flight

If you want to “survive” a red eye flight, you should:

  • Book a window seat: Booking a window seat will make it more likely that you can sleep, especially as no-one will bother you every time they want to go to the bathroom.
  • Book a later flight: Booking a later red-eye flight can be a good idea if you want to make it more likely that you get some sleep.
  • Avoid caffeine and alcohol: Drinking caffeine and alcohol can make it harder to sleep and leave you less hydrated.
  • Eat a small meal: Before boarding, eat a small meal to avoid any digestion problems.
  • Wear loose, comfortable clothing: Loose-fiting, breathable, comfortable clothing are a must for red eye flights.

Pay attention to our What to Pack on a Red Eye Flight section too.

Red Eye Flights Are Just As Safe

Red eye flights are no safer or more dangerous than flights operated at any other time.

However, business travelers who frequently take red eye flights are more susceptible to weight gain, high blood pressure, and are at risk of more serious illnesses.

Red Eye Flights Have Less Turbulence

According to studies, red eye flights are less turbulent than daytime flights, as there is much less atmospheric heating, which can cause turbulence.

However, the amount of turbulence felt during a flight can also depend on the season and weather.

In winter, for example, there can be more clear air turbulence, which is just one of the causes of turbulence.

What to Pack for Red Eye Flights

To make your red eye flight as enjoyable, we recommend packing the following:

  • Ear plugs: If you want to sleep or block out noise, make sure you pack some earplugs.
  • Toothbrush and toothpaste: Make sure you bring a toothbrush and toothpaste (within size regulations), so you can keep up with your oral hygiene.
  • Travel pillow: Flying isn’t exactly the most comfortable of experiences, so bring a travel pillow for enhanced comfort. You may also want to bring a blanket on the plane, too.
  • Facial cleansing wipes: Using a facial wipe is definitely easier than trying to wash your face in those tiny airplane bathroom sinks.
  • Sleep mask: For most stages of a red eye flight, the lights will be dimmed, but a sleep mask can still help you get to sleep more easily.
  • Noise-cancelling headphones: Just like with earplugs, if you want to sleep or block out all the noise, make sure you pack some noise-cancelling headphones. You can of course use them for their intended purpose and listen to music too.

Should You Book a Red Eye Flight?

Whether a red eye flight is the right option for you can depend on several things.

Reasons You Should Book a Red Eye Flight

  • Cheaper flights: Red eye flights are cheaper due to their lower demand.
  • Save on accommodation: Booking a red eye flight will save you a night of accommodation costs.
  • You can sleep on planes: If you have no problem falling asleep on a plane, you’re likely to arrive at your destination without too much fatigue.
  • Less busy: Not only will the airport be less busy due to the time red eye flights operate, but you’re more likely to have an empty seat next to you on the plane.
  • More vacation time: Arriving at your destination early in the morning means that you can make the most of the day you arrive.
  • You are a business traveler: Red eye flights are popular with business travelers because they won’t miss a workday due to flying.

Reasons You Shouldn’t Book a Red Eye Flight:

  • Travelling with kids: If you’re flying with kids, it’s better to avoid red eye flights, as they may need to be cared for and will keep you up during the flight, meaning no sleep for you.
  • You can’t sleep on planes: If you have a hard time sleeping on planes, you’re likely to arrive at your destination completely exhausted.
  • Lack of travel flexibility: Due to their lower demand, red eye flights aren’t as common as flights at other times.
  • Closed shops: Due to the time red eye flights operate at, shops and food places at the airport are more likely to be closed.

Ella Dunham, a Freelance Travel Journalist and Marketing Manager, boasts an impressive career spanning eight years in the travel and tourism sectors.

Honored as one of "30 Under 30" by TTG Media (the world’s very first weekly travel trade newspaper), a "Tour Operator Travel Guru" and "Legend Award" winner, Ella is also a Fellow of the Institute of Travel, a Member of the Association of Women Travel Executives, has completed over 250 travel modules, and hosts travel-focused segments on national radio shows where she provides insights on travel regulations and destinations.

Ella has visited over 40 countries (with 10 more planned this year).