What Does A Red Eye Flight Mean?

Ken Hyde

By Ken Hyde

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Airplane traveling is undeniably convenient in terms of speed, but it also requires lots of prep work. That’s why red-eye flights are becoming more popular these days, though they are not exactly problem-free. Keep reading to find out more about them!

What Is A Red Eye Flight?

“Red-eye flights” refers to commercial flights that depart late at night and arrive early in the morning. 

Red Eye Flight meaning

Long story short, passengers could not get a full night’s sleep on the plane, which explains the name “red-eye” (coming from the fatigue and symptoms of bloodshot eyes they must experience). These overnight flights are usually short, around seven hours or even less.

4 Reasons To Fly Red Eye Flights

No Hotel Needed

There’s a reason red-eye options are considered every budget traveler’s dream, especially in popular tourist destinations or during peak seasons.

Hotels in these crowded, bustling cities often have sky-high nightly rates. Even a budget hotel room in Paris costs between $100 and $200, a significant sum you could have saved for other aspects of your trip — like a private Seine River experience (very one-of-a-kind Parisian) or bringing back more souvenirs for loved ones.

Plus, with a red-eye flight, packing becomes a one-stop process since you have everything you need for your entire trip in one luggage set. You can even head straight to the airport after work or errands!

Less Crowded In The Airport 

One of the most pleasant experiences of red-eye flights is seeing only a handful of people ahead of you in the security line. That translates to a breeze through security with almost no waiting, plus a stress-free check-in process. 

Anyone who dislikes feeling rushed or overwhelmed during peak airport hours would certainly appreciate this. 

Instead of being crammed in an endless line, you can use it as a chance to unwind and de-stress before your flight. Sip a warm cup of coffee, read a book, listen to calm music, or even relax with light meditation to prepare for the journey ahead – just do whatever you like.

See more: Top 10 Biggest Airports In The World

A Whole Day Before Flight Time At The Departure City

Most busy individuals who struggle to squeeze work-related responsibilities into their packed schedules often hop on these flights to handle everything without losing vacation time. 

Plus, since red-eye flights take off in the late evening, you can enjoy the departure city for most of the remaining days. That’s a perfect option if you have a long layover before your trip or need to run some last-minute errands (like grabbing dinner with friends or even fitting in a haircut).

Easier Adjustments To New Time Zones (in some cases)

Traveling eastward across several time zones can wreak havoc on your sleep schedule. Let’s say you’re flying from Los Angeles to London (there is an 8-hour time difference, meaning that when it’s midday in London, it’s still early morning in Los Angeles). 

As you force yourself to sleep during the red-eye flight (which typically coincides with your usual bedtime at home), you’ll reach London closer to sunrise. Your sleep-wake cycle will be regulated faster with no dreaded jet lag. Imagine feeling 100% refreshed when arriving in London, ready to explore the city instead of battling daytime sleepiness!

4 Drawbacks To Be Aware Of

1. Difficulty Sleeping

The best scenario is to sleep well on the plane before arriving in the new city (like the Lost Angeles – London example above). Unfortunately, that’s not always the case. Most of the time, passengers have no choice but to fall asleep in a tiny airplane seat with limited legroom and shoulder space. 

Add to that the constant hum of the engines, announcements from flight attendants, coughs from fellow business travelers, and the clatter of meal service! Even minor turbulence might jolt you awake; you finally drift off to a tiny semblance of sleep, only to be woken up by a sudden bump or altitude drop.

Long story short, these are far from ideal sleep environments, leaving you feeling groggy and out of sorts upon arrival.

2. Limited Meal Options

Airlines on late-night flights often operate with a reduced staff, so you might have to settle with very limited meal service or just a very small selection of snacks and beverages. Access to the same hot meals or diverse refreshments available on daytime flights is out of the question.

Sometimes, even if the meals are offered, the timing might not align with your sleep schedule. Some people are woken up for a light meal service when they’d prefer to catch some sleep – or vice versa, missing the meal service entirely because they’re already asleep!

Of course, there’s always the option to pack your own snacks. But the trade-off is the extra weight for your carry-on luggage. 

3. More Delay Risks

Some airports are much less staffed during late-night hours, which means they might be unable to resolve any unexpected issues (e.g., mechanical problems, bad weather, etc.) and must resort to delays. 

In the worst-case scenario, it would cause a domino effect that disrupts your entire travel itinerary and other connecting flights. A true disaster if you have tight connections or important appointments at your destination! Scrambling to rebook flights already sounds like a headache.

4. More Risks Of Mistakes During Preparation

The fatigue associated with long-haul flights can cloud your judgment during the pre-flight preparation. 

Let’s say you were rushing to pack after work or errands, sleep-deprived and foggy-headed. Amidst the chaos, you might forget essential items like medication, chargers, important travel documents, or even your passport! The tight time frame between work or errands and departure time doesn’t help, either.

7 Things You Should Prepare Before A Red-Eye Flight

prepare Red Eye Flight

1. Ear Plugs

As said earlier, disruptive sounds like engine hum, announcements, coughs, and surrounding conversations can be major sleep saboteurs on a red-eye flight. 

Hence, investing in a good pair of earplugs doesn’t hurt! You should look for options made from soft, moldable materials (like silicone or memory foam) with a comfortable fit to avoid pain in your ear canal.

2. Eye Mask

Even with dimmed cabin lights, the ambient glow from electronic devices or windows may disrupt your sleep cycle. 

A sleep mask is a must-have for creating a nice, light-blocking sleep environment. Choose one made from soft, breathable fabric that sits comfortably against your eyelids, preferably with an adjustable strap to ensure a secure fit.

3. Travel Pillow

Sure, standard airplane seats aren’t exactly designed for ergonomic comfort, but a good travel pillow can make a world of difference for your neck and shoulders!

An U-shaped pillow is the go-to, as it cradles your head nicely so it won’t flop around during sleep. Consider options filled with memory foam for superior comfort and flexibility.

4. Comfy Clothes

Save the restrictive clothing (the kind you wear to work or errands) for another time; it restricts blood flow and makes it almost impossible to relax.

During the flight, always wear loose-fitting, breathable pajamas or loungewear made from soft, comfortable fabrics like cotton or fleece! Many people often go for layers in order to adjust to temperature changes on the airplane.

5. Toothbrush And Toothpaste

Feeling fresh and clean can go a long way in promoting relaxation and boosting your mood. A travel-sized toothbrush and toothpaste are more than enough for a quick mid-flight refresh; look for TSA-approved options to avoid troubles at security!

6. Water

Since airplane cabins tend to have a dry atmosphere, we suggest bringing an empty, reusable water bottle you can fill after security to stay hydrated throughout the flight. Avoid sugary drinks and excessive caffeine; they’re common culprits behind a lack of sleep.

7. Skincare On The Go (Optional) 

A full skincare routine is admittedly challenging in a cramped airplane seat. But here are some essentials to help you feel fresh while maintaining a basic level of care:

  • Facial wipes: A convenient way to remove makeup, dirt, and oil from your face without needing access to running water. Choose gentle, fragrance-free wipes suitable for your skin type.
  • Moisturizer: The dry airplane environment can leave your skin feeling parched, so pack a small container of your favorite facial moisturizer to keep your skin hydrated during the flight. Lightweight, oil-free formulas are ideal since they absorb quickly.
  • Lip balm: Dry lips are usually an uncomfortable side effect of airplane travel. A small tin of lip balm with SPF is our best friend!

Extra Survival Tips

1. If you really have trouble fighting disruption in sleep in unfamiliar environments, sleeping pills might be an option, but only after consulting with your doctor.

2. Ensure all your electronic devices (phone, tablet, noise-canceling headphones) are fully charged before you arrive at the airport. You can also download movies, audiobooks, or podcasts beforehand to keep yourself entertained during the flight.

3. Once you land, try to expose yourself to sunlight as soon as possible. This strategy helps regulate your body’s natural sleep-wake cycle and adjust to the new time zone.


Now you know what a red-eye flight means! It can be an incredible life-saving option for some and a nightmare for others, so weigh the pros and cons carefully. Contact us if you need more red-eye flight tips.

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Ken W Hyde

Ken W Hyde

Ken W Hyde is the founder of The Wright Experience™. He is passionate about antique airplanes and has restored many of the Wright brothers' planes, including the 1918 Curtiss Jenny and the 1903 Wright Flyer. He is also a pilot and mechanic who has worked for Capital Airlines, Bendix Corporation, and American Airlines.

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