The Last Commercial Flights of 2023, First of 2024

Have you ever wished to board one of the year's final flights or the first one of the following year?

Sharad

Ranabhat

December 31, 2023

DALLAS — Have you ever wished to board one of the year's final flights or the first one of the following year? In the aviation industry, where engines run tirelessly and flights link passengers across countries and continents, a new aviation chapter opens as one year ends and another seamlessly begins.

In aviation, regional time zones play a crucial role in global connectivity. A relatively short flight can propel individuals forward or backward by a day, a consequence of traversing the international date line. As we factor in time, location, and altitude, which airline will operate the last flights of the year in 2023, and which will take the lead with the first flights in 2024?

Amidst the timezone changes and operating curfews, airlines operating in the east operate both the last flight of 2023 and the first flight of the New Year.

Tokyo Haneda Airport will host multiple flights in the first hours of 2024. Photo: Tokyo Haneda Airport.

Imagine this: In the final moments of the year, families are in a race against time to be together. It's the holiday season, and the demand for air travel is at its peak. As a result, airports are bustling with departures and arrivals, creating a congestion of flights.

As the sun sets on the very last day of 2023, all eyes turn to destinations just east of the International Date Line. Places like American Samoa, the Cook Islands, Niue, and French Polynesia become the center of attention.

Airlines operating in these regions start winding down their operations early, taking part in the global tradition of welcoming the new year. Among these airlines, Air Tahiti Nui and its regional subsidiary, Air Tahiti, shine the brightest as they operate the majority of the final flights of the year.

The International Date Line. Image: Geography Realm

The International Date Line

The International Date Line (IDL) is an imaginary line that runs from the North Pole to the South Pole, primarily along the meridian of 180 degrees longitude. Positioned over the Pacific Ocean, it is the demarcation point between two consecutive calendar days. Crossing the IDL from west to east results in moving back one day, while crossing from east to west advances the date by one day.

Interestingly, the IDL is not a straight line but deviates to accommodate political and economic considerations, avoiding cutting through landmasses and certain territories. This deviation ensures that countries and regions can maintain uniformity within their time zones. The concept of the IDL aims to synchronize time globally, preventing a misalignment in the calendar as the Earth rotates.

Air Tahiti Nui (TN) Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner. Photo: Air Tahiti Nui

Air Tahiti Nui's (TN) regional subsidiary, Air Tahiti (VT), will be responsible for operating six out of the final twelve flights of the year. One notable flight is TN57, which departs from Seattle and arrives in Tahiti at 22:20 local time, making it the last scheduled flight arrival of 2023. A Boeing 787 Dreamliner operates this particular flight.

As the clock strikes midnight on January 1, 2024, the aviation industry welcomes the early hours of the new year with several early departures. East Asia, with its advantageous time zones, will witness many of the first flights of 2024.

MIAT Mongolian Airlines (OM) kicks off the new year with a flight from Seoul Incheon to Ulaanbaatar, scheduled to depart at 00:05 on January 1st. Alongside OM, three more flights are set to depart at the same time from South Korea and Japan. Emirates (EK) will operate one of the flights, while ANA All Nippon Airways (NK) will operate the remaining two.

This article provides insights into some of the final flights of 2023 and the first flights of 2024.

The new international arrivals facility at SEATAC Seattle-Tacoma International Airport. Photo: PortSeattle.org

Last Arrivals of 2023: Tahiti Touchdowns

As the curtain falls on 2023, TN will operate most of this year's last scheduled flights. The last scheduled flight to land in 2023 is TN57 from Seattle, touching down at 22:20 local time at Tahiti’s Fa'a'ā International Airport (PPT), around two hours before the New Year's fireworks.

Air Tahiti Nui Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner. Photo: Max Langley/Airways

1. Seattle to Tahiti, Air Tahiti Nui

Route: Seattle (SEA) to Tahiti (PPT)

Flight Number: TN57

Scheduled Departure Time: 14:50

Scheduled Arrival Time: 22:20

Aircraft: Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner

2. Auckland to Tahiti, Air Tahiti Nui

Route: Auckland (AKL) to Tahiti (PPT)

Flight Number: TN102

Scheduled Departure Time: 16:15

Scheduled Arrival Time: 22:00

Aircraft: Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner

United Airlines N29985 Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner. Photo: Julian Schopfer/Airways

3. San Francisco to Tahiti, United Airlines

Route: San Francisco (SFO) to Tahiti (PPT)

Flight Number: UA115

Scheduled Departure Time: 13:30

Scheduled Arrival Time: 20:15

Aircraft: Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner

4. Bora Bora to Tahiti, Air Tahiti

Route: Bora Bora (BOB) to Tahiti (PPT)

Flight Number: VT414

Scheduled Departure Time: 19:20

Scheduled Arrival Time: 20:10

Aircraft: ATR 72

Air Tahiti ATR 72, F-WWEG Image: Gyrostat via Wikimedia Commons

5. Tubuai to Tahiti, Air Tahiti

Route: Tubuai (TUB) to Tahiti (PPT)

Flight Number: VT923

Scheduled Departure Time: 17:40

Scheduled Arrival Time: 19:20

Aircraft: ATR 72

6. Hyderabad to Tahiti, Air Tahiti

Route: Hyderabad (HYD) to Tahiti (PPT)

Flight Number: VT504

Scheduled Departure Time: 18:15

Scheduled Arrival Time: 19:15

Aircraft: Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner

Air Tahiti Nui Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner. Photo: Max Langley/Airways

7. Raiatea to Tahiti, Air Tahiti

Route: Raiatea (RFP) to Tahiti (PPT)

Flight Number: VT499

Scheduled Departure Time: 18:25

Scheduled Arrival Time: 19:10

Aircraft: ATR 72

8. Bora Bora to Tahiti, Air Tahiti

Route: Bora Bora (BOB) to Tahiti (PPT)

Flight Number: VT488

Scheduled Departure Time: 18:15

Scheduled Arrival Time: 19:05

Aircraft: ATR 72

Air Tahiti ATR 72 F-OIQR at Bora Bora Airport. Photo: Drdisque via Wikimedia Commons

9. Tahiti to Bora Bora, Air Tahiti

Route: Tahiti (PPT) to Bora Bora (BOB)

Flight Number: VT414

Scheduled Departure Time: 18:10

Scheduled Arrival Time: 19:00

Aircraft: ATR 72

10. Hyderabad to Tahiti, Air Tahiti 

Route: Hyderabad (HYD) to Tahiti (PPT)

Flight Number: VT501

Scheduled Departure Time: 17:10

Scheduled Arrival Time: 18:10

Aircraft: Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner

Air Tahiti ATR-72 (60-year livery). Photo: Garey via Wikimedia Commons

11. Bora Bora to Raiatea, Air Tahiti

Route: Bora Bora (BOB) to Raiatea (RFP)

Flight Number: VT499

Scheduled Departure Time: 17:45

Scheduled Arrival Time: 18:05

Aircraft: ATR 72

12. Aitutaki to Rarotonga, Air Rarotonga

Route: Aitutaki (AIT) to Rarotonga (RAR)

Flight Number: GZ619

Scheduled Departure Time: 17:10

Scheduled Arrival Time: 18:00

Aircraft: Saab 340B+

Emirates A6-EGB Boeing 777-300ER 'Year of the Fiftieth' livery. Photo: Alberto Cucini/Airways

First Departures of 2024: East Asia Takes the Lead

At the stroke of midnight on January 1, 2024, four flights are scheduled to depart at 00:05 on the same day, all in local time. The privilege of hosting the first flights of the year is bestowed upon East Asian countries like Japan and South Korea, owing to their advantageous time zones and operational feasibility.

In contrast, New Zealand, which resides in the world's earliest time zone at UTC +13, is 13 hours ahead of Coordinated Universal Time (UTC). However, strict operating curfews governing the airspace from midnight to 6:00 in the morning prohibit early-morning departures.

Consequently, the initial scheduled flights of 2024 will take off from South Korea and Japan, which are in the UTC +9 time zone, placing them nine hours ahead of Coordinated Universal Time (UTC). MIAT Mongolian Airlines (OM) will kick off the flight departures of the New Year with a flight from Incheon International Airport (LCN) to Chinggis Khaan International Airport (UBN) in Mongolia.

MIAT Mongolian Airlines (OM) new Boeing 787 Dreamliner. Photo: MIAT Mongolian Airlines

1.  Seoul to Ulaanbaatar, MIAT Mongolian Airlines (OM)

Route: Seoul Incheon (ICN) to Ulaanbaatar Chinggis Khaan International Airport (ULN)

Flight Number: OM308

Scheduled Departure Time: 00:05

Scheduled Arrival Time: 02:50

Aircraft: Airbus A320, Boeing 737, Boeing 767-300ER and Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner

2. Tokyo to Jakarta, All Nippon Airways (ANA)

Route: Tokyo Haneda (HND) to Jakarta (CGK)

Flight Number: NH871

Scheduled Departure Time: 00:05

Scheduled Arrival Time: 06:00

Aircraft: Boeing 787-8 Dreamliner

ANA All Nippon Airways JA897A Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner. Photo: Max Langley/Airways

3. Tokyo to Kuala Lumpur, All Nippon Airways (ANA)

Route: Tokyo Haneda (HND) to Kuala Lumpur (KUL)

Flight Number: NH885

Scheduled Departure Time: 00:05

Scheduled Arrival Time: 06:45

Aircraft: Boeing 787-8 Dreamliner

4. Tokyo to Dubai, Emirates (EK)

Route: Tokyo Haneda (HND) to Dubai (DXB)

Flight Number: EK313

Scheduled Departure Time: 00:05

Scheduled Arrival Time: 06:55

Aircraft: Boeing 777-300ER

Japan Airlines JA703J Boeing 777-200(ER).
Japan Airlines JA703J Boeing 777-200 (ER) Photo: Misael Ocasio Hernandez/Airways

5. Tokyo to Bangkok, Japan Airlines 

Route: Tokyo Haneda (HND) to Bangkok (BKK)

Flight Number: JL31

Scheduled Departure Time: 00:10

Scheduled Arrival Time: 05:05

Aircraft: Boeing 777-300ER

6. Tokyo to Singapore, Japan Airlines

Route: Tokyo Haneda (HND) to Singapore Changi (SIN)

Flight Number: JL35

Scheduled Departure Time: 00:10

Scheduled Arrival Time: 06:45

Aircraft: Boeing 767-300ER

QR became the global launch customer of the Airbus A350-1000, receiving its first example in February 2018. Photo: Qatar Airways

7. Seoul to Doha, Qatar Airways (QR)

Route: Seoul Incheon (ICN) to Doha (DOH)

Flight Number: QR859

Scheduled Departure Time: 00:15

Scheduled Arrival Time: 05:10

Aircraft: Airbus A350-1000

8. Tokyo to Bangkok, All Nippon Airways (ANA)

Route: Tokyo Haneda (HND) to Bangkok (BKK)

Flight Number: NH849

Scheduled Departure Time: 00:15

Scheduled Arrival Time: 05:10

Aircraft: Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner

Turkish Airlines Boeing 777-300 (ER). Photo: Brandon Farris/Airways

9. Seoul to Istanbul, Turkish Airlines (TK)

Route: Seoul Incheon (ICN) to Istanbul (IST)

Flight Number: TK91

Scheduled Departure Time: 00:15

Scheduled Arrival Time: 06:10

Aircraft: Boeing 777-300ER

10. Tokyo to Bangkok, Thai Airways International

Route: Tokyo Haneda (HND) to Bangkok (BKK)

Flight Number: TG661

Scheduled Departure Time: 00:20

Scheduled Arrival Time: 05:25

Aircraft: Airbus A330-300

Thai Airways Boeing 777
Thai Airways is slowly reconstructing its European network with the launch of direct flights to Istanbul, the hub of Turkish Airlines. Photo: Nick Sheeder/Airways

The Clockwork of Aviation: Balancing Travel Times

As the aviation industry makes the transition from one year to the next, the skies become increasingly bustling with a multitude of departing and arriving flights. Just two hours before midnight, TN takes charge of the final flights of 2023, transporting passengers from Seattle to Tahiti—the airline's location and timezone prove advantageous across various time zones and destinations.

It is worth noting here that the commercial aviation industry saw a significant recovery in 2023, exceeding pre-pandemic levels in some regions and making notable progress toward full recovery worldwide. Global passenger traffic reached around 88% of 2019 levels by the end of September 2023, with some regions like North and South America surpassing pre-pandemic figures. Available seat miles (ASMs) reached 100% of 2019 levels in North America and exceeded 108% in South America by the first half of 2023.

The inaugural flight of 2024 will originate in East Asia, with OM's route from Seoul Incheon to Ulaanbaatar. A sequence of departures from Japan Airlines (JL), Turkish Airlines (TK), Japan Airlines (EK), and Thai Airways International (TG) come next. HND acts as the 2924 launching hub, seeing a wide variety of departures to many nations at the stroke of midnight.

But welcoming the new year extends throughout the entire twenty-four hours. For those who are not eager to embark on an early morning journey, there are plenty of options available. International carriers will offer 5.7 billion seats on 35,958,625 scheduled flights in 2024, according to Cirium Diio.

Clear skies and a Happy New Year 2024 from Airways!

Emirates A380 'Journey to the Future' livery. Photo: Dominik Csordás/Airways

Feature Image: Air Tahiti Nui Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner. Photo: Tony Bordelais/Airways