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A flight against time

By Jordan VincentSeptember 2019

Flying is the most convenient way to travel long distances that would otherwise take hours and days. When flying, we don’t perceive distances nearly as much as time spent.

While traveling, local arrival time is usually more important than time at home. Let's imagine we fly from Los Angeles to New York City. Our plane takes off at 4 pm PST and lands at midnight EST. Upon arrival, you usually go to bed, despite being 9 pm at home, in Los Angeles. It appears as if it took 8 hours. But in reality, you only spent 5 hours on the plane.

On the flight back, however, it feels much faster. If you leave New York City at noon, you will arrive in Los Angeles at 3:30 pm PST. It appears like a 3h30min flight. It feels twice as fast to go west than it does to go east!

Strange, right? What does the rest of the United States looks like from major airports? Let's have a look!

East vs West

The Atlantic and Pacific coasts are two of the most populated regions in the United States. There are hundreds of flights per day making the trip between the coasts.

Los Angeles / New York

The New York/Los Angeles route is one of the busiest in the country with more than 600 flights per week.

Here is what the United States look like from Los Angeles. Because it feels slower to go east, it looks stretched.

Flight PointsBostonNew YorkWashingtonDetroitAtlantaMiamiChicagoDallasHoustonMinneapolisDenverPhoenixSalt Lake CitySeattleLas VegasSan FranciscoSan DiegoHonoluluSan JuanLos Angeles

From New York City, however, the United States looks squished because it feels faster to go west.

Flight PointsBostonWashingtonDetroitAtlantaOrlandoMiamiChicagoDallasHoustonSeattleSan FranciscoLos AngelesHonoluluSan JuanNew York

Seattle / Miami

The Seattle/Miami route isn't as frequented - with a mere 40 flights per week.

Flight PointsBostonNew YorkWashingtonAtlantaMiamiChicagoDallasHoustonMinneapolisDenverPhoenixSalt Lake CityLas VegasSan FranciscoLos AngelesAnchorageHonoluluSan JuanSeattle
Flight PointsNew YorkWashingtonDetroitAtlantaOrlandoChicagoDallasHoustonNew OrleansDenverSeattleSan FranciscoLos AngelesHonoluluSan JuanMiami

At the Edge of Time

Things get weird when flying across time zones. When flying west, it feels like time is slowing down. And when flying east, it feels like time is speeding up.

At the edge between two time zones, it’s possible to arrive at your destination at an earlier local time than you took off. Let’s have a look at Chicago and Detroit.

Chicago / Detroit

Chicago is located in the Central time zone while Detroit is located in the Eastern time zone.

Chicago/Detroit area map

The flight between the two cities takes 1h30min. But from Chicago, it appears like a 2h30min trip, and from Detroit, it appears like a 30min trip. A difference of 2 hours.