When you book a flight, there are many small choices you make. One simple choice that can make a big difference in flight convenience is the time you choose to fly. There are better times of day as well as days of the week to consider if you want to avoid crowds (and who doesn’t, these days?)
Early morning flights are the least crowded and best on-time stats
Not surprisingly, punishing crack-of-dawn itineraries tend to be less crowded times to fly. Most people don’t like the time wake-up times required to hit the earliest flights out of the airport, so a “first flight of the day” oftentimes offers less packed airplanes as well as easy breezy airport concourses.
As a bonus, the early morning flights almost always have the best on-time records. This is logical since the first flight out in the morning has been prepped for departure the night before and is ready to go. The flight crews don’t have to clean up after messy passengers from the flight before, because that was done hours before your first flight out.
There are a whole host of other reasons a flight can get delayed – the captain got sick, the plane is having mechanical difficulties, something is happening at another airport that’s causing a snowball effect – but statistically this happens much less on the first flight of the day.
Once one flight is delayed, it starts to affect the flights behind it, and soon you can see a domino effect at the airport and beyond. This is why a weather delay on the east coast can affect a flight out of San Diego.
Back to the crowds question. You can almost certainly avoid a more crowded airport by leaving on the early side. This phenomenon can be particularly pleasant at the larger, more congested airport around the country, but it can even mean less traffic in the smaller, regional airports as well.
Take the red eye for a less crowded airport and flight
Late night or overnight flights are also a good choice for avoiding people. The nature of air travel means that those small, Economy seats are a less attractive option for people who value their beauty sleep. Then again, most red-eye fans know that you often have more room to spread out on a late night flight. When you’re flying solo, it’s not unheard of to end up with a row entirely to yourself!
The airports also clear out later at night. Be careful though – flying late night requires some advance thought relating to snacks and in-flight provisions. Restaurants, bars, shops and most airport amenities at most airports do have a closing time. If your flight doesn’t leave until 11:30pm, you should plan to bring your own snacks and a good book. There won’t be much to divert you in the airport prior to your departure.
Is there a better day of the week to fly?
Yes! We talk about this a lot in our Annual Airfare Study. The truth is that the mid-day flights on Tuesday and Wednesday are less popular, and therefore both less crowded and less expensive! We always recommend a mid-week flight for just these reasons. So, if you can’t stomach the idea of waking up at 3am to catch a less crowded flight, you can still avoid the worst crowds. Fly midweek and avoid peak travel days and save some dough while you’re at it.
Check the Event Calendar to Avoid Crowds
One final thought. If you really despise crowds, you should always take a look at the events calendar in the cities you plan to visit. A big convention, concert, cultural or sporting event can push airports to capacity and make the travel experience a less relaxing one for you.