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5 reasons why you should always book a morning flight

Aug. 12, 2022
7 min read
close-up image of plane at sunrise
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The early bird may be known for catching the worm, but it also catches the best flights.

In fact, people who get the first flight in the morning can usually expect a smoother trip, friendlier staff, a cleaner plane and, often, a cheaper ticket.

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That’s right, rising with the lark pays when it comes to air travel. But you don’t just have to take it from us. Take it from the people who know.

We spoke to a handful of air travel experts to understand why you should book a morning flight whenever possible.

Less turbulence

According to NASA, thunderstorms that cause the worst turbulence are more likely to occur in the mid-afternoon. (Photo by Frank Rumpenhorst /AFP/Getty Images)

Turbulence has various causes, from the sudden formation of cumulus clouds to jet streams and other weather phenomena — many of which have little to do with the time of day. However, the worst kind (and also one of the most common) is convective turbulence. And it's usually at its most severe in the mid-afternoon.

“Convective turbulence is caused by stormy conditions on the ground or in the atmosphere,” Justin Franco, a former American Airlines spokesperson and a self-proclaimed “weather nerd,” told TPG. “In fact, most incidents of severe air turbulence happen during storms or other severe weather events.”

Related: Should you be worried about turbulence? Here’s what the experts say

What is the worst time of day for such storms? Mid-afternoon.

“A thunderstorm is formed when a combination of moisture and warm air rise in the atmosphere and condense,” according to NASA. “While over land, thunderstorms are most likely to occur at the warmest, most humid part of the day, which is usually the afternoon or evening. Over the ocean they are most likely to occur in the early hours of the morning before dawn.”

So unless you’re on a pre-dawn flight from an island in the middle of the Pacific, early morning should set you well on the path of least turbulence.

Lower chance of delay

(Photo by Shutterstock)

If we’ve learned anything from the current air-travel crisis, it's that delays can set in motion chain reactions that can cause continued delays throughout entire days. One delay in the morning, particularly in an environment where there is already a shortage of ground handling staff, can easily cause a domino effect of disruption.

“If first rotation is delayed (i.e. the day’s first departures), then there will be knock-on delays throughout the day with the potential for the delay to escalate with each flight getting a bit more delayed,” an air traffic control source who asked to remain anonymous, told TPG. “However, airlines can handle this differently and will look at ways to absorb the delay, such as by swapping aircraft or canceling a rotation to get the later schedule back in line.”

Related: Your flight is canceled or delayed – here’s what you should do next

One flight attendant we spoke with, who asked to be known only as Tim and has worked for some of the biggest airlines in the world, agreed, saying, “Flights later in the day have a greater chance of delays due to weather, maintenance and delays getting in and out of gates, which pushes back the entire flight schedule day. So there is always much more chance that an evening flight will be delayed, especially for a smaller airline with fewer stand-in aircraft.”

An added bonus, he said, because planes don’t often fly at night, it means any technical issues will have been resolved by the engineers overnight. “I’d say 95% of flights in the morning will leave on time,” he added.

Cheaper flights

(Photo by Shutterstock)

Flights departing before 9 a.m. tend, on average, to be cheaper than at any other time of day, according to data compiled for TPG by booking comparison site Kayak.

Based on Kayak search data for departures between April and December 2022, flights between 4 a.m. and 8 a.m. are about 15% cheaper on average than other times throughout the day.

In fact, for long-haul international flights, the average airfare for flights departing between 4 a.m. and 8 a.m. was $959.87 compared to $1,102.88 for similar flights leaving between 8 p.m. and 10 p.m.

Related: I fly 150,000 miles a year – here’s how I find the best deals on airfare

The average short-haul flight departing between 7 a.m. and 8 a.m. cost $235.12, while similar flights departing in the middle of the day (around 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.) cost on average $298.14.

“For long-haul international travel, flying in the morning may help you save money,” a Kayak spokesperson told TPG. “When it comes to travel within Europe, prices tend to be highest in the middle of the day, rising after around 9 a.m. and dropping off again after around 5 p.m.”

Fresher crew

(Photo by Getty Images)

Tim says the first flight of the day means the crew will be fresh from a good night’s sleep, and mentally unencumbered by a hard day’s work attending to every whim of hundreds of travelers a day.

Related: Unsung Heroes: A flight attendant talks grueling schedules, ‘commuting’ by plane to work and being an avgeek

“I would never suggest that crew would show up for a flight too tired to do their job professionally and to the high standards airlines expect from them, but some of the big short-haul airlines do expect crew to fly up to six legs in a single shift,” Tim told TPG. “Factor in everything we have to do between each arrival and departure — that is a long day.”

Cleaner planes

(Photo by Shutterstock)

It may sound obvious, but taking the first flight of the day leaves you less chance of planting your backside on a squashed chocolate-chip muffin wedged down the back of your seat, courtesy of its previous occupant.

Related: How to thoroughly disinfect your airplane seat

Of course, planes are cleaned and thoroughly disinfected between every flight, but rogue leftovers sometimes slip through the net.

“When I worked on one of Europe’s biggest budget operators, we sometimes had a 25-minute turnaround to make the entire plane ready for the next flight,” shared Tim.

“That included checking no belongings had been left behind, cleaning and disinfecting the cabin. Then, not only did we have to ensure all the safety cards were in the pockets behind every seat, but we also had to check that nobody had taken the life jackets from under the seats," he added. You’d be surprised how many people steal life jackets from planes as souvenirs. And you can imagine how serious it’d be if someone didn’t have a life jacket when they needed one.”

Bottom line

It might be inconvenient to set an earlier alarm to wake up. However, flying early can pay off in numerous ways.

Advantages include less chance of weather-related disruption and other delays, saving you money and ensuring your journey as a whole is more comfortable with cheerier staff that aren’t drained from a full day’s work.

If you can face the early morning check-in, we’d certainly recommend considering earlier flights over ones later in the day.

Featured image by Getty Images/iStockphoto
Editorial disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airline or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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3XEarn 3 Points per $1 spent at Gas Stations, Air Travel and Hotels
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    For a limited time, earn 80,000 bonus ThankYou® Points after you spend $4,000 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening

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  • Earn 3 Points per $1 spent at Gas Stations, Air Travel and Hotels
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  • 80,000 Points are redeemable for $800 in gift cards when redeemed at thankyou.com
  • No expiration and no limit to the amount of points you can earn with this card
  • No Foreign Transaction Fees on purchases