Over the past decade we’ve seen a trend whereby airlines have added an incredible number of new ultra long haul flights. Admittedly the pandemic temporarily reversed that trend for a couple of years, given border restrictions and the decrease in business travel.
We’ve now turned a corner when it comes to travel demand, and have seen airlines resume most ultra long haul flights. Not only that, but in the past year we’ve even seen several new ultra long haul routes revealed.
In this post I wanted to summarize the world’s longest flights, what other ultra long haul flights might be on the horizon, and share why these are more practical than in the past.
In this post:
Why ultra long haul flights are more practical than ever
Why have we seen airlines launch so many ultra long haul flights in the past several years? It primarily comes down to new aircraft technology. In the past decade the Airbus A350 and Boeing 787 have become the backbone of many carriers’ long haul fleets, and these planes are great for airlines and passengers:
- The planes are ultra long range, and can operate some nonstop flights that previous generation aircraft couldn’t
- The planes have lower capacity than previous generation aircraft (like the Boeing 747), which opens up more viable markets; it’s much easier to profitably fill 250 seats than it is to profitably fill 400 seats
- The planes have great economics, and per-passenger fuel burn is significantly lower than previous generation aircraft
So yeah, long range, fuel efficient, low capacity aircraft have done wonders for airlines when it comes to the viability of ultra long haul city pairs. Many routes that could have previously never been profitable now make sense.
The world’s 20 longest nonstop flights as of December 2023
Global aviation came to a standstill during the pandemic, but it has recovered nicely, with most airlines having resumed ultra long haul flights. As a result, I figured it was a good time to check in on the world’s longest flights, given how much the list has changed over the years. Let’s take a look at the 20 longest flights.
I’m basing this list on direct air distance between city pairs, since obviously Russian airspace issues are causing airlines to largely operate circuitous routings. Furthermore, I think distance is a better metric than length of flight, since winds can also have an impact on the duration of flights, and on top of that, some airlines do a lot of schedule padding.
Note that I’ll only be counting flights that are currently operating, or are expected to be operated in the coming months. What’s pretty amazing to me is that all of these flights are well over 8,000 miles, which is a long way to go nonstop.
What are the world’s longest flights? Here they are, starting with the longest (I’m including the airline that operates the route, the distance, and the aircraft type used):
- Singapore (SIN) to New York (JFK) / Singapore Airlines / 9,537 miles / Airbus A350-900ULR
- Singapore (SIN) to Newark (EWR) / Singapore Airlines / 9,523 miles / Airbus A350-900ULR
- Doha (DOH) to Auckland (AKL) / Qatar Airways / 9,032 miles / Airbus A350-1000
- Perth (PER) to London (LHR) / Qantas / 9,010 miles / Boeing 787-9
- Melbourne (MEL) to Dallas (DFW) / Qantas / 8,992 miles / Boeing 787-9
- Auckland (AKL) to New York (JFK) / Air New Zealand & Qantas / 8,828 miles / Boeing 787-9
- Dubai (DXB) to Auckland (AKL) / Emirates / 8,824 miles / Airbus A380
- Singapore (SIN) to Los Angeles (LAX) / Singapore Airlines / 8,770 miles / Airbus A350-900
- Bangalore (BLR) to San Francisco (SFO) / Air India / 8,701 miles / Boeing 777-200LR
- Houston (IAH) to Sydney (SYD) / United Airlines / 8,596 miles / Boeing 787-9 (resumes October 29, 2023)
- Sydney (SYD) to Dallas (DFW) / Qantas / 8,578 miles / Boeing 787-9
- Manila (MNL) to New York (JFK) / Philippine Airlines / 8,520 miles / Airbus A350-900
- Singapore (SIN) to San Francisco (SFO) / Singapore Airlines & United Airlines / 8,446 miles / Airbus A350-900 & Boeing 787-9
- Atlanta (ATL) to Johannesburg (JNB) / Delta / 8,439 miles / Airbus A350-900
- Mumbai (BOM) to San Francisco (SFO) / Air India / 8,406 miles / Boeing 777-200LR
- Dubai (DXB) to Los Angeles (LAX) / Emirates / 8,339 miles / Airbus A380
- Jeddah (JED) to Los Angeles (LAX) / Saudia / 8,332 miles / Boeing 777-300ER
- Doha (DOH) to Los Angeles (LAX) / Qatar Airways / 8,306 miles / Airbus A350-1000
- Perth (PER) to Rome (FCO) / Qantas / 8,298 miles / Boeing 787-9 (ends October 2, 2023)
- Manila (MNL) to Toronto (YYZ) / Philippine Airlines / 8,221 miles / Airbus A350-900
I intentionally left out the flight times, since they fluctuate throughout the year due to winds. Furthermore, some airlines pad their schedules more than others (in order to create artificial on-time arrivals). All 20 of these flights are blocked anywhere between 15hr5min and 18hr50min.
Here’s a map with all the routes, which is quite cluttered, as you can see:
What record-breaking flights are on the horizon?
A majority of the world’s longest flights have been launched in the past several years, which raises the question of what other record-breaking flights might be on the horizon. In the past couple of years we’ve seen the launch or Air New Zealand’s Auckland to New York flight and Qantas’ Melbourne to Dallas flight, both of which make the list.
What else is on the horizon?
- Pre-pandemic Qantas planned to launch a Brisbane to Chicago flight, which would cover a distance of 8,916 miles; it’s anyone’s guess if this route ends up launching, or if Qantas instead focuses on Melbourne and Sydney
- Qantas is continuing to work on “Project Sunrise,” whereby the airline hopes to fly nonstop from Melbourne and Sydney to London and New York using Airbus A350-1000s; flights are only expected to launch in 2025, and that’s a best case scenario timeline
Next, while these flights aren’t 8,100+ miles (or are routes that aren’t currently operated), there are some other ultra long haul flights that have either recently launched or are on the horizon:
- Delta Air Lines launched an Atlanta to Cape Town flight, which will cover a distance of 8,130 miles
- Singapore Airlines launched a nonstop Singapore to Seattle flight, which covers a distance of 8,073 miles
- United Airlines launched a nonstop Newark to Johannesburg flight, which covers a distance of 7,989 miles
- Vietnam Airlines launched a Ho Chi Minh City to San Francisco flight, which covers a distance of 7,838 miles
As airlines have rebuilt their global route networks, we’ve not only seen the resumption of some ultra long haul flights, but we’ve even seen the introduction of some new ones. We’ve seen so many new long haul flights launched in the past five years or so, thanks to how amazing the Airbus A350 and Boeing 787 are. Compared to previous generation aircraft, these planes are low capacity, long range, and fuel efficient.
While these marathon flights are great for those traveling in a premium cabin, I can’t imagine doing a nonstop flight like this in economy. In those situations I feel like I’d rather break up the journey than fly nonstop. Heck, even in business class I feel like some of these flights are too long.
Which ultra long haul flight do you find most interesting, and what do you think we’ll see added next?