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Meal time on overnight flight?

We will soon be traveling from the West Coast non-stop to London on Delta, leaving around 9PM. Does anyone know what time meals are served? We are in Economy plus seats. I recently heard from a friend who flew to Paris on a different airline and she said that around 2AM the lights when on in the cabin and a full meal was served. We were hoping to get a little rest and being woken up at that time with bright lights doesn't seem to foster that! Would love to hear other experiences flying overnight.

Posted by
958 posts

Our Delta flight to Amsterdam left around 8:30pm. We were eating by 9:30-10:00. Then it was lights out. Breakfast was served about an hour before landing. Same deal with Air France on return. When they were steady in the sky breakfast started coming out. Once again, lights out until close to landing when another meal was served.

Posted by
2891 posts

The meal has been served on the flights that I have taken to Heathrow around 90 minutes into the flight and then about 90 minutes before landing a breakfast was served. I do not fly on Delta but that has been the case, give or take 30 minutes, on every overnight flight that I have taken on which a meal is served.

Posted by
2349 posts

Maybe your friend had set her watch ahead to Paris time and that would explain it. Maybe their was too much turbulence to serve it earlier. Serving at 2 am is not a normal thing.

Posted by
3580 posts

I have flown from SFO numerous times. Once comfortably in the air, drinks then food are served. One trick to get your meal early then rest is to order a special meal, whether it is "diabetic" or other. These special orders are served first, ahead of the other meals for passengers.

Posted by
6633 posts

Once you're in the air, the time at your departure city is irrelevant. Everything is based on flight time - time from departure, time to landing.

Posted by
12886 posts


Going from the west coast, I always fly Economy, overnight and direct, which takes 10plus hours to 11 hours. Depending on which airline, the flight departs SFO from 2pm to 4pm. I keep my watch still set on west coast time until I land. From my experiences the meal is served ca two to 2.5 hrs once the plane is airborne.

Posted by
18302 posts

9 PM seems like a rather late flight. I would think most passenger would have already eaten dinner before the flight, so maybe that's why they wait so long before the first meal. But 2 AM (LA time) is about half way through the flight, which will only give you about 4 hours before breakfast. That does sound late in the flight.

Posted by
3491 posts

On every flight I have ever taken that goes over night, the meal service is done as quickly as possible after take off to allow maximum sleep time for those who want to sleep. Now depending on the size of the plane and where you are sitting, you might not get served for an hour or more after the first person gets served in your cabin.

I was on one flight from New York to London that was delayed departure for several hours finally leaving at about 01:00 in the morning so dinner was served at 02:30. But this was a one time occurrence and I doubt any airline would wait that long after a normal departure time knowing that the sooner they get everyone fed the sooner they can kick back and relax.

Posted by
14905 posts

On long-haul flights (whenever the flight leaves - I've been on about every combination), drinks service usually begins as soon as possible, usually about 45 minutes after takeoff. That's a choice of drink (you can have more than one), usually fizzy drinks, juices, wine, beer and a few stronger options, with a teeny tiny snack (pretzels, crackers). How long that takes depends on the size of the plane. When the crew is finished with the drinks service, they begin the meal service. Some time after that they come through and clear away the remnants. When they're done with that, they ask people to close the window shades (night or day) and dim the lights. I'd estimate at least 3 hours after takeoff before the lights are dimmed. How soon they start the second meal service depends somewhat on how big it is. If it's more of a snack (no heating required), they'll serve it later into the flight. If it's a hot meal, earlier. They have to have time to serve everyone and then clear up before the plane begins its descent around 45 minutes before landing. My experience is that both crew and passengers want as much down time in the middle of the flight as possible.

If you are sensitive to light, take eyeshades. Remember you're flying east, so by the time you start to cross the Atlantic the sun will be coming up and there are always a couple of passengers who will open the window shades.

Posted by
425 posts

Airfrance has a daily nonstop flight from Detroit to Paris CDG that departs 9:40 PM. The dinner is usually complete by midnight. The breakfast is served around 9:30 AM and the plane lands at 11:30 AM. It's got a 100% on time rate with many arrivals well before scheduled time. The daily nonstop Airfrance flight to Detroit that departs 1:40 PM from CDG is a different's more likely to be late than on time.

Posted by
21718 posts

Our standard recommendation to friends and family for direct flights from the US is -- Go early to the airport, have a nice meal with little wine at the airport, take the first 30 minutes of flight time to settle in - pillow, blanket, shoes off, etc - put on the eye shades and insert ear plugs, curl up the best you can and ignore all activity until breakfast in eight hours or so. The meal on the plane, especially in economy, will not be that great so why eat it anyway. That way we can get a few of hours or so of so so sleep but every bit helps with jet lag the next day. If you eat a meal on the plane it somewhat disturbs your daily cycle.

Posted by
31471 posts

On my recent flights, the main meal was was served about 90 minutes after takeoff, after the plane had reached cruising altitude and the flight crew was ready. The meals in Premium Economy were reasonably good, so I wanted to enjoy those (since I was paying for them anyway). About an hour or so before landing, a piece of banana bread was provided. Not much of a "breakfast" but better than nothing.

I'm never able to sleep on flights (except for short naps), so may as well have a hot meal and watch a few movies.

Posted by
128 posts

Thanks for all the replies, appreciated hearing about past experiences. We don't expect to get extended periods of sleep, but hope for a few catnaps. From most of the replies, looks like the airlines try to get people settled enough to facilitate some rest for travelers!

Posted by
367 posts

I recently took a Swiss air flight from SFO to Zurich. it left at 7:40. Dinner was served about 10:00. Like another poster, I passed on the dinner and put on my eye shade, ear plugs and popped the benedryl and tried to get some sleep. However, I did wake up for the ice cream about 2:00 ;-). "breakfast" was served about 1 house before landing.

Posted by
33 posts

Restrictions on aircraft noise force many European airports to suspend flight operations during the night, at least from midnight to 6:00 A.M. Many longhaul flight depart just before midnight or arrive just after 6.00 A.M.. That means diner and breakfast are served at awful times, with at least one hour after take off until meals are served and one hour until the trays are cleared again. Together with at times poor quality of meals it is not worth the hassle.