Flying on Christmas Day: The flights that miss Christmas and what airlines are doing for passengers

As you're sitting down for family dinner or the umpteenth television rerun of The Santa Clause on Christmas Day, spare a thought for the poor souls who'll be skipping the day entirely

Passengers travelling on-board 17 flights on six airlines from North America to Australia will miss Christmas Day. Leaving the US or Canada late on Christmas Eve, their flights will cross the International Date Line, leading to them effectively missing a day. They will arrive in Australia on Boxing Day morning.

Conversely, a number of passengers flying in the other direction will get to experience Christmas Day twice. Flights leaving Australia on Christmas Day for the US or Canada will effectively arrive on the morning of the same day they left, despite flying for more than 12 hours.

Vic Naughton, Air Canada's Australia and New Zealand general manager, is one traveller who will miss Christmas. He and his wife will fly back to Sydney from their Canadian holiday on Christmas Eve, landing on Boxing Day.

Mr Naughton doesn't mind spending Christmas on the plane. "My wife and I are expats – we're Brits living [in Australia], so our family's not here, we haven't got kids, so it's not a massive deal for us to miss Christmas," he said.

He also enjoys the novelty of the flight experience.

And Mr Naughton won't be forgoing Christmas celebrations completely. "My wife has packed Christmas jumpers we're going to wear," he said. "We're going to make it as Christmassy as we can on the plane."

For those missing Christmas Day, United Airlines will be giving members of its loyalty scheme a bonus 2500 frequent flyer points (though the airline's Christmas spirit does not extend to allowing its cabin crew to wear Christmas hats).

Meanwhile, those boarding flights on Christmas Day will find airlines doing something extra to spread some festive cheer.


Qantas will provide chocolate reindeers and rum balls inflight, while Virgin Australia will serve gingerbread cookies. Those with lounge access for the two airlines will also be able to enjoy Christmas-themed dishes at the airport.

Passengers travelling on Tigerair Australia or Jetstar may encounter cabin crew donning Christmas hats and decorated check-in areas.

On international flights, Thai Airlines will serve Christmas themed treats, while Emirates will provide festive meals for passengers on its Australia-Dubai route.

Singapore Airlines will offer Christmas turkey as a meal option. At some Australian airports passengers will also be provided with a small treat.

James Fowler, 25, is flying on Christmas Day out of necessity. Working as a nurse, his job means that he often has little choice about when he travels. He's regularly flown from Melbourne to Sydney on Christmas Day since he started in his current job in 2015.

This year, he'll finish a night shift at 7am on Christmas Day, go home and sleep for a few hours, then board an afternoon flight to Sydney to arrive in time for Christmas dinner with his family.

The cheapest flight he's managed to get on Christmas Day was just $75 with Jetstar – a good price for travelling during the busiest period of the year.

"It's a nice little bonus having cheaper prices on Christmas Day," he said.

Flying on Christmas Day doesn't bother Mr Fowler. "I guess to do the work that I do, every day is just like every other day, there's no such thing as a weekend or public holiday," he said.

Not everyone shares his feelings. Thinking back to other passengers on his previous Christmas Day flights, he said, "Half of them are really happy and festive – 'It's Christmas Day!' – and the other half just seemed quite miserable and ... seemed to have this feeling about them that no one should be there."

While Mr Fowler would love to have more flexibility in his schedule, his family makes it work. "We usually have our Christmas celebration – the proper one – on Boxing Day, so Christmas Day itself is a bit more laid back.

"I'm lucky to have a family that's flexible enough to plan around my work roster really."

The flights that skip Christmas

(Time departing on Christmas Eve and time arriving on Boxing Day)


LA-Sydney QF12 22:30-8:35

LA-Melbourne QF94 22:55-9:50

LA-Brisbane QF16 23:20-7:15

San Francisco-Sydney QF74 20:35-6:10

Dallas-Sydney QF8 19:55-6:05

Vancouver-Sydney QF76 20:00-6:10

Virgin Australia

LA-Sydney VA2 23:00-8:55

LA-Brisbane VA8 22:00-6:05

Air Canada

Vancouver-Sydney AC033 23:55-10:30

Vancouver-Melbourne AC037 22:45-10:05

Vancouver-Brisbane AC035 23:30-8:15

United Airlines

San Francisco-Sydney UA863 23:05-9:05

Houston-Sydney UA101 20:25-7:00

LA-Sydney UA839 22:45-8:50

LA-Melbourne UA98 22:35-9:25

Delta Air Lines

LA-Sydney DL41, 22:15-8:10

American Airlines

LA-Sydney AA73, 22:45- 9:00

See also: Revealed: The cheapest time to fly over the Christmas break

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