The Solution to Sleeping on Short Overnight Flights

Short overnight flights, like flying Eastbound East Coast to Europe, can be frustrating. You leave at night and arrive in the morning and have a full day ahead of you, but to really take advantage of it you need to sleep.

(Here’s how I beat jet lag.)

New York, DC, or Boston to London or even Paris can take less than 7 hours. You want:

  • A fully flat seat in business class
  • All aisle access so no one is climbing over anyone else and waking them
  • Meal service to end quickly, and lights out quickly, so you can sleep.

I don’t want to be woken for breakfast, the second meal on a short overnight isn’t going to be impressive (though I’ll try it if I’m up anyway).

I don’t take a Bose noise cancelling headset when flying American Airlines business class (or first class) — I bring my own headset, and the flight attendants collect theirs way too early, often nearly an hour before landing.

The idea here is to maximize the amount of time you can sleep. A two hour meal service? Absolutely killer.

Qantas has a solution that I think sounds really fantastic.

Starting this weekend, Qantas’ A330 business class offers a new sleeper service out of Singapore to Sydney, Brisbane, and Melbourne.

  • Their seats are certified to allow recline during taxi, takeoff, and landing.
  • You can let Qantas know in the lounge before flight and they’ll have the seat pre-reclined with mattress and duvet laid out and pillow on the seat.
  • You’ll already have your amenity kit and bottle of water there as well.

They’re also muting the cabin lighting right from the start. So you can eat in the lounge, board, and start to get comfortable for sleeping immediately.

This ‘Sleep Sooner’ program will extend from the new A330s to the rest of Qantas’ international Qantas flights over the next few months.

This would be a fantastic program for airlines to invest in for short transatlantic flights..

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. I like AA first class LAX-JFK better than UA and DL biz. Every second counts on a 4.5 hour overnight transcon. Unfortunately, they don’t always let you recline during takeoff as the seats are not certified but they keep the lights dim the entire time and don’t force meal service on you. UA keeps the lights on too long and DL has ads on the ife that play at full brightness afer the plane has taken off.

  2. Very interesting and agree this would be a nice improvement for short transatlantic flights. I try to always take the late flight if there is one (for example from Dulles, United has ~10 pm departures to Frankfurt and London, and Lufthansa has a late flight to Munich though it’s not year-round). I find I can sleep far better on these flights than the 5 pm departures, which land in Europe around my normal bed time in the US. Also, when there’s a choice of connections I always choose the one that gives me a longer flight in the widebody with flat-bed seat – so I’d always choose Munich over London as it’s about an hour of add’l flight time (not to mention Munich being a far better-organized airport).

  3. I fly these transatlantic flights a lot … Boston-LHR can be as little as 6 hours. Whether I’m in economy or business, I will eat in the airport before take off. As soon as the flight is wheels up, take a 2.5 mg zolpidem tablet, earplugs in, get to sleep. Usually that gets me 4-5 hours sleep after a 9 pm take off.

  4. I try to always avoid the shorter transatlantic flights, even if that requires backtracking to ORD or ATL etc. Iif you can plan your schedule to make it work, it’s far better, obviously.

  5. My biggest pet peeve with Lufthansa, meal service on redeye that takes 3 hours! Even going MCO to FRA, which should allow for decent sleep, you are extremely lucky to manage 5 hours that isn’t meal service.

  6. That is AWESOME! Hats off to Qantas!

    I get incredibly frustrated flying overnight East Coast to LHR as I can get, at most, 4 hours of sleep if I really try. This is awful when flying in for same-day meetings in London.

  7. I don’t understand the following sentence from this article…you don’t like Bose headsets and take a different brand, or is it a typo? If the former, perhaps you could explain your choice of headsets.

    I don’t take a Bose noise cancelling headset when flying American Airlines business class (or first class) — I bring my own headset, and the flight attendants collect theirs way too early, often nearly an hour before landing.

  8. AA FAs don’t care how much sleep you get. They collect the AA headsets an hour before landing, to make sure everyone is fully awake, changed into street clothes, etc and ready to disembark upon landing. Gary takes his own set so he can sleep much closer to the landing time.

  9. BA offers a “sleeper service” out of Philly (and several other east coast cities). It’s not to the level of dimmed lights and reclined seats from door closed, but if you asked not to be woken for breakfast you could probably get a good 4-5ish hrs from PHL.

  10. For Europe, I always try and connect in farther away cities like MUC/VIE/ZRH if possible. It’s another good 60-90 minutes farther than LHR/AMS/CDG which can make all the difference.

    I also agree with the Lufthansa meal service taking too long. I feel bad not enjoying the experience in F, but from Dulles we’re almost always well out over the Atlantic (after going up the coast and out over Nova Scotia) by the time the meal service is done.

  11. @Larry: He means that he does not accept the loan of the Bose headphones offered by the airline but rather brings his own so as not to be woken up early.

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