The Best Time of Day to Fly
"Although U.S. Department of Transportation statistics show that flights taking off between 6 a.m. and 7 a.m. have the best on-time record, those numbers are sometimes misleading," says Rally Caparas, an Atlanta-based air-traffic controller and a Travelocity "Eye on the Sky" correspondent for CNN. "On time" refers to when the plane pushes back from the gate. You can wait on the tarmac for an hour because of weather problems, which cause the vast majority of delays.
"Scheduling arrivals and departures between 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. local time," Caparas says, "will help you avoid most delay-causing weather patterns. This will also help you avoid airport rush hours, "which mostly coincide with workday rush hours," says Robert Baron, president of the Aviation Consulting Group, in Fort Lauderdale.
For best results, check for regional weather patterns and schedule accordingly. "For example, for the West Coast, fly in or out after noon Pacific Standard Time, when marine-level fog has dissipated," says Caparas. For southeastern and Gulf Coast hops, steer clear of the thunderstorms that kick up around 3 p.m. "Airline schedules are based on perfect weather conditions," he says. "You're more likely to be punctual if you follow Mother Nature's schedule."