The logic behind departure times

7th May 2019

That early morning dash to the airport is the trademark of many a holiday. It’s also the signature lifestyle for those who work in aviation. For cabin crew or airport staff of any kind, the somewhat unsociable hours are a way of life. For the traveller, it’s a minor inconvenience as a precursor to the fun and excitement of a trip away.

Although there are occasional drawbacks, there are huge advantages to early flight times too. Quite simply, it needs to be that way to avoid congestion and keep things running smoothly both on the ground and in the skies.

Here are just some of the reasons behind setting your alarm early for a trip to the airport, whether you’re a professional or a passenger.

• For short-haul flights of four hours or less, the early start usually means fitting in an outbound and inbound journey within a 12-hour pattern which doesn’t go too late into the night – and clash with the long-haul flights coming in.

• Long-haul inbound flights often travel through the night to reach their destinations. This is why they are often called the ‘red-eye’ as they may disrupt a person’s usual sleep pattern. But, they need to do so to keep the skies clear for the domestic, regional or short-haul flights which wouldn’t be doing their routes in the middle of the night.

• Planning an airline schedule requires ultimate precision. We all know that Heathrow has only two runways, which a mindboggling fact in itself. Yet, a plane uses one of those runways every 45 seconds. Marry that up with managing flight paths and coordinating times with both the departure and arrivals destinations and it’s soon easy to understand why the times wouldn’t always be your first choice.

• Flight times are planned to make allowances for factors which could be outside of human control, such as a lack of tailwind or an unexpected delayed take off. Current EU regulations mean that the delay payment scheme, which provides compensation for inconvenienced passengers, is based on arrivals times. So, flights are often planned with this in mind. They allow a little longer for the journey than is strictly necessary under optimum conditions. It also ensures that the plane can reach its destination at its allotted slot even if something doesn’t go quite according to plan.

• The benefits of flight times can be for the passenger too. Just because it’s an early start at the departures lounge doesn’t mean it is the same at your destination’s arrivals gate. This is especially the case for long-haul flights to countries which are ‘behind’ us in a different time zone. An early flight from London means a full day when you land in New York, for example. It’s a great way to make the most of your holiday. This is also the case with short-haul flights – have an early start but then enjoy two full days in your chosen destination for that weekend away.

It takes a team of experts to keep the world of aviation ticking over just as it should be. If you think you have what it takes, browse our latest vacancies both on the ground and in the air here.

by William Finden

About the Author: William Finden is the Founder and MD of Oaklands Global. He is a seasoned executive search and recruitment specialist with over 16 years of experience, dedicated to the international aviation & aerospace markets. William leads Oaklands Global’s C-Suite practice and has had a successful career delivering at the executive level for a diverse portfolio of clientele including Business Jet Operators, OEM’s, MRO’s, FBO’s Airlines and Rotary businesses. To learn more about how William can assist with your next career move or to discuss your next director level hire please contact him by email:

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