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My question is regarding Red-eye flights . Majority, if not all, flights from India are always after business hours. Few reasons I found on the internet:

  1. Fuel savings due to dense air
  2. European and US airports do not operate outside business hours.
  3. Even, US/European hegemony

My question is what is the real reason for such an arrangement?

Also, I had the confusion whether this question is more suitable to Aviation.SE or Travel.SE, but decided to post it here.

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    US airports do not operate outside business hours. - Major ones have 24 hours business hours for arrivals. On top of this flights to Newark from Delhi leave at 10:50pm and land at 4:25 am. I think it's more a matter of arrival time rather then departure. – Karlson Aug 7 '14 at 17:32
  • @Karlson Although what you said is largely correct and important. I feel it's got much more to do with it. For instance flight from Japan to India leaves in the morning, wastes the whole day and reaches Delhi at 5pm. German airspace is closed in the night for a few hours so planes cannot arrive or depart after 12 (happened to me on Frankfurt Airport) – Aditya Somani Aug 8 '14 at 0:51
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    @AdityaSomani Frankfurt isn't North America last I checked and some airports have noise abatement regulations but that mostly applies to departures. – Karlson Aug 8 '14 at 1:24
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    @Karlson It wasn't a direct flight to New York, it was via Frankfurt. Hence I mentioned it. Our flight scheduled for 11:30am was delayed to 11:30pm and we were rushed into the plane at night when everything else at the airport was closed. Even lights except our gate and terminal were closed off. They had an announcement saying that if we don't hurry up, we cannot depart after 12. The delay was due to a strike at the Newark airport due to which the incoming United flight was unable to leave Newark. – Aditya Somani Aug 8 '14 at 1:26
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Similar to what Tom mentions, I concur that one answer doesn't fit all. But there are many factors (unfortunately at this point I don't have much sources for them) which can be considered,

  • As you mentioned, European and US airports do not operate at night time hours, but I don't see this as a problem. For instance, DEL to FRA is covered by two direct flights, i.e. Lufthansa 761 and Air India 121. Lufthansa leaves late at night whereas Air India leaves in the afternoon. So this problem seems like it can be easily avoided by morning flights which can land on airports in Europe in the afternoon.

  • Hegemony could be a factor and to be quite honest, I see some evidence of it as well. Almost all flights from NRT (Tokyo, Japan) to most airports in the US are at perfectly good morning timings.

  • BUT, here's a reason which compels me the most. India has busy airports with heavy domestic traffic. In comparison to airports in US and Europe (which either have more runways or have multiple airports in one city) we have relatively lesser number of runways. If you were to visit the airport in the morning in Delhi, you would see clear evidence of this. So to prevent overcrowding of the runways in Delhi, most international flights tend to leave at night. As I showed you an example earlier, there are some (albeit a much lesser number) in the day as well.

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Flights are planned based on a variety of reasons, with one of the biggest reason being connecting with "banks" at the departing and arriving airports. Banks are time periods when a large percentage of flights land and depart at a hub airport. By timing your flights to arrive for the morning bank in the USA means easier connections for their passengers continuing on.

Other factors include landing costs which can vary at different times of day, weather patterns during the night vs day, traffic loads along the way, available gates at the airports.

No simple one answer fits all for this question.

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One factor that hasn't been mentioned is noise abatement procedures which are put in place to avoid noise pollution.

For example, heathrow, gatwick and stansted all limit flights as they are located in urban areas; so if your flight is connecting through these airports, it may also dictate timings.

Boeing provides a comprehensive database that lists restrictions enforced at airports but its a bit more technical.

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