Polar Flight - When Does The New Year Begin?

I was just having a conversation with some people who were leaving Los Angeles Intl. Airport tomorrow, 12-31-05, at 6 pm. They will be using the polar route and arriving in Paris 12 hours later.

The question arose as to when they should celebrate the New Year during the flight. In other words, when would it become 1-1-06 12:01 am for them? Would the internatioal dateline figure in, would it be by time zones, or when? By using the polar route, is there a definitive answer to this question, or do I need to supply more information?

You need to know where they will be when the New Year arrives. That is really difficult to know because of delays and variations in the flight route.

If you’re exactly at a pole, you can legitimately claim to be in all timezones at once (though anyone who’s actually spending time there is likely to have chosen just one). But since it’s unlikely this flight will exactly cross the pole, that complication can be ignored. The flight will certainly cross a bunch of timezones; when near the pole, the time between them may be short.

There’s still the question about when to celebrate midnight. If at 11:10 pm you cross into a timezone where it’s 10 minutes after 12, when did you experience midnight? One view is that you didn’t - you missed it. Another would be that the moment when you crossed the timezone boundary will do as well as any for whatever celebration you have in mind.

The part of your question I can answer is that it will based on timezone. They won’t be anywhere near the IDL. I would WAG that they would be somewhere in the Eastern/Atlantic time-zone region. It takes about 6 hours from LA to Boston and 6 hours from Boston to Paris (although they will be over Canada or maybe even Greenland by then.

Thanks Shagnasty and Xema. I guess it’s like I figured, no definitive answer from the information I had. What I should have done was to ask them to email me after arriving and let me know if there was any “Happy New Year” announcement during the flight, and if so when. But then again, that might just be Air France’s guesstimate as to when they entered the new year. :slight_smile:

I just looked at some current enroute flights from LAX to PAR to see the real flight paths. It looks like they will be in either the eastern edge of the Central Time Zone or Eastern Times Zone over Canada. That would mean they would celebrate the New Year at 10:00 pm LA time or 9:00 pm LA time. The time zones advance an hour a piece as you go east.

Thanks again Shagnasty. What I didn’t know was the exact route of a polar flight between LA and Paris. They said that on previous flights they could look down and see the reflection of the sun off the artic and I just assumed that they would be heading more directly north towards the pole.

Based on my experience, I’d guess there will be. What exactly it correlates with is uncertain. The flight crew probably figures that the passengers don’t care much about great precision in this matter.

That’s what I thought too Xema. Just an Air France guesstimate.

Another good possibility is that they’ll simply go by Paris time. Makes a fair amount of sense, if that’s your destination (and you and your airline are French).

Well, all 3 of the ladies were definately French.:slight_smile: I only really spoke with the mother, who spoke english very well. The two daughters didn’t seem to speak english at all.

And if they do, they will miss it. If the flight departs at 6:00 pm PST from Los Angeles, it is already 3:00 am in Paris!

Good point.

I suppose from the point of view of a loyal frenchman, those folks done missed midnight.

More information? NO!
The passengers have 12 hours to celebrate a momentary event.
Start the celebration as soon as the plane reaches cruising altitude and CHEERS! till the pilot announces we are descending to arrive at Orly or CdGIAP on time!

This is the only way to be sure that you’re celebrating at the proper time. And make sure you don’t stop celebrating even for an instant, because that instant might be the official midnight, and if you miss it, then it doesn’t count.

Or, if that seems a bit much, you could celebrate each hour. If the flight leaves at 6, celebrate at 7, 8, 9, 10, etc. (all in California time of course)

I asked around a bit on a pilot forum I frequent, and the consensus was that because a LAX-Paris flight would most likely be an overnight trip, no announcement would be made. Basically, it would be pretty annoying to the pax and flight attendants if the Capt/FO woke up the 90% of people on board who were sleeping just to say “Happy New Year.” One would probably be more likely to hear that announcement as part of the “we’ll be touching down in about 10 minutes, thanks for flying with us, happy new year, blah blah blah.”