Far Out Flights: Airlines Race to the Longest Route


Emirates Airbus A380
Emirates’ Dubai-Auckland route, covered by the Airbus A380, is currently the world’s longest – but not for long. Image credit: Emirates

APEX Insight: As aviation technology improves, airlines are extending their reaches further than ever before. In establishing the world’s longest direct flight, an airline isn’t just claiming bragging rights – it’s making a loud and proud statement about its commitment to passenger service.

Modern travelers have grown to expect direct flights between reasonably-sized cities. We want to get where we’re going as quickly and as easily as possible. Empowered by the latest technological advancements and emboldened by cheap fuel prices, several airlines have recently announced record-setting nonstop flights.

Going the Distance

Earlier this month, Emirates acquired the record for world’s longest nonstop flight when it launched an 8,819-mile Dubai-Auckland direct route, covered by the Airbus A380. But Emirates won’t retain bragging rights for long. In announcing a global route expansion, Qatar Airways broke the news that it will offer the world’s longest flight when its Boeing 777 covers the 9,032 miles between Doha and Auckland, beginning in December 2016.

This is great news for travelers from the Middle East, since they won’t have to deal with layovers and Australian transit visas. Qantas Airlines’ 8,434-mile flight from Dallas-Fort Worth to Sydney is now the world’s third-longest, but the Australian legacy carrier is mulling a new ultra long-haul route of its own, from Perth to London.

The Ace is Back 

In the near future, the world’s longest flight will be from the past. Before service was discontinued in 2013, Singapore Airlines’ 9,534-mile Singapore-New York route was the gold medal achievement of ultra-long-haul flights. Having established a globe-hopping 18.5-hour flight, the airline had to plan for all sorts of extra eventualities, including what to do should someone die en route.

When that route was stopped due to low demand and inefficiency, Qantas’ DFW-SYD route assumed the title (before falling to it’s current ranking in third). But thanks to Boeing’s A350-900ULR aircraft, Singapore Airlines’ Singapore-New York flight has been deemed economically viable, and is scheduled for relaunch in 2018.

Dream Further

An ultra long-haul flight is generally defined as lasting 12 hours or more. The first was probably the Double Sunrise, Qantas’ flight from Western Australia to Ceylon (now Sri Lanka), in 1943. It lasted around 30 hours and covered only 3,000 miles or so, with the crew navigating via compass and the stars. The aviation industry has come a long way since then, connecting cities, countries and people more efficiently than ever before. As airlines explore next-generation materials and alternative energy sources, it’s easy to envision Singapore Airlines’ re-established record being broken before too long.