Ok bear with me here.  Could I possibly be suggesting that a 2:30am shorthaul domestic flight could in any way ever make sense?

Kind of.

American’s “flex flights”

Occasionally American needs to reposition aircraft from one airport to another.  They typically run these flights in the middle of the night.  This morning was a great example of that.  Over the weekend American ran an insane amount of flights out of DFW (over 1000, in fact) to accommodate holiday travelers.  They therefore ended up with lots of jets in DFW that could be used elsewhere, so they ran a series of “flex flights” to reposition the aircraft where they needed to go this morning.  You’ll usually see these flights between DFW-JFK on something like a Wednesday morning.

This morning, however, they ran two interesting ones: to DCA and LGA.  Now, since American is a business and operates as such (which I frequently forget when I complain about AAdvantage program changes), they decided they might as well sell tickets on these, figuring the incremental cost of paying flight attendants and catering for the flight would be easily offset by any revenue from selling tickets (pilots would be paid either way).  My curiosity was piqued.  Also, an American employee I follow on Twitter talked about it enough that I figured this post would no doubt get millions thousands tens of hits if I were to move to this Super Redeye flight and document the experience for you.

Ok how could that flight possibly make even the slightest bit of sense for a typical traveler?

So here’s the thing about living in Dallas and flying out of DFW, especially for business travelers.  If I have meetings on the west coast, I’m can leave first thing in the morning from DFW, taking meetings that same morning in LA, for example.  On the east coast, though, I can’t do that.  The first flight from DFW to LaGuardia on a typical day departs just before 7am Dallas time, arriving at LGA shortly before noon.  Once you account for traffic getting into the city, you’re lucky if you can be ready for a 1pm meeting.  This basically makes a full day business trip impossible.

But, and give me some rope here, what if there was a way to work a full day in New York and be back in Dallas that night?  It was up to me to find out, in the name of science blogging.

Here’s the hypothetical

Let’s say you’re a businessperson.  On a Sunday night, you have dinner with your spouse and your kids and catch a little bit of Sunday Night Football.  You get the kids down for bed, kiss your spouse goodnight, and instead of going to sleep with them you make sure your bag is packed and head off to the airport.  Maybe you take a quick catnap at home but that’s kinda risky.  You clear security and walk into an empty terminal.  You board your flight, laughing at how ridiculous this is, and quickly fall asleep to the comforting sounds of DragonForce’s Fallen World (ok maybe that’s just me).  3 hours later you touch down at LaGuardia just before 7am, somewhat rested, or at least rested enough to get the day going.  If you didn’t shower at home, you swing by the Admirals Club to grab a quick rinse, and then you’re off into the melee of New York City, in plenty of time for that 9am meeting you needed to be at in order to do the business.  Later, you grab the 5pm flight home, getting in time for a late dinner and to see the kids before they go to bed.

Sounds aggressive but doable, right?

Well here’s how the flight went in real life

I got to DFW Airport at just after 12:30am this morning.  Realistically I could’ve waited until later, but I didn’t want to accidentally fall asleep at home and miss my flight.  (Keep in mind, I didn’t fly this flight because I had Big Important Meetings in New York today, I did it for my beloved readers so they could wonder if I had suffered brain trauma or something)

I walked over to security and was literally the only person there besides the 9 TSA agents.  They asked what was wrong with me for taking one of these flights, laughed politely when I joked “well how long do you have”, and sent me on my way in record time.  Strangely enough, though, they said it had been busy until about 10 minutes before.  I found out why: there was a redeye departing for JFK at 1am Dallas time.  “A bunch of smart travelers” I thought.

After walking for a few minutes I reached my gate.  I was expecting a fairly empty gate area but was met with a swarm of people.  There were 28 people on standby to make the flight.  All of them cleared and I began to wonder if this flight would be as empty as I initially thought.  In the meantime my upgrade to First Class cleared (my first upgrade of the year!), so that was nice I guess.  In the gate area I noticed there were more than a few people dressed in Business Garb, so my inkling about this flight was semi-correct.

Y’all.  The flight went out almost entirely full.  The DCA flight was sold out.  And these weren’t non-revs deadheading, they were revenue passengers.  I was flying it as a bit (although I legitimately was planning on flying to NYC later today anyway), but other passengers just saw the flight and bought tickets on it.

I took a catnap at the gate (smart) and eventually we started boarding.  I sat in my First Class seat on an A321, put on the aforementioned DragonForce (including their new cover of Celine Dion’s My Heart Will Go On), and quickly went to sleep.  The flight was the same as any other redeye I’ve ever taken.  I awoke just before landing at a foggy, drizzly, near-freezing LaGuardia.  I made my way to the Admirals Club, where there was no wait for a shower, showered, got Business Dressed, grabbed some coffee, and here I am, blogging at 8:30am local time before heading into the city.


So how do you feel?  Is your psychotic idea actually doable?

Unsurprisingly I’m a bit tired, but coffee will sustain me.  I think this idea is totally workable.  The really tough part of it is killing time between Normal Bedtime at 10-11pm and boarding at 2:15ish in the morning.  It’s enough time for a quick nap but not a REM cycle.

Let me put it this way: no way I’d do this on the regular.  But if I had kids and a wife back home to come back to, I’d do it in a heartbeat so I wouldn’t have to be away from them for too long.  To American, I say make it a regular part of the schedule on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays.  Sounds crazy to say, but it actually works!



Do you agree with me?  Am I completely insane?  Tell me in the comments below!


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