Over the weekend, my 8pm flight from Chicago was delayed a total of four times; my plane arrived late, followed shortly by our crew who arrived at the gate from delayed flights themselves. Why is flying at night such a pain in the arse?
Well, if you’re flying late, a single delay earlier in the day can spiral into several other delays for passengers on later flights, now left stranded at the gate for hours on end.
And in looking at over 7 million U.S. domestic flights from 2018, the Points Guy found that choosing an earlier flight is statistically the best option if you want to arrive on time; in fact, over the course of the day, your odds of an on-time arrival lower significantly, but particularly after 8pm, when delays might be at their worst.
While these findings are localised to the U.S., similar trends can be seen in local Australian airports - and for similar reasons.
Here are some of the best and worst times to fly according to their punctuality, as TPG writes:
The most-punctual times to fly:
7am to 7:59am (89.8 per cent on time)
8am to 8:59am (88.6 per cent on time)
9am to 9:59am (87.6 per cent on time)
The least-punctual times to fly:
10pm to 10:59pm (72.9 per cent on time)
8pm to 8:59pm (73 per cent on time)
9pm to 9:59pm (73.3 per cent on time)
If you’re taking a flight at 10pm, this doesn’t mean you have a 72.9 per cent chance of arriving on time; instead, it’s just evidence that roughly 73 flights actually arrive on time during that hour of departure (which is a relatively small number—that means 27 flights out of 100 fall behind schedule).
But keep in mind that airlines already pad their scheduled time to arrive for late arrivals and often for later flights. This means some later flights still manage to miss their scheduled time, even after padding it. And these numbers also don’t reflect just how late the flights might arrive, only that they’re more than 15 minutes late.
If you want to increase the odds you won’t run into a delay, it’s simple: Opt for the earlier flight whenever possible. Morning flights are also best for avoiding turbulence if you’re an uneasy flier.
For a full breakdown of the hour-by-hour times, check out the Points Guy’s post.