How to Calculate Flight Times Across Time Zones

Time is the first thing we think of when flight planning; how long is the flight? What time will it be when we arrive?

For many, the duration plays just as big a role as the time zones at the point of departure and arrival.

One of the biggest advantages of private jet charter, compared to airline travel, is the flexibility offered for itinerary planning. You can design your schedule around when you’d like to take-off and arrive based on your specific needs.

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Our team will always help clients work out the implications of different time zones on their travel plans. But here’s our short guide:

UTC, GMT, Zulu…

Acronyms are common in aviation – from airport codes to pilot jargon.

Greenwich Mean Time (GMT) was the most common international standard for time until 1960. Then, Coordinated Universal Time (UTC) was introduced as a more precise alternative to GMT. It also does not observe daylight saving time.

Zulu is a shortcut used by pilots and crew members to refer to Coordinated Universal Time (UTC).

Time on the Flight Plan…

Some countries or even groups of countries fall in a single time zone – while others, like Canada or Australia, have multiple time zones within their borders.

To avoid confusion, we always use local time on our plans and schedules.

We also always use the 24-hour clock (14:00 instead of 2pm).

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So the time we use is the time on the ground when you depart or arrive – regardless of whether this is in a different time zone to the other end of the journey.

In the excerpt from a recent itinerary below, the traveler is departing at 11:00 (local time) from Birmingham, and will arrive at the Cayman Islands at 14:40 the same day – but clearly the flight will take much more than 3 hours and 40 minutes!

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Planning…

Many of our clients choose private jet charter to reach important meetings or other deadlines. We are often met with a question that goes like this: “I’m in New York and I need to be at a meeting in Dubai by 3pm next week, what time should I depart?”

Fortunately, our expert flight team has done this calculation many times, so they will assist you with creating the right itinerary.

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But if you’d like to do the calculation for yourself, here’s a quick overview:

  1. Set local time of departure
  2. Convert time to UTC
  3. Add flight duration
  4. Convert to local time of your arrival time zone

Here is an example for a flight from London to Nice, which departed on August 4th, at 13:00. The client’s question was “If I take off at 1:00pm from London, would I be on time to pick up my children from school at 5:00pm in Nice?”

Date Hour Minute
Depart from London (local time) 4-Aug 13 00
Conversion to UTC 4-Aug -1 00
Depart from London (UTC) 4-Aug 12 00
Flight Duration 4-Aug +2 00
Arrive in Nice (UTC) 4-Aug 14 00
Conversion to Local Time 4-Aug +2 00
Arrive in Nice (local time) 4-Aug 16 00

So our our client arrived in plenty of time to pick up his children at the school at 17:00.

Jet Lag…

It’s generally considered easier to recover from jet lag on a westbound flight than an eastbound trip.

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A shortening of the day (an eastward flight) is more disruptive to our sleep cycles, thus the westward flights that extend your day are easier on the body.

Our expert team can advise on time zones and scheduling to fit your trip. For private jet availability please contact us online or call us at (866) 726-1222.