Let’s Have Fewer Time Zones and Not Change the Clocks Twice a Year

I just had a call with a Forbes writer in Beirut. She asked for time to talk before we changed our clocks in the U.S. I did get the agreed-upon time right in my calendar, but it took a few minutes to figure it out for sure. It didn’t help that I was in one time zone when I made the appointment and a different time zone entirely when I took the call.

Since moving to Austin I’ve continued to live on Eastern time (when I’m home). My work is still on the East Coast. And most frequent flyer news in the US happens on Eastern time, too, though United, American, and Hyatt are headquartered in cities that are on Central time.

Sunday’s time change complicates things, as US time changes always do, because of course portions of the United States don’t change times at all. Europe hasn’t changed times yet, but will later in the month.

  • Just try doing business internationally this week.
  • Airlines have to coordinate flying — not just updating departure and arrival times, but coordinating with airport landing curfews.
  • Lots of very tired folks yesterday morning for my 8 a.m. 9 a.m. session at Frequent Traveler University!

Am I the only one that thinks we need fewer time zones, and should change the clocks?

I’m not familiar enough to render judgment on the tradeoffs between using less light due to daylight savings time while burning more electricity for heating. And I haven’t spent time sorting through the various studies on the value of economic coordination.

I can only speak to my own life and suggest fewer time zones that do not change. Are you with me?

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community InsideFlyer.com, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. I live my life in Zulu time (UTC). I keep my wristwatch always set to Zulu and when co-ordinating across timezones, I always use Zulu to avoid confusion. Granted, most people outside of aviation circles wonder why I am referring to an African tribe, but it is a practical solution.

  2. I asked for my first-ever hotel wakeup call Sunday morning. I knew I needed to get up at “the new” 7 a.m. to make my flight.

    I knew my phone would auto-update, but wasn’t confident my alarm clock app would. Do I set it for 7? 6? 8?

  3. Time zones and DST in general are such a hassle! I get the time zones are necessary, but DST definitely is not. As for the energy trade-off,how does it benefit anyone when I started work in the dark today and need to have lights and heat on in the morning vs. the afternoon? Six of one half dozen of the other! And don’t even get me started about the “extra hour of daylight” it’s not a time machine!

  4. There are still people that live life requiring daylight to do their jobs. Agriculture, highway workers, etc…to have sunrise at 4-5AM on the East Coast (if we kept time there, and not in California) would make work for the rest of workers who depend upon them (rush hour for highway work avoidance, bankers and vendors who sell to agriculture, etc) have to shift THEIR clocks as well. Every year we complain about time changes, and at no point has anyone really offered a better system, other than to live on Zulu or Internet time…which would make those people who would be stuck on the wrong end of time really mad. This system isn’t great, but its the best we have…

  5. Maybe there’s a happy medium between the four zones we have in the continental US and the one that China has (although in practice there’s an “unofficial” local time in far western China).

  6. I wish we stayed on Standard time all year round. The purpose of Daylight Savings was for farmers to have more time in the fields. Farmers plant, fertilize and harvest with GPS now. Extra daylight isn’t crucial anymore.

  7. Also, the one time zone in China makes travel especially time-wasteful. If you are heading west from Beijing to Urumqi (very far west China), the flight takes 6 hours. If you leave at 9 AM, you arrive at 3 PM which effectively kills the whole day.

  8. Is there some way for a person or an entity to introduce a bill to eliminate DST? Who would one contact to suggest the idea?

  9. Having to change the clocks for Daylight Savings Time is a pain in the @$$. It should be eliminated on that basis alone. And personally, I use the exact same amount of energy/electricity no matter if DST is on or off.

  10. I can’t see how this would work, assuming you want to keep the day somewhat lined up with the sun. DST serves a useful purpose for most of the US, moving an hour of daylight to a time of day when it’s more useful for most people.

  11. Ethiopia (internally, not for business or for international relations) just starts the clock when the sun comes up. An hour after sunrise, it is 1 oclock, when the sun goes down it is 12 oclock. Being basically on the equator, it actually works reasonably well, however, wouldn’t that mess with airline operations! Of course, in Ethiopia, it is literally 2008 because they use a different calendar too!

  12. I was in a HyattPlace Sunday. I was pleasantly surprised when I looked at the room’s alarm clock in the morning and saw that it had auto-updated to DST.

    As far as the inherent value of DST, it depends on where you live. Closer to the equator, sunrise/sunset doesn’t change enough to need DST. Way north, like Alaska/Canada, sunrise/sunset changes so much that it’s sunny all summer and night all winter no matter what.

    At the right “middle” latitude, DST works pretty darn well.

  13. I call a friend in Adelaide Australia who I am going to visit in August. The time difference from where I live is +16:30 hours. Full hours are hard enough to grasp, but 16 and 1/2 hours grrrr.
    Plus add me to the “I wish we would just stay on Daylight Savings Time all year.” List!

  14. after moving to PHX where we don’t change time, I now see how ridiculous it is. Every clock change for the last couple of years I point people to the QZ article that ACS linked above. 2 time zones makes sense and would address the concerns of some posters above. Highly recommend reading and advocating for a change.

  15. That qz article solution would never work. It proposes two time zones with the east at -6 and the west at -7 permanently. But this means the sun would rise at 3 am in the summer in Boston, and set at 620. I can’t see anyone on the east coast being very thrilled about that.

  16. It works just fine as is. Sunrise where I live would be at 5:00 a.m. in the summer where I live without DST, and all I want to do at that hour is sleep. Meanwhile it’s light out an hour later in the evening in the summer when I really appreciate it for outdoor activities. That’s the point.

  17. People in the south are usually the ones who think this is a good idea, probably because they notice little change in daylight hours. In New England it makes a huge difference. So, no, I am not with you!

  18. YES, YES, YES. Please let’s get rid of day light savings time. It’s a waste…well of time (sorry for the pun) but I hate it.

  19. Would you rather have an extra 180 hours of sunlight in the summertime to do evening activities or would you rather have to deal with the twice a year 5-minute hassle of adjusting your clocks? Seems like a no-brainer to me to keep DST.

  20. Where I live we have electricity, so it does not matter if the sun is up or not. We are not scared of the dark. We are however, tired of the lost productivity this once great (pre-electricity) idea costs – twice a year.

  21. “I wish we would just stay on Daylight Savings Time all year.”

    The US Chamber of Commerce would agree with you. They’ve been the biggest backer of expanding DST the past few years. DST has more to do with impacting economic activity than anything else.

    I don’t think fewer time zones will work as a practical matter. Sure some of the time zones could be redrawn to make them more equitable and less silly looking (take a look at time zone maps some time. You’d think a drunk had drawn them). But we need that number of time zones. You want to wake up in pitch black all year round or go to sleep in daylight all year round? That would happen for huge numbers of people. The argument that we have artificial light to compensate sounds plausible at first but it’s medically documented that people who work graveyard shifts have more problems than people who work “regular hours” that follow the sun’s rising and setting. Human beings have millions of years of rising with the sun and sleeping with the moon built into our genes. You can’t just switch that off and expect to function as well long term. I did graveyard for seven years and trying to readjust every sixth or seventh day messed with my qualify of life bad. Obviously this isn’t the case for everyone but it is the case for too many.

  22. You should watch “How We Got to Now” on PBS. One great episode is about timekeeping. Trains once upon a time had to deal with “local time” being different between each and every city on the route. Schedules were a mess.

    The DST thing never made very much sense, and fiddling with clocks has gotten worse as there are now so MANY of them. We’ll end this madness about the time the US switches to metric.

  23. You are truly thinking outside the box here. Bravo! Still don’t understand how one can move out of one of the greatest cities in the world to move to Austin. Austin was great at one time for its region. Now overpopulated with traffic jams and the music scene has dropped off considerably. Oh well.

  24. @John Galt – you apparently don’t do any gardening or yard work. We have electricity here in Florida also, but it’s a major pain trying to garden with lights instead of sunlight and somewhat dangerous with all the poisonous snakes we have. Also it’s nice to have the extra light in the evenings while it’s still cooler in the spring evenings than the very humid 90 degrees at 8pm in the summer.

  25. @Mike the traffic is far far better than in DC! And DC is hardly one of the greatest cities in the world.. certainly not for food or culture.

  26. I love DST. I can actually get things done outside after work. I can even go to Home Depot, but more stuff I don’t need and use it before sundown. And welcome to Central Time Gary! As a former easterner, Central Time is far better than Eastern. You don’t have to stay up too late to watch the late news or Jimmy Fallon. Also, all sports end an hour earlier, so you don’t have to stay up past midnight to catch the end of a game (unless its a left coast match).

  27. Similar arguments each year in the UK too – generally those that live further North would have more issues with losing the time switch than those nearer the equator. What time don’t get though is why we can’t all at least make the switch at the same time? The US seems to always be a week or two out of sync with majority of other countries and when they switch!

    If in doubt though, timeanddate.com is a great resource!

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