The World’s 11 Best Flights For Aviation Geeks

The World’s 11 Best Flights For Aviation Geeks

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As any aviation geek can attest to, sometimes the journey can be even more fun than the destination. Over the years there are many flights I’ve been tempted to take simply because they seem “cool,” for a variety of reasons.

Anyway, in this post I wanted to share what I consider to be the coolest avgeek flights out there, in no particular order. I’d love to hear what other avgeek flights OMAAT readers find interesting as well. In no particular order…

The United Airlines island hopper

While you could fly nonstop from Honolulu to Guam in just over seven hours on a 777, what’s the fun in that? Instead you could take a 737 on United’s famous island hopper flight. Yes, it might add seven hours worth of travel time, even though you’re only flying an additional 500 miles or so. But you can stop on five different islands that you’d most likely never have the opportunity to visit.

This flight provides an essential link to all of these islands, which otherwise have very limited air service. And United even brings a mechanic on these flights, in case there are any problems along the way.

The United Airlines island hopper route

The Alaska Airlines milk run

You could fly nonstop from Seattle to Juneau, but what’s the fun in that, when you could instead take Alaska Airlines’ milk run? This flight operates from Seattle to Juneau via Ketchikan, Wrangell, and Petersburg. Some of the flights cover a distance of just 30 miles, and circle around glaciers.

Alaska Airlines operates several different milk run routes, connecting smaller communities in Alaska. For those wondering about the “milk run” name, it refers to how these flights have historically delivered important supplies (including milk) to small communities.

The Alaska Airlines milk run route

Speaking of Alaska Airlines flights, I also love the carrier’s flight to Adak Island, which is about as far west as you can get in the state of Alaska by air. How cool is that?!

Alaska Airlines flies from Anchorage to Adak Island

The Air France Caribbean island hopper

Air France has two Airbus A320s based in the Caribbean, given France’s connection to the region. These A320s are virtually identical to what you’d find in Europe, as they even feature the typical intra-Europe business class, just consisting of economy with blocked middle seats.

Arguably the coolest route these planes operate is the four segment journey between Miami and Cayenne. This flight operates via Port-au-Prince, Pointe-à-Pitre, and Fort-de-France.

The Air France island hopper route

Taking the world’s shortest commercial flight

Scottish regional ailrine Loganair operates the world’s shortest commercial flight, between Westray and Papa Westray. The flight is blocked at two minutes, and typically spends about a minute in the air, as it covers a distance of just 1.7 miles. The route is government subsidized, and has been operating continuously since 1967, so it has been around for quite a while.

You don’t often see a block time of two minutes!

Taking the world’s longest commercial flight

On the other end of the spectrum, you can take the world’s longest flight, between Singapore and New York. Singapore Airlines operates this route with specially configured A350-900ULRs (with the “ULR” standing for “ultra long range”). With a block time of over 18 hours, and a distance of nearly 9,600 miles, this is a really, really long flight.

On the plus side, everyone on this flight should be reasonably comfortable, given that the plane exclusively features business class and premium economy. Many of us avgeeks think there’s no such thing as a flight that’s too long, but this marathon flight puts that theory to the test.

Singapore Airlines’ A350-900ULRs are super comfy!

Landing in St. Barts (SBH)

Gustaf III Airport is the airport on the popular Caribbean island of St. Barts. The airport is often regarded as one of the most dangerous in the world, given the short length of the runway (just over 2,000 feet), combined with the steep angle at which planes have to descend in order to land.

The airport has service to nearby islands, with one of the most popular routings being to Sint Maarten — that’s just a 20 mile flight, which regularly takes under 10 minutes.

Landing in Paro, Bhutan (PBH)

Bhutan is not only an incredible country to visit once you’re on the ground, but it’s also known for having an especially fun airport. Paro Airport is one of the most challenging airports to land at, and pilots who land here need to undergo special training.

Why is it so hard to land at the airport? Well, the airport is surrounded by mountains, and a very specific approach course is needed, and in many cases the runway can only be seen shortly before landing. When I flew Druk Air from Kathmandu to Paro I actually found the flight to be rather anti-climactic, which I guess is a testament to the excellent pilots.

Flying to the Canadian Arctic

This is probably more of a North America bucket list thing, but you can take some really cool flights in Northern Canada. Canadian North flies to destinations all over the Canadian Arctic, and you can even redeem Air Canada Aeroplan miles for this.

For most of us, these are just destinations we might fly over on a long haul flight, but being able to land there seems so awesome (especially in summer, when it barely gets dark).

Canadian North’s routemap

Canadian North even wants to fly to Greenland, which would be oh-so-cool, given what a short flight it would be.

Flying to the world’s northernmost airport (LYR)

Svalbard Airport is the world’s northernmost airport with regularly scheduled flights. There are year-round flights to there from Oslo, and the flight takes roughly three hours.

The route from Oslo to Svalbard

Svalbard is in the Arctic circle, and in winter there is 24 hours of darkness, while in summer there’s 24 hours of daylight. I visited in 2016, and can’t recommend this trip enough.

A midnight cruise in Svalbard

Flying to the world’s most remote airport (IPC)

Easter Island’s Mataveri International Airport (IPC) is considered the world’s most remote airport with regularly scheduled service (the airport has regularly scheduled service to Santiago). This is measured by the distance from another airport, as the airport is roughly 2,300 miles from the closest diversion airport.

Because of how remote the airport is, special procedures have to be followed when flying there. For example, two planes can’t be flying to the airport at the same time without a suitable diversion point. That’s because if for whatever reason one plane blocked the runway, another plane wouldn’t have anywhere to divert to.

Easter Island has the world’s most remote airport

Drinking & showering on an Emirates A380

All the other flights on this list aren’t at all about the inflight experience, but rather are about the routes as such. I think one exception has to be made, and that’s for the Emirates Airbus A380. These planes are among the coolest in the sky, and two features in particular stand out — the A380 first class showers and the A380 business class bar.

If you’ve never showered before on a plane, it really is even cooler than it sounds. At this point I’ve had the privilege of showering on an Emirates A380 more times than I can count, and the thought of it still makes me giddy.

The incredible Emirates A380 shower

As far as the bar goes, what’s not to love about having your favorite cocktail while standing at a bar seven miles above the earth’s surface, while flying 500 miles per hour?

The Emirates A380 bar

Bottom line

There are all kinds of awesome flights out there for aviation geeks. From “hopper” flights with many stops, to very long and very short flights, to flying to the northernmost and most remote airports, the options are endless.

In all honesty, as I created this list I realized that there are endless cool options out there. In addition to the above, several other flights stand out, including Yakutia’s flight from Russia to Alaska, Air Saint Pierre’s flight to Paris, Condor’s flight from Frankfurt to Whitehorse, Qantas’ Antarctica “flightseeing” itineraries, Air Greenland’s flight to Copenhagen, crossing the Atlantic on an all-business class La Compagnie A321neo, or taking any fifth freedom flight.

What are your favorite aviation geek flights?

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  1. Here Hare

    No one has mentioned an Angel Falls flyover through Devil's Canyon. Awesome and terrifying in the same breath. (Southern Venezuela, tallest waterfall in the world, in lots of movies, like Arachnophobia.) Twenty years ago you could do it in a DC3, watch the bolts on the wings rattle loose as you banked down the canyon. The first class cabin was a sick bay with an encased axe with a sign "In case of emergency break glass."

  2. Ariana

    I feel very fortunate to have flown on three of the flights listed: 1) United's Island Hopper, 2) Alaska's Milk Run, and 3) landing at Paro, Bhutan. Each is a very unique experience. When it's possible to get off in Micronesia, I highly recommend staying on one of the islands. The scuba diving off Kosrae is incredible!

  3. Pierre

    The world's shortest INTERNATIONAL flight is between Kinshasa and Brazzaville, capitals of the 2 Congos, both on each opposite bank of the Congo river and facing each other. Why a bridge has never been built is mind-boggling and shows the region's ineptitude. The distance between the two airports is probably 5 kms (3 miles) but with approach requisites, the flight may last 20 minutes.

    One approach which well beats St Barth's is that at Tegucigalpa,...

    The world's shortest INTERNATIONAL flight is between Kinshasa and Brazzaville, capitals of the 2 Congos, both on each opposite bank of the Congo river and facing each other. Why a bridge has never been built is mind-boggling and shows the region's ineptitude. The distance between the two airports is probably 5 kms (3 miles) but with approach requisites, the flight may last 20 minutes.

    One approach which well beats St Barth's is that at Tegucigalpa, Honduras, with a similar geography but everything 5 or six times bigger, both the mountain downslope and the road, and A321s or B757s instead of small planes. No widebodies, though. They land at San Pedro Sula, some 150 miles away, on the coast.

  4. Knut E. Loewe

    my favorite flight thus far far :

    London - Casablanca with a stop-over in Gibraltar. The airport is the marina. Landing in Gibraltar literally means the wings almost touch the masts of sailing-boats moored left and right off the runway. You get off the plane for 30 mins. to do your duty-free shopping (since the first segment is considered domestic flight) then you get back on the plane, take off into the sunset, over...

    my favorite flight thus far far :

    London - Casablanca with a stop-over in Gibraltar. The airport is the marina. Landing in Gibraltar literally means the wings almost touch the masts of sailing-boats moored left and right off the runway. You get off the plane for 30 mins. to do your duty-free shopping (since the first segment is considered domestic flight) then you get back on the plane, take off into the sunset, over the street of Gibraltar and fly along the North African coast towards Casablanca. Beautiful.

  5. Otavio

    I might add Santa Helena airport in Africa.

  6. Grumpytoad

    My personal favorite geek flight was on Harbour Air from Victoria Inner Harbour Airport to Vancouver Harbour Flight Centre on a Twin Otter. Yes, it was noisy. But such a unique take off and then spectacular approach and landing practically in the heart of downtown Vancouver.

    1. Here Hare

      Yes, that is a spectacular flight. I live in YVR and have taken the float planes to Victoria, the various Gulf Islands, etc., many, many times. Three hours on a ferry not including travel to Tsawwassen and early arrival for a reservation, or 17 minutes on a float plane. Do the math. Flying low over some of the most scenic views on the west coast is exhilarating. Unless, of course, it's November, or March, or...

      Yes, that is a spectacular flight. I live in YVR and have taken the float planes to Victoria, the various Gulf Islands, etc., many, many times. Three hours on a ferry not including travel to Tsawwassen and early arrival for a reservation, or 17 minutes on a float plane. Do the math. Flying low over some of the most scenic views on the west coast is exhilarating. Unless, of course, it's November, or March, or any month when it's likely to be windy, in which case it's terrifying. The Helijet (at a higher cost) does the same route with the same views and handles the unpredictable weather better. Helijet used to fly a Sikorsky with an aisle (S61 I think) which due to Transport Canada rules mandated a flight attendant be on board (at no purpose; there are no services on a 25 minute flight, but it was amusing...).

  7. Nadia

    How about the flight to Dali, China and landing on a mountain top!

  8. Chris

    Being a pilot, my favorite flight is always the one going home. Call me simple.

  9. Adam Simmons

    My weirdest flights were between Kinshasa and Brazzaville. Just 30 miles apart (the world's two closet capital cities), the 747 from Kinshasa seemed to take forever and a day to reach Brazzaville - well over 30 minutes' flying time.

    The return leg was performed by a turboprop and the connection procedures to the Sabena aircraft for the flight to Brussels were undertaken on the tarmac.

  10. JetSetGo

    Interesting. Did 4 out of 11 on this list. Would love to do the island hopper on UA someday.

    How about a list for the most terrifying flight?! One time I flew from Puerto Natales to Punta Arenas before flying back to Santiago as airplane needed to go to Punta Arenas to get gas. The wind was soooo strong that the whole plane was shaking nonstop on the ground at both airports. It took...

    Interesting. Did 4 out of 11 on this list. Would love to do the island hopper on UA someday.

    How about a list for the most terrifying flight?! One time I flew from Puerto Natales to Punta Arenas before flying back to Santiago as airplane needed to go to Punta Arenas to get gas. The wind was soooo strong that the whole plane was shaking nonstop on the ground at both airports. It took several attempts for pilot to land the airplane at Punta Arenas because wind was crazy. Firetrucks were lining up on tarmac in case the plane (I was on) crash upon landing. Luckily the pilot landed the plane without any incident minus some people throwing up/ people crying/ kids screaming. That was far more scarier than my landing experience at Lukla hands down. Last time I'll ever go to Patagonia for sure.

  11. Luke

    There’s a great milk run in Queensland, Australia I had booked for earlier this year, but Covid put paid to that. Brisbane to Mt.Isa with Regional Express.

    Papeete to Moorea on Air Tahiti is an incredibly scenic but short flight of only a few minutes too.

  12. Tomas

    ISB-KDU was exciting. Surrounded by Himalaya, corkscrew descent. Commercial flights via PIA, but mainly used as an operating base for the Pakistan Air Force.

  13. Al

    Landing in Rio’s domestic sdu airport should definitely be in this list

  14. Tom

    Certainly SXM-SAB on a Twin Otter belongs on this list! Shortest commercial runway anywhere.

  15. Tom

    typo:
    Svalbard Airport is the world’s northernmost airport with regularly scheduled flights. There are year-round flights to there from Oslo, and the flight takes roughly three routes.

    hours, I think

  16. Leofranklin

    You should add landing/taking off in SDU (Santos Dumont airport), located in central Rio de Janeiro! Gorgeous views on the approach of runway 2, usually intense landings of some aircraft types (Gol 737-800 or LATAM/Azul A320), due to the really short runway (with an extra emotion - it's surrounded by water), a huge mountain right in front of the runway (the Sugarloaf mountain)...A must!

  17. IQ 0

    I second Lukla, already mentioned by a couple of readers, and would add the landing at the old Hong Kong airport, Kaitek, as impressive.

  18. Robert Northrop

    Landing in Wellington New Zealand can be interesting. I landed in a Qantas 767 that threw every thing out the back to stop on the short runway.

  19. Thomas Steinruck

    On my honeymoon I flew from Miami to Port-au-Prince and then on to go to Guadeloupe and Martinique on Air France. It was probably one of the worst flights I've ever been on.
    I think it's the only time I've ever been sprayed for bugs with insecticide while seated before deplaning in Haiti. On the way back the 727 was reprovisioned in Port-au-Prince and when I got my tray with an unprofeffionlaly wrapped sandwich,...

    On my honeymoon I flew from Miami to Port-au-Prince and then on to go to Guadeloupe and Martinique on Air France. It was probably one of the worst flights I've ever been on.
    I think it's the only time I've ever been sprayed for bugs with insecticide while seated before deplaning in Haiti. On the way back the 727 was reprovisioned in Port-au-Prince and when I got my tray with an unprofeffionlaly wrapped sandwich, a large palmetto bug got off it. On one leg and entire soccer team boarded, it was obvious that they had not showered after the game. And the landing on the way back into Port-au-Prince on the return was so hard and so short that a lady in a row I had her seat broke loose with her in it and she was face-down in the aisle still strapped her seat!
    I haven't been on the Emirates flights I did enjoy the pub on the old dc-10s the Continental flew between San Francisco and Newark. On the last flight the flight attendants put up a net made of a string and paper napkins and blew up a balloon and we played volleyball!

  20. WR

    FGI to PPG on Jan.1

    Landing 20 minutes later back on Dec.31 and getting another new years eve.

  21. Steve

    Courchevel or Peyresourde is number tops on the bucket list for me.

  22. François

    Have only flown SIN-EWR and SCL-IPC so far, but definitely want to get on the island hopper at some point. Also RIP to LCY-SNN-JFK on the BA baby bus.

    1. WR

      FGI to PPG on Jan.1

      Landing 20 minutes later back on Dec.31 and getting another new years eve.

  23. D3kingg

    Is showering on a plane really that big of a deal ? Would you rather fly Emirates or Singapore first class Between Europe and US ?

  24. Andrew

    Based in HI and the island hopper has been on my list for a while. It's still operating and believe the average person can still fly it these days (it's bookable), however no stopovers or getting off the plane in Micronesia. Planning to go to GUM in December but until the restrictions lift, will probably stick that 777. ;)

    @Lucky - also worth calling out all of the United routes that operate out of...

    Based in HI and the island hopper has been on my list for a while. It's still operating and believe the average person can still fly it these days (it's bookable), however no stopovers or getting off the plane in Micronesia. Planning to go to GUM in December but until the restrictions lift, will probably stick that 777. ;)

    @Lucky - also worth calling out all of the United routes that operate out of GUM. Even today with limited borders open in Asia, you can fly to 14 different international destinations on UA metal, like Palau, Okinawa, Manila, and previously HKG! Pretty cool if you ask me.

  25. YZ

    Great info! Thanks a lot for sharing!

  26. noah

    You missed one! The flight KTM - LUA. Nothing like landing on the sloped runway on the side of a mountain in Nepal.

  27. tom

    you missed Barra with its beach landing, there even was a trip report earlier in the week on BoardingArea

  28. Evan

    Great idea for an article! I'm definitely bookmarking this.

  29. Trey

    ..and if you want $h!t in your pants type of experience, I'd add landing at world's most dangerous airport..Lukla Nepal!

  30. Willem

    I know the Alaska Airlines "Milk Run" is still operating, as I flew it this May. You left out its Anchorage - Cordova - Yakutat - Juneau segment (I think it merits inclusion)

    Is the United Island Hopper still operating? I imagine not all of the destinations are currently open borders due to COIVD...

    1. Timtamtrak

      It’s operating but you can’t disembark other than your final destination. No scooting into the terminal for a snack and a passport stamp. :(

  31. B. Turnbull

    Two little points:- St.Helena is the remotest airport, but does not have regular service since SA collapse. Easter Island only comes in 6th.

    What about Barra in Scotland for the Only airport in the world ...
    ... where scheduled flights use a beach as their runway.

    1. Kiwi

      I thought Airlink operates the service to St Helena

    2. dfw88

      Yes, South Africa Airlink operates those flights, which despite the similar-sounding name, is not owned by South Africa Airways, though they have partnered with them at various points in the past. While the St Helena flights are currently suspended due to COVID, there are plans to restart them as things improve (source: https://www.gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice/st-helena-ascension-and-tristan-da-cunha)

  32. SQ51

    I hope this means the island hopper review is coming soon!

    1. Alex in FLL

      The SCL-EZE Flights on LA and the occasional KL tag are incredible! Amazinrg views of the Andes which are actually higher than your flight level!

    2. Tomas

      I have flown SCL-EZE several times (AR, LA, KL) and you are right, the views are stunning.

Featured Comments Load all 39 comments Most helpful comments ( as chosen by the OMAAT community ).

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SQ51

I hope this means the island hopper review is coming soon!

Pierre

The world's shortest INTERNATIONAL flight is between Kinshasa and Brazzaville, capitals of the 2 Congos, both on each opposite bank of the Congo river and facing each other. Why a bridge has never been built is mind-boggling and shows the region's ineptitude. The distance between the two airports is probably 5 kms (3 miles) but with approach requisites, the flight may last 20 minutes. One approach which well beats St Barth's is that at Tegucigalpa, Honduras, with a similar geography but everything 5 or six times bigger, both the mountain downslope and the road, and A321s or B757s instead of small planes. No widebodies, though. They land at San Pedro Sula, some 150 miles away, on the coast.

Knut E. Loewe

my favorite flight thus far far : London - Casablanca with a stop-over in Gibraltar. The airport is the marina. Landing in Gibraltar literally means the wings almost touch the masts of sailing-boats moored left and right off the runway. You get off the plane for 30 mins. to do your duty-free shopping (since the first segment is considered domestic flight) then you get back on the plane, take off into the sunset, over the street of Gibraltar and fly along the North African coast towards Casablanca. Beautiful.

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