Daylight Savings Time (DST): Why Do Airlines Hate It?

AuthorAda Kozłowska

Firstly it’s not too late to be talking about Daylight Savings Time (DST) or Daylight Saving Time to be completely accurate, as only a few countries from the Western Hemisphere shifted their clocks on March 8th.  Many countries in the rest of the World are shifting their clocks an hour forward on March 29th, a full three weeks after the US has made the change.

Tweet: “Many countries are shifting their clocks on March 29th! 3 weeks after the US!!! from @theairhelper http://ctt.ec/npdB5+”

If you’re flying across borders this makes it especially annoying to keep track of time zones. Your mind might be telling you Austria is 6 hours ahead of the US but in this 3-week limbo period, the time difference is actually 5 hours. And if you are unfortunate enough to be flying between states like Arizona and Hawaii to other states in the US, that might confuse everything even more. As those states do not recognize Daylight Savings Time (DST) at all.

With all these differences, you can just imagine being a pilot having to navigate the different time zones. Luckily for us, the airline industry is one step ahead of us, as they opt instead to use Coordinated Universal Time which allows airlines to ignore these pretty much random time changes for the most part. If you read that article you’ll know that yes, the exact reason airlines use UTC is to avoid confusion about time zones and yes, daylight savings time.

So why do airlines hate Daylight Savings Time (DST) if it doesn’t matter?

The truth is, even though pilots might be able to use UTC, the rest of the world, meaning passengers do not. Therefore, schedules have to be adjusted to reflect these changes. Just imagine flying in the three-week limbo period I mentioned above. You notice your flight is scheduled to land an hour earlier than you thought. Faster plane? Nope, that’s just a daylight saving adjustment. With this type of confusion, airlines have to be extra careful to ensure that passengers make it to the airport on time. 

But the real problem, all comes down to…increased costs. In 2005, the year the US increased daylight savings time coverage by four weeks, there was an outcry by the Air Transport Association, which represents major US airlines. The group argued that the shift would throw US international flight schedules further out of sync with Europe and would cost the industry $147 million. That’s a lot for an hour time shift!

Tweet: “Daylight savings time costs the US airline industry $147 million! from @theairhelper http://ctt.ec/32vR3+”

Why do I care?

If you are traveling to Europe this weekend from the US, or if you are traveling to the US from Europe sometime this week, you may want to keep this in mind or you could be an hour early or late to that flight. Just to make sure we recommend you call your airline  day before to check if there are any changes in the flight time or use a service like Flightaware to stay up to date.

Good luck! And remember if you have any delays, cancellations or your boarding is denied, compensation is one click away!

travel industry ebook cover

Get our free eBook

The air travel industry hit some highs and lows last year. Check out now how it impacted passengers.

Get paid for your delayed, canceled or overbooked flight from the last three years.

Check your flight

It only takes 3 minutes