How to cope with an early flight as 4am found to be 'best' time to fly

Woman walking at airport. (Getty Images)
Surprisingly, research shows travellers were happiest taking early morning flights, around 4am. (Getty Images)

Heading to the airport to take a trip at any time can be an exciting part of the holiday, but turns out there are some times of the day when it's better to fly than others, with the early hours of the morning proving to be the 'best' time to jet off.

New data from HappyOrNot – who make the ‘smiley face’ customer feedback terminals found in airports – suggests 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 seven million customers surveyed across 30 countries, with 4am coming out tops, as the best time to be at the airport with 85.2% positive feedback.

It seems travellers have a favourite day of the week to fly too with the survey revealing the best day of the week to head off is Wednesday, while the worst day is Sunday.

"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," explains 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."

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Thankfully if you are due to head off on your hols with the larks, the travel experts have some insider tips and tricks that can make those early morning wakings that little bit easier.

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Surviving an early morning flight

  • Eat well and stay hydrated (especially if it is a long haul). "Start the morning with oats and an orange juice, so you don't get a heavy or bloated stomach and make sure you take water onto the plane with you," says Hayley Smith, who has been travelling as a digital nomad for the pst two years.

  • 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 needed to have packed the morning of travelling," says Nicky Kelvin, editor at travel site 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."

  • Go shower-free. "Shower the night before, as this will shave 20 minutes off the time taken to get ready, meaning you can have longer in bed," Kelvin says.

  • Time meals well and eat in the airport if necessary. "This will align your body’s timings to a new time zone if you are travelling long-haul," Kelvin explains. "Avoid sugary food, as this will ultimately lead to a crash as the day goes on."

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  • Don’t jam pack your itinerary from the start. "When you arrive, give yourself time to settle and rest after a long morning," Kelvin suggests.

  • Avoid pre-flight anxiety. "Having an early flight can often cause anxiety the night before, worrying about timings and getting to the airport," Smith says. "Go to bed listening to meditation music from Spotify, and create a list before bed to ensure you have all that you need to help your mind settle. Go over the same list in the morning to double-check."

  • Set your alarm and keep it away from you. "It's easy to snooze and run out of time, or oversleep," Smith says. "Putting the alarm on the other side of the room or hiding it somewhere will wake you up and get you out of bed instantly and on time."

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  • Ditch the pre-plane alcohol. "It's tempting to have a drink before your flight, but this will make you feel tired and groggy, especially on long-haul flights," Smith says. "Wait until you arrive at your destination, or enjoy one part-way into your flight. But remember, to also keep hydrated."

  • Make use of the lounge. "If you are a frequent flyer, sign up for a credit card that gives you free lounge access," suggests Smith. "This means you can relax ahead of your flight and enjoy complimentary food and drink."