The world’s 10 longest flights – and the service that could soon take the record
Aussie airline Qantas has its sights set on Europe with CEO Alan Joyce confirming that non-stop flights from Perth to Rome would return in 2023 while adding that a service to Paris was also on the cards.
“Rome is definitely coming back – it’s going to be there for the European summer between June and October – and we want to do more,” he told reporters last week. “We’d love to be able to do Paris and we’re talking to Air France and other European airlines about how we could do that.”
Qantas already operates a 17 hour and 45 minute service from Perth to Heathrow, which, at 9,009 miles, is the third longest non-stop air route on the planet. Perth-Rome, at 8,298 miles, comes 18th, while Perth-Paris, should it transpire, would slot in at number five.
It seems the Covid-era slowdown of global travel has done little to dull airlines’ appetites for so-called ultra-long-haul flights: last year three new services entered the top 10, pushing New York-Manila, San Francisco-Singapore and Johannesburg-Atlanta into 11th, 12th and 13th place respectively. That said, the ongoing closure of Russian airspace has made things trickier for many airlines seeking to cross the globe.
Interestingly, the pandemic saw the temporary introduction of a longer non-stop flight than any of those listed below. To sidestep the shutdown of aviation in North America, Air Tahiti Nui – from March 15 2020 until April 19 2020 – operated flight TN64. It linked Paris with Faa’a International Airport near Papeete, covering a distance of 9,765 miles.
Here are the 10 longest flights you can take in 2023:
10. Dallas Fort Worth-Sydney
Flight number: QF 8
Distance: 8,557 miles
Duration: 17h 5m
Qantas flies five times a week from New South Wales to Texas, taking 17 hours to do so. That’s more than enough time to listen to a recording of Wagner’s Ring Cycle, which has a total playing time of about 15 hours, depending on the conductor’s pacing.
The 787 Dreamliner plies this route, having recently taken over from the A380. Economy class passengers get 32 inches of legroom (seat pitch) for the 17-hour journey.
Flight number: UA101
Distance: 8,596 miles
Duration: 17h 45m
Another place in the charts for Sydney – living a long way from the rest of the world has fringe benefits. UA101 blasts its way Down Under from another Texan city, Houston, every day, with the scheduled flight time coming in at 17 hours and 45 minutes. That’s 30 minutes longer than it used to take.
The 787 Dreamliner also rules this route, with its fancy LED lights, big windows and vaunted fuel efficiency.
8. San Francisco-Bengaluru
Airline: Air India
Flight number: AI 176
Distance: 8,702 miles
Duration: 17h 55m
A recent entry, having been launched in January 2021, suspended in March 2022 and then relaunched last December, this schlep uses the Boeing 777-200LR.
United Airlines has been planning its own SFO-BLR service, in direct competition with Air India, but the war in Ukraine – and the closure of Russian airspace – has made the connection more difficult, requiring a polar route, and those plans are currently on ice (no pun intended).
7. Los Angeles-Singapore
Airline: Singapore Airlines
Flight numbers: SQ 37 and SQ 35
Distance: 8,769 miles
Duration: 17h 10m
Eight times a week Singapore Airlines flies from LA to the Asian city state using an A350-900ULR. The “ULR” stands for “Ultra Long Range”, and the model – a modified version of the A350-900, which launched in 2005 – has a maximum range of more than 11,000 miles and can fly for up to 20 hours non-stop. Which makes the LA-Singapore service seem positively unambitious.
Flight number: EK449
Distance: 8,823 miles
Duration: 17h 10m
Even harder to reach than Australia – unless you’re flying from the Americas, obviously – is its neighbour to the east, New Zealand. So it should come as little surprise to see Auckland occupying two of the top six spots. The first is EK449, a 8,823-mile haul to Dubai, which uses an A380. Emirates is the superjumbo’s best friend, with a fleet of 120 – the model, now out of production, is the core of the airline’s long-haul offering.
5. New York JFK-Auckland
Airline: Air New Zealand
Flight number: NZ1
Distance: 8,828 miles
Duration: 17h 50m
Airlines often save the first flight number for one of their most prestigious services, and Air New Zealand handed this route NZ1 when it launched in September 2022. But it hasn’t been all plain sailing. The carrier’s 787-900 Dreamliners can cover the 8,828-mile distance – but only just. Indeed, the prevailing winds mean the westbound route is prone to disruption, with a refuelling stop in Fiji and the unscheduled unloading of luggage pre-departure not unheard of during particularly blustery conditions.
4. Dallas Fort Worth-Melbourne
Flight number: QF22
Distance: 8,992 miles
Duration: 17h 35m
This three-times-a-week 787-900 service started in December 2022, meaning Qantas now occupies three of the top 10 slots.
3. Perth-London Heathrow
Flight number: QF9
Breaking the 9,000-mile barrier is the first regular non-stop service from Australia to Britain, launched by Qantas in 2018. The route was a runaway success, with an average passenger load factor (PLF) of over 90 per cent during its first year. The pandemic saw the service halted, but Qantas was quick to restart it in May 2022.
Airline: Singapore Airlines
Flight number: SQ21
Distance: 9,534 miles
Duration: 18hr 45m
Fancy spending almost 19 hours on a plane? Nor us. Yet that’s what’s offered every day by Singapore Airlines. But wait – there is no economy cabin on the carrier’s Singapore-Newark flight. In this brave new world of crossing half the planet in a single bound, there is no room for “cheaper” fares. Singapore Airlines has configured its A350-900ULRs in such a way that they have only business and premium-economy compartments: 67 seats in the former, 94 in the latter. So that’s 161 passengers in total at maximum capacity, which also helps fuel consumption.
1. New York JFK-Singapore
Airline: Singapore Airlines
Flight number: SQ23
Distance: 9,537 miles
Duration: 18hr 40m
Singapore Airlines also operates a scheduled service to New York JFK, which is three miles further from the city state – making it the world’s longest non-stop flight. The same economy-class free setup is used as its Newark-Singapore route.
When will the record be broken again?
Ultra long-haul services don’t always work. Indeed, the Singapore-Newark route was offered between 2004 and 2013, but was cancelled amid complaints that the fuel costs made it too expensive (hence a reinvention involving the removal of all economy seats).
But at least one airline is committed to stretching the record. Qantas plans to launch direct flights from London to Sydney, a 20-hour, 10,573-mile marathon, by 2025, and carried out a test flight with passengers in 2019. It is part of “Project Sunrise”, the airline’s plan to fly non-stop to any city it chooses. Qantas has challenged Airbus and Boeing to redevelop their existing jets and help it usher in this new era of very, very long flights. A version of the Boeing 777 or the Airbus A350 could be used to fly from London to Sydney, while routes from the UK to Melbourne, and from Australia to Rio, Cape Town and New York, have also been mooted.
The world’s longest domestic flight
One for the pub quizzers. It could be argued that Hawaiian Airlines’ mammoth 5,095-mile route from Honolulu to Boston, HA89, which was launched in 2019 and takes around 10 hours on the way out and 11 on the way back (due to the prevailing winds), is the winner. But the existence of the French overseas department of Reunion nudges it down to fourth on this particular list. You can fly there from Paris-Charles de Gaulle (5,809 miles), Paris-Orly (5,802 miles) and Marseille (5,456 miles).
The epic flight that doesn’t make the record book
New York-Singapore is the world’s longest scheduled service, but airlines have flown commercial planes over greater distances.
In 2005, a Pakistan International Airlines plane with 27 passengers flew from Hong Kong to London “the wrong way round” (over the Pacific) as part of a world record attempt. Preparation for the trip was painstaking. Many seats were stripped out, with space being taken up by instruments at the back, while the front section was left empty. It covered 13,422 miles in 22 hours and 22 minutes – and the record still stands.