Here’s a lesson I learned the hard way.
Do you know what “ODAN” means? This acronym is airline lingo for:
It’s the reason I do everything possible to avoid flying the day’s first couple of flights from non-hub cities — especially during winter.
What is ODAN?
Pilots and flight attendants assigned ODANs generally begin their workdays flying one of the last flights of the day to a destination. Upon arriving they visit a hotel (or airport crew room) for a few hours and relax, chill out, take naps, whatever. Then they go back to the airport and operate the next day’s first (or maybe second) flight. Their day is done when they finish that flight.
For example, an ODAN crew starts their day flying Delta 9999 from MSP to Sioux Falls. It departs at 9:30 PM. It arrives in FSD at 10:30 PM.
Those same pilots and flight attendants are technically on duty all night (ODAN, see?) while at their hotel.
Then they operate Delta 8888 from FSD back to MSP at 6:30 AM, arriving in the Twin Cities around 7:30 AM. Their day is complete.
You get the idea.
ODANs can be great for pilots and flight attendants with families. They may enjoy family dinner, go to work, and be home in time to see their kids before school.
This poor YouTube vlogger makes it look so fun, doesn’t he?!
There have been incidents blamed on ODANs.
Where It Can Go Wrong
Last February, I was on a 6:30 AM flight from FAR to MSP. Our crew arrived the previous evening around 10:30 PM.
Because of a storm the previous night, the deicing trucks were literally stuck in and behind snowdrifts. When the deicers were finally bailed out and ready, ATC delayed us.
Of course they did.
By this point, it was 7:45 AM.
Our pilots were on duty since about 8:00 PM the previous night. Their workday technically ended a few minutes later. They officially hit their mandatory rest period and timed out.
We deplaned and waited for another crew. A few hours later, the airport closed due to blizzard conditions. (I ended up leaving the following morning — just before that crew timed out because of more deicing issues.)
The first two Fargo flights of the day — both operated by ODAN crews — were apparently infamous for horrid delays. A couple of gate agents with whom I spoke in Minneapolis recited the flight numbers from memory because they were so used to dealing with problems like mine.
So I’m a little skittish about taking the day’s first couple of flights from smaller airports where crews aren’t based.
Why Do Airlines Have ODANs?
Money and regulations.
It’s a cute way for airlines to not pay FAA mandated minimum crew rest periods.
Plus, airlines may buy hotel rooms for and pay per diem to a plane’s single crew for a brief period of time, as opposed to two crews laying over in the same city.
How To Tell if You Have an ODAN
Look, most ODANs probably go off without a hitch. I got burned almost two days in a row and am now very cognizant of the practice. But if I’ve scared the bejesus of out you, here’s how you can assume there’s an ODAN:
Compare a day’s worth of departing and arriving flights for your origin city.
For example, if I see only one 717 leaving Fargo at 5:00 AM and no other 717s arriving until 10:30 PM, you can bet it’s an ODAN.
Or if there’s one CRJ-700 you see arriving at 9:30 PM and only one CRJ-700 leaves the next day, the crew is either on a long layover or ODAN.
Did You Know About ODANs? Have You Been Stuck Because of Them?
Tell us in the Comments section!