flying over north pole

The Worlds Shortest Commercial Flight. 2 Minutes to Fly 3 Kilometres

If it’s Tuesday, it must be Wednesday.

The Time Zone system counts 12 hours in either direction from Greenwich and meets up more or less in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. This imaginary boundary is called the International Date Line and anywhere it meets, an extremely strange thing happens. Time jumps ahead 24 hours – an entire day. If you fly from China to the West Coast of the US, for example, the jump can be particularly tough on the body.

Flying long-haul can be very tough on your body. Timezone changes mixed with hours of sitting uncomfortably (unless you’re lucky to fly business class or above) is not something many look forward too.

Timezone changes can work both ways. When Concorde was in operation (1976 – 2003) flying from London to New York you could arrive, in terms of local time, before you left. A New York to London flight took only 3 hours 20 minutes (the fastest journey was 2 hours 52 minutes and 59 seconds!).

How bad does it get? What are the longest plane journeys?

Methodology

I collected data from Wikipedia about commercial aircraft ranges and both operational and retired commercial routes for comparison.

Analysis

Aircraft ranges

Top 10 max aircraft range

Download chart.

The biggest limitation to flying distance is aircraft — it takes a lot of fuel to keep a plane in the air.

The Boeing 777-200LR (the LR stands for Long Range) is the aircraft with the largest potential range, 17,395km (the circumference of the earth is 40,008km).

Did you know? The aircraft with the longest ranges are: 1. Boeing 777-200LR (17,395km), 2. Airbus A340-500 (16,670km), 3. Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner (15,750km).

Longest distance routes (by aircraft type)

10 Longest Flight distance by Aircraft

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The longest route (distance) operated by a Turboprop aircraft is the Bombardier Dash 8 Q400 (1726 km / PD175).

All of the 10 longest flights are operated by jet powered aircraft. The longest route (distance) operated by a Jetliner aircraft is the Boeing 777-200LR (14,524km / QR 921). This is just under 3000km short of the aircrafts max operating range (17,395km).

Notably, flight SV 41 operated by an Boeing 777-300ER between Jeddah and LA takes about 16 hours 55 mins to cover 13,400km. However, flight UA 179 (San Francisco to Singapore) covers a longer distance (13,600km) but is 35 minutes shorter in duration (16 hours 20 mins) operated on a Boeing 787-9.

Longest distance (by active routes)

10 Longest distance flights (active routes)

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Rank (dist.) From – To Flight number Distance km Scheduled duration Aircraft type
1 Auckland-Doha QR 921 14524 17:35:00 Boeing 777-200LR
2 Auckland-Dubai EK 449 14203 17:15:00 Airbus A380-799
3 Dallas/Fort Worth-Sydney QF 8 13804 16:55:00 Airbus A380-800
4 San Francisco-Singapore SQ 31 13593 16:55:00 Airbus A350
5 San Francisco-Singapore UA 179 13593 16:20:00 Boeing 787-9
6 Johannesburg-Atlanta DL 201 13582 16:40:00 Boeing 777-200LR
7 Abu Dhabi-Los Angeles EY 171 13502 16:30:00 Boeing 777-200LR
8 Dubai-International-Los Angeles EK 215 13420 16:35:00 Airbus A380-800
9 Jeddah-Los Angeles SV 41 13409 16:30:00 Boeing 777-300ER
10 Doha-Los Angeles QR 739 13367 16:25:00 Boeing 777-200LR
11 Dubai-Houston EK 211 13144 16:20:00 Airbus A380-800

Full ranking.

Did you know? The longest routes (distance) currently in operation are: 1. QR921 Auckland – Doha (14,524km / 17h35m / 777-200LR), 2. EK449 Auckland – Dubai (14,203km / 17h15m / A380-800), 3. QF8 Dallas – Sydney (13,804km / 16h55m / A380-800)

Longest distance (by discontinued routes)

10 Longest discontinued flights by distance

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The longest journey (distance) ever operated was SQ21 Newark – Singapore (15,345km) and took 18h50m (ouch!). This route was flown by a A340-500 (max range 16,670km).

SQ37, LA – Singapore (14,114km) took 18h05m flown on an A340-500. This journey is almost an hour longer than QR921 Auckland – Doha (14,524km / 17h35m) currently flown on a 777-200LR. Both routes are about equal in distance and the direction of travel is the same. The time difference can be attributed to cruising speeds of each aircraft: 777-200LR = 1037km/h vs. A340-500 = 945 km/h — about 100 km/h slower.

Shortest distance (by active routes)

10 Shortest flights by distance

Download chart.

Rank (dist.) From To Flight Number Distance (km) Scheduled duration (min) Aircraft Type
10 Kos-Kalymnos A3 7036/7037 23 20 De Havilland Canada Dash 8
9 Karpathos-Kasos Island OA 34 22 5 De Havilland Canada Dash 8
8 Cayman Brac-Little Cayman KX 4421 22 10 DHC-6 Twin Otter Series 300
7 Papeete (Fa’a’ā)-Moorea VT 201 18 15 ATR 72
6 Saipan-Tinian FP 101 17.4 10 Piper PA-31 Navajo
5 Connemara-Inishmaan RE-XXX 16.8 6 Britten-Norman Islander
4 Hoʻolehua (Molokai Airport)-Kalaupapa LW 270/280/290 14.2 10 Cessna 208B Grand Caravan
3 Minami-Daito-Kita-Daito RAC835/RAC836 12 15 Bombardier Dash 8
2 Caye Chapel-Caye Caulker MW 2100 3.8 2 Cessna 208 Caravan
1 Westray-Papa Westray LOG312/LOG313 2.73 2 Britten-Norman Islander

Full ranking.

Anyone who has spent 17 hours on a plane knows how tough it can be on the body. That said, flights where you spend longer in the airport then in the air can be frustrating.

The shortest route flown by time and distance is between Westray and Papa Westray in Scotland. The distance is 2.73km and the flight takes just 2 minutes. It’s a hotly contested route for airlines. In 2013 a one-way ticket was priced at £21 (a brief search did not uncover recent prices).

Interestingly, the 9th shortest flight by distance, Karpathos-Kasos Island (22km), takes just 5 minutes on the De Havilland Canada Dash 8.

Did you know? The shortest routes (distance) currently flown are: 3. Minami-Daito – Kita-Daito (12km / 15m), 2. Caye Chape – Caye Caulker (3.8km / 2m), 1. Westray and Papa Westray (2.73km / 2m).

Did you know? The shortest routes (time) currently flown are: 3. Karapathos – Kasos Island (22km / 5m), 2. Caye Chape – Caye Caulker (3.8 / 2m), 1. Westray and Papa Westray (2.73km / 2m).

Improvements

I would like to compare how the flight duration differences changed based on average cruising speed of different aircraft.

tl;dr

On 5 February 2017, Qatar Airways started nonstop flights between Doha and Auckland, making this flight the longest in the world. The flight covers 14,524 kilometres and is operated by Boeing 777-200LR aircraft.

Footnotes

  1. Data sources + data used in this post.

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