Paul Oberjuerge header image 2

The Return of the Red-Eye Flight

March 3rd, 2018 · No Comments · Abu Dhabi, Barcelona, Journalism, Los Angeles, tourism, Travel

Actually, I suppose the overnight air flight never really disappeared. It just seemed to, for those of us who do the majority of our flying inside the United States.

(And it is called the red-eye because of how you look the morning after flying most of the night.)

After what seemed years since I had taken a domestic red-eye, I was updated on the reality of the situation at Los Angeles International this weekend.

You can fly right through the night to a myriad of destinations — many of them on the other side of the world.

Let’s talk old-time perceptions.

A flight scheduled to leave at 11:20 p.m. on a Friday night?

No problem! Not all that many Angelenos are out and about at, say, 8 p.m., on a Friday night. So, driving to LAX from anywhere in the vicinity should be no problem.

And, too, who flies around the witching hour, these days? Very few of the domestic airlines, far as I can tell. (Is it about curfews for those who live near U.S. airports? Is it about an airlines fear that they won’t sell 99 percent of all seats in an overnight flight, failing to wring maximim profit?)

It was not recent, but neither is it ancient history that domestic airlines had all sorts of red-eye flights. Especially departing from the hub cities.

Something to do with repositioning planes to be ready to go for the 7 a.m. flights the next morning. Or maybe it was about getting some use out of a jet that otherwise would sit on the tarmac all night.

At any rate, I took a lot of red-eye flights as a young-ish reporter. Most of the time it was to “save” a day and cover games in two cities on consecutive days with no hotel. (The crazy stuff we do, before we get older and wiser.)

For some reason, one in particular sticks in my head. Departing Phoenix (USC at Arizona State in a night game) for Dallas, with a change to Braniff (another long-gone airline that was quite handy) headed for Minneapolis. (Rams at Vikings.)

So, yeah, lots of those flights around. Usually cheap and semi-empty, which made them even more enticing.

There was a downside, of course. Some of us have trouble sleeping on planes (even when gifted a row of empty seats), which is essential to being able to operate the next morning.

Zero sleep, and the odds are good we would be semi-zombified by the time we got to next day’s game. Let’s ballpark it and say something like three hours was necessary to fend off exhaustion. If you did not get that …

Anyway, all these planes from all those airlines, banging around the U.S., from west to east to north to south … you could get places in a hurry in calm, empty and sleepy conditions.

And then they seemed to go away. Or so I thought. Till I got to the Bradley terminal at LAX at about 8:30 p.m. this weekend — and was almost swallowed up by the masses on the move.

The flight we were taking was Norwegian Air from LAX to Barcelona nonstop. Taking off in the dark, flying in the dark, landing in the dark — but at a cost of about $350 for the indestructible kids sitting in the back of the sleek new Boeing 787 Dreamliner, and at about $750 for the 32 people up in premier economy. The latter paid extra for seats that reclined by about 60 percent (no frills; just space) — making them ideal for real sleep, if the weather cooperated at all. (And it did; we flew right over a Nor’easter.)

So, that was one flight. The rest of them seemed to be going east. To China, to Japan, to the Philippines, to Australia. Lots and lots of people who looked like tourists toting swag from their visits to L.A.

Then, I remembered our six-plus years in Abu Dhabi.

The big carriers there seem to arrange most of their flights to leave between 11 p.m. and maybe 3 a.m.

Talking about Emirates and Etihad, and also Qatar. Those three are well-positioned to get customers traveling from east to west, or vice versa. The big Europe-to-Asia market in business and labor.

I took some of those flights. I should have remembered. Taking off in Abu Dhabi late at night, arriving at Istanbul at 8 a.m.  And so forth.

So, the red-eye is not dead.

It just has morphed, in the U.S., from inside-the-country red-eye flights … to across-the-world red-eye.

Our 11-hour Norwegian flight put us down in Barcelona at a bit short of 9 p.m. next day, and one of us had slept four hours and the other managed six. Our body clocks were puzzled but we were in a semi-alert state. We even went to dinner at one of Barcelona’s late diners at 11. (Patatas bravas; comfort food!)

So, the red-eye: Still out there. Maybe you can’t get from Los Angeles to NYC in the middle of the night … but you can get from LAX to Tokyo, no problem.




0 responses so far ↓

  • There are no comments yet...Kick things off by filling out the form below.

Leave a Comment