Holidays Travel

How to handle early morning flights – as survey finds 4am is ‘best’ time to fly

How to make early flights more bearable (Alamy/PA)
How to make early flights more bearable (Alamy/PA)

The early hours of the morning could be the ‘best’ time to fly, according to new research.

New data from HappyOrNot – who make the ‘smiley face’ customer feedback terminals found in airports – suggested 4am was when airport travellers were happiest, whilst 10pm and 11pm came out as the ‘worst’ times for customer satisfaction.

The data comes from the first quarter of 2023, based on responses from 7 million customers surveyed across 30 countries – and 4am came out trumps with 85.2% positive feedback.

“This could be down to a variety of factors, but it’s likely that most airports are not at their busiest at that moment, meaning travellers are able to have a smoother experience,” said Miika Mäkitalo, CEO of HappyOrNot.

“In 2023, the happiest time to fly might come as a bit of a shock to those of us who are not early risers, with it falling in the early hours of the morning.”

So, if you are getting a 4am flight (or thereabouts) this summer, how can you make the super early start more manageable?

Consider staying in an airport hotel the night before

Child looking at planes through the window at the airport.
You need to be prepared if you are travelling with children (Alamy/PA) (Alamy Stock Photo)

There is usually at least one limited service hotel chain near your chosen airport, which could buy you a few extra hours of sleep – and give you enough time to get children ready if you’re travelling as a family.

“Check if you can get your bags picked up the day before. There are a number of services which offer this (AirPortr being one) and will mean you won’t have to worry about luggage, as well as everything else you need to have packed the morning of travelling,” said Nicky Kelvin, from The Points Guy

“Some airlines offer a twilight check-in service, allowing you to check bags the night before. This is particularly handy if you are sleeping in an airport hotel and so already close to the terminal.”

Depending on where you live, your journey to the airport could be straightforward or an inconvenience – and if you’re going to be travelling by taxi in the early hours, booking it well ahead of time is a no-brainer.

Cab companies such as Uber and Bolt may make it easy to get a last-minute ride during the day, but when you’ve got an early flight to catch, booking in advance means peace of mind.

Get to bed early 

Woman can't sleep because her boyfriend is snoring loudly
Getting plenty of sleep will make getting up easier (Alamy/PA) (Alamy Stock Photo)

As Kelvin noted: “Whilst some people love that feeling of waking up early as you’re about to go on holiday, many struggle with the early mornings before early flights.”

Scott Poniewaz, head of Exec, added: “Try to go to bed early the night before and ensure you get enough shut-eye. Consider using earplugs, an eye mask, or white noise machines to create a calm sleeping environment, especially if you’re not accustomed to waking up early.”

In fact, if you’re worried about tiredness, regulating your sleeping pattern for a few days before your flight by shifting to an earlier bedtime could help ensure you don’t arrive at your destination feeling like a total zombie.

Coping with tiredness at the end of the journey

When you arrive on holiday, perhaps don’t expect to do too much on day one. So instead of jam-packing your itinerary from the start, give yourself time to settle and rest after the long morning.

“I find that getting out in the fresh air helps me refresh after a long flight. Personally, I am an avid runner, so having the chance to stretch my legs either on a walk or short run after touching down is preferable for me,” said Mäkitalo.

Consider what you eat and drink

Man drinking coffee at airport
Coffee might be essential (Alamy/PA) (Alamy Stock Photo)

“If you’re someone who likes coffee – load up first thing,” said Kelvin. “Time meals well and eat in the airport if necessary to align your body’s timings to a new time zone if you are travelling long-haul.”

Avoid very sugary food however, as this could ultimately lead to an energy crash as the day goes on.