In commercial aviation, a red-eye flight is a flight scheduled to depart at night and arrive the next morning.
The term "red-eye" derives from the symptom of having red eyes, which can be caused by fatigue.
Red-eye flights offer numerous advantages for passengers. For example, passengers do not have to navigate 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 on a night's accommodation 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. For this reason, red-eye flights are popular among business travelers who benefit more from flying at night than during the day.
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One definition of a red-eye flight is one that is too short to allow a full night's sleep. An example would be those flights from Los Angeles to New York City—about six hours' flying time—that depart between 2200 and 0100, and arrive between 0500 and 0700.
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.
Another example would be Qantas flights from Los Angeles to Brisbane, Sydney and Melbourne, and flights from Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport to Sydney), generally leaving 10 pm to 11 pm and arriving from 5 am to 8 am. While they do fly during the night - this is more a product of large time zone differences - the flights take around 15 hours (giving more time to sleep) and westward flight stretches out the local length of day and night. Furthermore, as the flight crosses the International Date Line, flights arrive roughly 2 days later in local time
TAM Airlines, Azul Brazilian Airlines and Gol Transportes Aéreos all offer red-eye flights in Brazil, popularly known as "Great Owl", because of a film session in a late night broadcast by Rede Globo (Portuguese : Corujão), 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.
Red-eye flights to Europe were once meant to apply exclusively to the morning arrivals of transatlantic flights from the American East Coast to Western Europe. Such traffic now comprises the busiest of the long-haul air routes. The first of these flights, from the busiest destinations of New York and Washington D.C., will arrive at the major European airports at London Heathrow, Frankfurt and Amsterdam before 0600 local time (and when still subject to costly night-flying restrictions); and hence in increasing numbers and to and from a wide range of American/European destinations.
Travelling from Europe, are scheduled red-eye flights out of Madrid, Barcelona, Paris, Frankfurt. The flight time is of three to five hours, with typical departure around midnight, and arrival around dawn the next day. Most airlines from the Middle East & Asia operate red-eye services from major Western European destinations. One example is at London Heathrow, where the last departures - leaving between 22.30 and 23.00 - are eastbound medium-haul services to destinations such as Moscow and Tel Aviv.
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.
Many medium and long-haul flights to/from South Africa and Europe, other African destinations and the Middle East make use of red-eye flights and longitudinal advantages (similar time zones) so that passengers can arrive at their destinations early in the morning and benefit from minimal time zone changes due to South Africa's geographic position. This makes it an efficient and convenient way to travel between each area.
Red-eye flights frequently connect West Coast cities to East Coast cities. These typically depart the West Coast between 10 pm and 1 am, and have a flight time of three to six hours but gain between two and four hours due to the time difference, arriving on the East Coast between 5 am and 7 am. American Airlines, United Airlines, Delta Airlines, Alaska Airlines, Air Canada and other U.S and Canadian carriers operate red-eye flights that depart from the West Coast at night from cities such as Los Angeles, Vancouver, San Francisco, and Seattle, among others, arriving in Boston, New York, Toronto, Washington, D.C., and other East Coast cities in the morning. Red-eye flights also connect Hawaii or Alaska with West Coast mainland cities. 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.
Films involving red-eye flights include Airport 1975 (1974), Airplane! (1980), The Langoliers (1995), Turbulence (1997), Catch Me If You Can (2002), Red Eye (2005), Flightplan (2005), Snakes on a Plane (2006), and Non-Stop (2014).
The TV series Into the Night (2020) also includes a red-eye flight in its central premise.
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