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Can I see the solar eclipse during a flight? Try these specific ones.

by Staff

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Travelers flying on April 8 may have a chance to see the total solar eclipse from the sky.

Delta Air Lines is running two special flights to chase the path of totality, but many carriers, including Southwest and United, are advertising the regularly scheduled itineraries they have with the best chance of seeing the daytime darkness.

According to Stephen Lawrence, a professor of physics and astronomy at Hofstra University, seeing the eclipse from a plane comes with some extra benefits but also a few challenges.

Much of the path of totality in the U.S. has a 60%-80% chance of cloud cover on the ground, with Texas being the most likely location for clear skies. On a plane, Lawrence said, “You can generally fly high enough to be above the clouds, so you’re guaranteed to see the eclipse.”

But, he warned, just being on the plane isn’t always enough.

“You have to be on the correct side of the plane,” Lawrence said. “People on the right side of the plane, the south-facing side of the plane, will be able to see it,” but those on the north side won’t.

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If you’re flying in an easterly direction, you’ll want to be on the right-hand side when facing forward or the left-hand side if your flight path is heading westerly.

Lawrence said eastbound flights have an added bonus for eclipse viewing, too.

“You’re slowing the shadow down by half. Instead of a 4 ½-minute eclipse, you might get a six-minute region of totality,” he said, explaining that because planes cruise at around 500 mph and the shadow of the eclipse moves at about 1,000 mph, chasing it across the sky means you can see it for longer than you’d be able to as a stationary observer on the ground.

He added the higher vantage point from a flight means travelers will have a better view of the shadow approaching than those on the ground.

Whether you’re watching from the ground or the sky, Lawrence said it’s important to take appropriate precautions.

“The most important thing, of course, is eye safety. It is safe to look at the eclipse with the naked eye but only during the few minutes of totality,” he said.

Which airlines are advertising eclipse flights?

Delta has scheduled two special flights to see the path of the eclipse and added that some of its regular itineraries also have a high likelihood of crossing the shadow. United Airlines and Southwest Airlines also said they have flights that will likely encounter the path of totality.

Here’s what’s on offer:

Delta

◾ From Detroit (DTW) to Westchester, New York (HPN), departing at 2:59 p.m. EDT.

◾ From Los Angeles (LAX) to Dallas (DFW), departing at 8:40 a.m. PDT.

◾ From Los Angeles (LAX) to San Antonio (SAT), departing at 9:00 a.m. PDT.

◾ From Salt Lake City (SLC) to San Antonio (SAT), departing at 10:08 a.m. MDT.

◾ From Salt Lake City (SLC) to Austin (AUS), departing at 9:55 a.m. MDT.

Southwest

◾ Flight 1252: departing Dallas (Love Field) at 12:45 p.m. CDT for Pittsburgh

◾ Flight 1721: departing Austin at 12:50 p.m. CDT for Indianapolis

◾ Flight 1910: departing St. Louis at 1:20 p.m. CDT for Houston (Hobby)

United

◾ Flight 5693 departs Chicago for Little Rock at 12:45 p.m. CDT

◾ Flight 490 departs Chicago for Houston at 12:47 p.m. CDT

◾ Flight 455 departs Chicago for Dallas at 12:49 p.m. CDT

◾ Flight 247 departs Chicago for Toronto at 1 p.m. CDT

◾ Flight 2440 departs Chicago for New York at 1 p.m. CDT

◾ Flight 2187 departs Chicago for Washington, D.C., at 1:20 p.m. CDT

◾ Flight 1438 departs Houston for San Jose del Cabo at 11:55 a.m. CDT

◾ Flight 6128 departs Houston for Columbus at noon CDT

◾ Flight 6109 departs Houston for Detroit at 12:05 p.m. CDT

◾ Flight 1318 departs Houston for Cincinnati at 12:23 p.m. CDT

◾ Flight 1687 departs Houston for Indianapolis at 12:25 p.m. CDT

But it’s not just airlines with flights through the path of totality that are seeing eclipse-related travel demand pick up. Alaska Airlines is seeing extra demand for flights to Austin, Dallas and San Antonio, Texas, as well as Cleveland – destinations that should have good opportunities for eclipse viewing on the ground. An Alaska spokesperson told USA TODAY the airline previously added an extra flight to Mazatlán, Mexico, which is expected to have the longest duration totality during this eclipse. According to the spokesperson, there’s especially high demand for tickets to Mazatlán too.

Zach Wichter is a travel reporter for USA TODAY based in New York. You can reach him at [email protected].

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