Sleep in or upgrade? Plus a giveaway!

Finally time to start planning my September travels which means booking a ticket out to the west coast. New York City to Los Angeles is one of those markets where there is no shortage of choices available and most of them are very reasonable, plus the fares are generally all pretty close to each other. And the net result is that I cannot come to a decision. So I’m asking for your help: Which flight should I take?

I built a bed. or

Of course, it is not really so easy. My two choices are, essentially, wake up ridiculously early and fly in United’s p.s. business class (upgrade space can be confirmed right now and I have plenty of RPUs) or wake up at a reasonable hour and fly in some form of an extra legroom cabin, be it United Airlines, JetBlue or another carrier. The only flight showing confirmed upgrade inventory right now is the 6:30am departure from JFK which means a 4:30am alarm clock. And I need to be vaguely functional on the west coast when I land. Or there are plenty of mid-morning to mid-day flights which have no upgrade space to confirm.

[yop_poll id=”5″]

The points are relatively a wash on this one; I’ll earn plenty whichever flight I take.

So, which would you take? And, rather selfishly, which do you think I should take??

Tell me which and why in the comments and I’ll give one lucky reader a United RPU (31 Jan 2015 expiry); I’ll choose a winner on Monday at some point.

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Seth Miller

I'm Seth, also known as the Wandering Aramean. I was bit by the travel bug 30 years ago and there's no sign of a cure. I fly ~200,000 miles annually; these are my stories. You can connect with me on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.


  1. I’d go with the confirmed upgrade on the 6:30am PS flight. You could always get a couple extra hours of sleep on the lie-flats, or take advantage of the better service to drink enough coffee to make you forget you got up at 4:30am to catch a flight.

  2. Given that the prices are about the same, and the fact that I get up around 5:00 a.m. every day anyway, the decision isn’t that difficult for me. I’d take the earlier flight for sure in business. I suspect that you – being as inveterate a traveler as you are – like me have plenty of experience of faking being “vaguely functional” as necessary, so I suggest you do the same.

  3. The early biz, cause u can catch some sleep in comfortable biz class and arriving lax in early morning so u still have full day to use.

  4. With the p.s. Flight you should be able to board, and hunker down for a good 3-4?hour nap before hitting the west coast / rested and refreshed!

  5. The earlier flight. you’ll be a lot more comfortable and relaxed on the flight, and fresher when you arrive.

  6. Have you done the new PS Y? I was not a fan. Would avoid unless you think you could clear the upgrade.

  7. I hate getting up early and can sleep even in economy, so I guess I am the lone voice for go at 11AM! But that would be for me – from what I glean from your blog, I expect the earlier flight will be your preferred choice!

  8. I’d take the early flight. I usually do anyway. You can sleep on the plane and put in a full day at your destination. Dang, I take red-eyes from the West Coast. I know, I know, that’s crazy.

  9. I’d go with the 11am United flight. You’re confirmed into E+ and have a shot at the upgrade still. Waking up at 4:30 vs. waking up at ~7:30 will have a huge difference on the rest of your day. The PS Business seat is going to be the best seat of the above choices, but the best bed is always your own.

    5 hours of sleep followed by 2 hours running around an airport followed by 3 hours of crappy sleep on a plane is always inferior to 8 straight hours at home. Do three hours of work on the plane instead.

    Thousands of people “survive” coach NY-LA every day. I’ve followed your blog enough to know you’re practical in your choices Seth, I’m just a bit shocked at the majority of voters going for the 6am flight.

  10. Take the early p.s. flight with the confirmed upgrade. No traffic on the way to the airport, plus a nice, long, comfortable nap on the flight.

  11. I would go with the confirmed upgrade. While it is an early flight you can relax and hopefully enjoy a few hours of shut eye before you land at LAX.

  12. Go for the sure thing with confirmed RPU. You can always do a same day change during online check-in to a later flight if you see R space or just don;t feel like waking up.

  13. As you know, 4:30A NYC is 1:30A on the West Coast, so knowing that you do okay in E+ style seats, I would rule out the early morning departure. I’d waitlist the 11A United flight as you may end up with a pretty nice seat anyway, and since you fly coach all around the world, you’ll do just fine even if it doesn’t clear. I vote to get the extra hours of sleep in your own bed.

  14. Even with the 0430 start getting 3-4 hours of sleep will get you refreshed by the time you land.

    I have the same quandary in reverse. Trying for SFO NYC SFO for Sept 5/Sept 7. There is zero avail. on AA and UA, I am prepared to burn 50 K miles.

  15. UA BF will allow u to sleep for a few hours. Skip breakfast on d flight and enjoy d seat and d snack tray

  16. suck it up and take the 6.30am PS flight. You can catch some z’s during the flight and hit the ground running when you land.

  17. I think sleep at home always beats sleep on a plane, even in first or business. Option 3 would guarantee it.

  18. 11am and upgrade waitlist. You might still be able to get your business class seat and waking up at 4am is the pits, no matter how nice your seat is. Sleeping in will be well worth it.

  19. The 4:30am wakeup call is ridiculous; don’t do it (1:30 SoCal time). You can get plenty of work done or rest in an economy plus seat on the 6 hour flight.

  20. 11am because you, at the very least, have an E+ seat. And you have a very good shot at an upgrade. AND you get to sleep late. Win ^3

  21. When in doubt, don’t hate yourself in the morning, sleep ’til noon. Option 2 sounds pretty good, particularly if there’s a fallback that you can live with, like premium economy.

  22. I find everyone is much more serious about getting out on time first thing in morning, versus the late morning flights. Cancellation risk to consolidate flights, plane turn risk, other factors increase as day goes along. Skip the coffee and finish your sleep on board!

  23. I’d go with the 11am flight in E+ and then roll the dice for the upgrade. The value of getting a full nights sleep before will allow you to be productive on the flight (assuming you have wifi) and will let you hit the ground running on the left coast!

  24. Take the 6:30am flight. You get into LA bright and early so you’ll have the whole day here plus you’ll likely catch up on the sleep you lost while on the flight. The real question should be where will you be eating breakfast!?!

  25. For me, I’m more likely to regret missing out on the opportunity to fly in PS business class than to get an extra 3-ish hours of sleep. But I generally can function and be productive on little sleep so the idea of waking up at 4:30am does not bother me all that much.

  26. I would take the 6:30 AM flight with the guaranteed upgrade. The guaranteed comfort for the cross-country flight will make a difference.

  27. I’ll take the 11AM flight with Y+ on UA and roll the dice on an upgrade. It is true that PS and Hawaii are probably the only routes worth the RPU. Also there is a great chance on the PS to have the middle seat empty in Y+ IMHO. Also, nothing beats sleep on your own bed. 🙂

  28. Take the 6:30 flight and sleep on the plane. California is always energizing for me.

  29. 11:00am UA p.s. E+ (u/g waitlist) because waking up at 4.30 am isn’t worth it.

  30. There is no comparison between doing that flight in coach versus business, it’s a completely different experience! You can get up early, sleep for half of the flight and then receive fantastic treatment for the other half. There is no other choice!

  31. Jay is an early bird, but hates those 6:00 AM flights out of anywhere, so Jay would go at 11:00 AM. You are on the road so often, that the early flight is probably no big deal and you get biz – so go early and enjoy!

  32. Def. the 6:30am PS. You will have to wake up early, but with the ease of mind you’re up front. Plus, you can always recover and take a nice nap while flying!

  33. Definitely the upgraded early morning p.s. flight. If you need to be functional after landing then sleep on the flight and go to bed early the night before if possible. It’s a long flight and you want to be as comfortable as you can.

  34. I’m not an early riser so taking a 6:30 am flight isn’t too appealing for me. However, a confirmed upgrade to Biz is something I simply couldn’t pass up. If I were you I would take the early flight and catch some Zzzzzzz on the plane. After landing I suggest a short drive north to Groundwork Coffee in Venice for some good coffee, people watching and to get tuned to the LA vibe.

  35. Take the 11 am flight and hope for an upgrade. You’ll feel better with the extra sleep and it’s not like you’ll be stuck in coach.

  36. If you’d asked me 5 years ago, I’d have said to go for the upgrade. Being older and marginally wiser now, I’d make the following comments:

    A) No premium seat, be it an old recliner or The Residence by Etihad, absolutely none of them are as good as my bed. Period. Full stop.

    B) United p.s. service is ultimately still United service. This is not some aspirational once-in-a-lifetime journey you’ll want to write a trip report about.

    C) Don’t let the emotional reward of “winning” a free upgrade cloud your judgement.

    If it were me, I’d try to find a reasonably-priced Mint fare on a mid-day JetBlue flight. Of course, as of this moment I’m the lone vote in the “Something else” category, so I’m clearly out in left field!

  37. Go with the 11am. You need to be functional and let’s face it, domestic business class on United isn’t all that great/worth the extra miles.

  38. It really depends on how much you value your time and sleep. Personally I wouldn’t give up sleep for a ps c seat. Miles and fancy C stats are something you can always buy. Ample sleep (and health), you can’t.

  39. 11am with chance of upgrade. Sleep in your own bed beats out sleeping through upgraded service every time.

  40. I would take my chance with the later p.s. flight. There is a good chance the RPU will clear. Plus 4.5 hrs of extra sleep is better than the upgrade even if you dont clear.

  41. Given possible weather issues and you can always sleep on the flight I would go with the first flight out and go to be a bit earlier the night before and lose no sleep

  42. 6:30 with locked in upgrade. Then again, I can sleep anywhere and anytime I’m on a plane.

  43. Although you are still young enough to deal with the 4:30 am stuff, nobody likes to get a trip off on that foot. Sleep in, have a relaxing start to your day and cross your fingers for an upgrade!

  44. I’d go with a late economy flight. Sure you could get on business and sleep on the flight, but you still have to wake up at 4:30 in the morning and make it to the airport, fight through security and board the flight. Once you are up, going back to sleep like that is not the same as getting a solid chunk of sleep and starting your day right

  45. Depends on what you need to do that day in LA… If you have a loose schedule then I’d sleep in and take the chances elsewhere. If you have a set place to be, then I guess early morning it is.

  46. Take the UA 630 AM…..I commuted for 12 years from LAX to EWR. Always take the first flight out. As the day progresses, especially in the summer, you are subject to weather on the east coast. You should be able to catch at least a 3 hour nap in that lay-flat seat… will be over before you know it!!

  47. Early flight with confirmed upgrade. The regionals are often hard to use and you’ll like arrive in reasonable shape. I never get a good night sleep whether I leave at 4 or 10, so I would get to California as early and comfortably as possible.

  48. I would choose JetBlue to check out the new A321 and Mint, but I know you’ve already done that. As I get older, I realize the importance of trying to not book flights that I know I will be tired on or be exhausted when I land. Would I sacrifice business class for a more sleep? Yes. At least you have a chance at the upgrade on UA at 11. In any case, enjoy LA and please come back to PDX at some point soon so I can try to repay you for all of your kindness and help! I know Bethany is eager to do some baking for you! 🙂

  49. 6:30 too early

    Since I’m from Den I don’t have much PS experience. I might hope that since PS doesn’t give CPU’s that 1K RPU’s would have a fair chance.

  50. My goal is to use all my RPUs only for BusinessFirst seats, so I’d definitely confirm the early p.s. flight.

    It depends on when you normally get up. My alarm is normally set for 6 so 4:30 isn’t that bad (but it still sucks). I hate 6am flights but I’m pretty used to them because there isn’t a ton of choice from here at YOW (there is a bank of flights to EWR, IAD and ORD all around 6:00).

  51. Take the early flight and the upgrade. 4:30 am won’t be fun, but the ability to sleep and relax in the biz class section will more than shortened sleep cycle. What’s your usual wake-up time? I’d trade an hour or two of overnight sleep for a premium cabin on a 6 hour transcon.

  52. I’d take the 11-ish B6 flight. There is no point in waking up at 4:30 am if you don’t have to, and B6 is more likely to get you to LA on time than UA is.

  53. Definitely the later UA ps flight. E+ isn’t that uncomfortable, and you still have a pretty reasonable shot at the upgrade. Even with guaranteed upgrade space on the early morning flight, you’d just be sleeping anyway. Better to sleep in your own bed and be more comfortable if you can help it. You’ll be more awake and fresher on the back end of the trip.

  54. Sounds like it depends on whether you’re bothered by a 4:30AM alarm. Personally, I’d take the 11AM because I highly value my sleep and have difficulty sleeping once I’ve woken up (so no napping on the plane for me). If you don’t particularly mind the 4:30AM alarm, then go for it. Otherwise, take the later flight, and be alert when you land.

    I can’t compare B6 and UA.

  55. 0630 flight with the upgrade, less chance of getting a DVT (which would really ruin your day)!

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