The Red-Eye Flight -vs- The All-Day Flight
Have you ever thought about which is the lesser of two evils… the red-eye flight on which you spend 7 – 8 hours painfully exhausted but unable to sleep, or is it less evil to be wide awake and giving up an entire day to fly across the Atlantic Ocean or to some other long-distance destination?
Mileage Points Programs
We’ve always been big proponents of mileage points programs associated with credit cards. We’ve written about the topic more than once. On this, our most recent trip across the pond, our flight was booked with mileage points and more than likely it will be our last mileage points flight.
First, it takes 60,000 miles per person for a round trip ticket from the US to Europe. In our case, Washington, DC to Lisbon, Portugal. If we were to purchase 60,000 miles from United, the cost would equate to about $1,120 at a discounted rate. Pretty much the cost of a round trip ticket, right? There are ways to circumvent the dollar-for-dollar acquisition of miles though. For example, I signed on for a VISA card and earned 50,000 miles for doing so, but on the flip side I had to commit to spending $3,000 in three months. We pay nearly everything by credit card, so that wasn’t too much of an issue for us.
The Red-Eye Flight
What has become an issue is how difficult it’s becoming to actually find and book flights. The choices are limited more than ever. We book with United, which partners with TAP, the Portuguese airline. Abi spent hours and hours researching flights that would be tolerable. As someone who loathes every aspect of flying I have zero desire to fly from Washington, DC to Lisbon, Portugal by way of Frankfurt, Germany while stuck sitting in a middle seat squished between two strangers and unable to sleep. Come on already!
Having pretty much given up we booked a red-eye flight from DC to Porto (on the partner airline, TAP) by way of London, which included a change of airport. Not a change of terminals, an actual change of airport! Ugh! Twenty-four hours later we were notified by United that TAP would not ticket our flights. No explanation offered. Back to the drawing board.
Playing Mind Games
Just when we were ready to throw the laptop out the window and call the whole thing off, all of a sudden the ideal flight itinerary popped up on the screen. I swear there is someone sitting on a computer in some windowless basement office playing mind games with people. It was a non-stop flight from DC to Lisbon. We didn’t hesitate to book the flights before they disappeared as fast as they showed up. That only left the challenge of finding two seats together that weren’t next to the bathrooms. Ha! With all of the frustration we actually managed to book a decent itinerary but it was such a slog we’re no longer certain it’s worth it. The options are just too limited and seemingly it’s only going to get more difficult.
Insult to Injury
To add insult to injury, out of seven hours of flying time we spent nearly four of those seven hours bump, bump, bumping our way across the Atlantic Ocean. Man, did that flight suck big time! But, the flight crew was great and we landed in Lisbon right on schedule, which was a good thing since we had a train to catch. We made it with 15 minutes to spare.
The Lesser of Two Evils
So, did you answer my first question about the lesser of two evils? I used to believe the red-eye flight was the lessor of the two evils because you don’t have to spend your entire day on a plane. But, as someone who cannot sleep on a plane no matter how exhausted, I’ve pretty much come to the conclusion that the day flights are the lessor evil. If I’m going to be awake the entire flight anyway, I might as well not be exhausted. I just need to make sure my Kindle is fully charged. I learned that lesson the hard way. And, chocolate. There must be chocolate.
A seven hour red-eye flight, a taxi, two trains, a metro ride and 15 hours later we were home. Our home-away-from-home; Porto, Portugal. Porto welcomed us with warm open arms. Our apartment was waiting for us and funny enough it was exactly how we left it as no one has lived here since we left last year. It truly felt as if we were home again.
Having lived in Porto for three months in 2017, it was an easy transition to slip right back in to our expat life here. We know exactly where to get sim cards for our phones, where to stuff ourselves with the best salad, chicken and fries, and how to navigate the aisles (and the shopping habits of “mature” Portuguese women) of our neighborhood markets. It’s super fun to walk in to a couple of our favorite stores and find ourselves warmly welcomed back by our Porto friends.
There’s something very special about Porto. The people, the culture, the food, the wine; it’s all here and it’s all kinds of fabulous.
p.s. As soon as our flights were ticketed we switched back to using our credit card associated with hotel points.
Hi Patti, so you guys are back in Porto for long term or just a break from States? I plan on walking the Camino early spring (I’d prefer later, but can’t). I just downloaded your freebie thank you. Anyway, if you’re still there then I’d like to meet up.
Hi Paula ~ Fantastic that you’re walking the Camino and I’m glad you found our FAQ, I hope it helps with the realities of the Camino. Pack your rain gear, but aside from the possible rain I think early spring is a great time to walk. We walked in April/May and by mid May it was getting HOT! Beun Camino! Are you walking the Portuguese Camino, or are you planning to head to Porto after Santiago? We are here until the end of October, but we may be back in the spring so let’s stay in touch!
So in answer to your question about the lesser of two evils. We definitely prefer to use up a day than do the red eye where we might risk not sleeping and then arriving totally wasted. We recently flew with Qatar airlines… wow what a pleasure that was, as far as flying coach goes. We both managed to sleep, which is not often the case.
Totally relate to your computer booking online ticket frustration. We have had several experiences like the one you describe. In one case we had even paid for the ticket and it took hours upon hours to get a refund for a ticket that they claimed was suddenly “not valid”.
We have spent time in and loved Lisbon. Okay next time we are in Portugal, we will visit Porto. I have heard lots of good things about it and reading how much you love it, well, its on the list…
Welcome back to Portugal!!
Thanks for sharing your vote for the day flight, Peta, it seems to be the preferred choice. Totally wasted is an accurate description of how I feel as well. I’ve never liked to fly – for a multitude of reasons – and it seems as if flying is just becoming more and more challenging across the board. It’s a shame the airlines don’t work as hard to make people comfortable as they do to make it so challenging.
I’ll always go for the day time flights for the same reasons you state. Also: arriving at 6 am in the morning is a pain, try checking in to an Airbnb or hotel that early. So you usually end up with a whole bunch of time to kill, usually while tired and jet lagged. Just isn’t worth it.
But sometimes you have no choice, most trans-Atlantic flights to Europe are at night. I’ll just try to book them as late as possible so we arrived at a reasonable time.
Frank recently posted…October 2 Newsletter – on Prague, being invited to the Canadian Embassy in Kiev, Upcoming plans, Day of the Dead, and other odds and ends
That’s a very valid point, Frank, about arriving way too early to check in to your accommodations. And, it’s true that most transatlantic flights are red-eye flights now. ::sigh::
For us as Aussies, to fly to Europe, there is no avoiding the overnight flight; unless we break the trip with a stopover for a few days at a destination enroute. But we avoid any overnight travel if we can, both on planes and trains. Generally we don’t sleep & we arrive shattered. Then the next day we drag ourselves around. So for us the lesser of both evils is a long trip during the day.
Oh, that’s a long slog when you’re starting at from Australia! We once flew from San Francisco to Auckland, New Zealand on an overnight flight that was 13 hours. I don’t think I could do it again. And, “shattered” is the perfect word. I’m always so exhausted the next morning.
Definitely red-eye for those long flights. I only nap a little but like to arrive in the morning and mostly greet the day. BTW, I found Frankfurt a fascinating city for a long layover and exercise walking around the rebuilt city. Plus they have good chocolate. Glad you survived and are settled in to your other home.
Interesting, Gaelyn. I tend to find myself barely coherent the next morning. 🙂 We have flown in to Frankfurt but we’ve yet to explore the city. We’ve either gotten on a train or another flight. The Frankfurt airport is a city in itself.
Long haul flights can be brutal, I had plenty of awful experiences to put me off flying for a life time. But needs must be met and so with gritted teeth I will find myself enduring it again soon enough. I think the lesser of two evils is the all day flight with plenty of good books to read, films to watch and no doubt…chocolate. Welcome back to your lovely Porto…how lovely to feel so at home there. Enjoy!
Brutal they are… I’m still waiting for someone to build that high speed train track across the Atlantic! Ha! Ha! Looking forward to hearing where you’re off to next!
Welcome back to Portugal Patti and Abi! Having made two round-trip Transatlantic flights (Lisbon to Denver and vice-versa)) this summer to escort my grandson to and from Portugal, i just have to say there’s no time that’s good to fly. It pretty much sucks all the way around and flying is just a necessary evil to get from here to there. And oh boy can I identify with trying to get all the flights booked including the roundtrip ticket for my grandson. Usually I try to fly Azores Airlines (aka SATA) or Tap but United had the best prices this time around. However, trying to book a seat for an underage kid is a nightmare and I finally had to resort to calling United. They graciously untangled the mess of reservations, tacked on a consultant fee of $50 for each ticket and then booked me as the juvenile and my grandson as the adult. (Maybe they heard the tantrum I threw at the end of the experience? )
Oh, Anita, what a slog… so frustrating, isn’t it?! I know though how much you were looking forward to (and enjoyed) having your grandson in Portugal. What a special time for all of you. I’m still holding out hope they’ll build a transatlantic high speed train! Ha! Ha! Ha! A girl can hope.