My Longest Flight Ever

Filed Under: Travel

I’ve taken a lot of very long flights. In many ways I prefer a 12 hour flight to an eight hour flight, since it gives you enough time to enjoy the service and food, and get a proper night of sleep. However, on Saturday I took what I’d consider to be the longest flight I’ve ever taken, even if it technically wasn’t.

The world’s 10 longest flights

Based on distance flown, the world’s ten longest flights are presently as follows:

  • Auckland to Doha (9,025 miles)
  • Auckland to Dubai (8,818 miles)
  • Dallas to Sydney (8,574 miles)
  • Johannesburg to Atlanta (8,434 miles)
  • San Francisco to Singapore (8,433 miles)
  • Abu Dhabi to Los Angeles (8,372 miles)
  • Dubai to Los Angeles (8,321 miles)
  • Jeddah to Los Angeles (8,315 miles)
  • Doha to Los Angeles (8,288 miles)
  • Dubai to Houston (8,149 miles)

Even though I make a point of trying as many unique flights as possible, I haven’t flown the world’s five longest flights. While I’m on one hand intrigued by the world’s longest flight, the plane operating the route has Qatar Airways’ old business class product, so I’m waiting for it to get the new Qsuites before trying it. Maybe it’s time I start by trying the second, third, fourth, and fifth longest flights, though.

Prior to this weekend the longest flight I had flown was Abu Dhabi to Los Angeles and Dubai to Los Angeles, which rank in at sixth and seventh place. It’s amazing how the next several routes are just a few miles apart in terms of distance flown.

Well, this past Saturday I flew from Jeddah to Los Angeles, and I consider that to be the new longest flight I’ve flown. Let me explain.

My Riyadh to Los Angeles flight, via Jeddah

This weekend I took the return portion of the Saudia first class ticket I flew from New York to Dubai earlier in the summer. Except this time around I booked a ticket from Dubai to Riyadh to Los Angeles. Even though the Riyadh to Los Angeles flight is one flight number, it stops in Jeddah. When I booked the flight, the schedule looked innocent enough:

SV41 Riyadh to Los Angeles departing 1:40AM arriving 11:00AM

You get a single boarding pass, and the Jeddah stop isn’t even listed on it. In reality, however, the schedule is as follows:

SV41 Riyadh to Jeddah departing 1:40AM arriving 3:20AM
SV41 Jeddah to Los Angeles departing 4:50AM arriving 11:00AM

On the ground in Jeddah

Usually I’d never include a connecting flight in claiming that a flight is my personal longest, since I’ve taken much longer connections (like last year flying from Casablanca to Doha to Colombo to Jeddah to Manchester to New York to Los Angeles, as one does). However, what makes this flight unique is that:

  • Passengers on the Riyadh to Jeddah flight are exclusively those continuing to Los Angeles; you go through enhanced US security screening in Riyadh
  • You stay on the plane in Jeddah, as more passengers join, so you don’t even get to stretch your legs

So the flight was blocked at 1hr40min for the first segment, then a 90 minute ground stop, then 16hr10min for the long segment, for a total of 19hr20min. That doesn’t include boarding time or our delay. In the end, I spent over 20 hours in the same seat on the same plane, and we covered a distance of 8,867 miles.

Airshow to Los Angeles

What this also doesn’t do justice to is just how horribly timed this flight is for someone who isn’t a night owl. When you see a 1:40AM departure you might think “well that’s late, but at least I can sleep after takeoff.” In reality it was 6AM before we were airborne out of Jeddah.

The crew was great, though, and even made my bed while on the ground in Jeddah.

My bed on the ground in Jeddah Airport

“Do you want me to make the bed sir?”
“Aren’t we leaving soon?”
“Mmmm, no sir, it may be a while.”
“Oh, is there a delay?”
“You know, sir, the US security screening takes a while.”

So on the plus side, I managed to get about an hour of sleep on the ground, which refreshed me nicely. Go figure after takeoff it was light outside and I only managed to sleep for a few hours on this ultra longhaul journey.

Ultimately taking such a long flight in a private suite is a real treat. I couldn’t imagine how exhausting this journey would be in economy. Not only is the privacy great, but we had a fantastic onboard chef who kept us very well fed.

Despite that, I can’t even say how excited I was when the LAX runway was in sight…

Bottom line

While technically this isn’t the longest flight I’ve taken with a single takeoff and touchdown, this was absolutely the longest amount of time I’ve spent on a plane, given that passengers stayed on for the connection. I doubt the flight would have felt as long if it weren’t for the crazy middle of the night timing. Boarding at 1AM but then having another five hours before you actually take off for the longhaul flight sure makes for a long night.

  1. My sister was a college student, and one summer, with more time than money, booked a ticket to Sydney from Houston.

    The cheapest ticket by $200 was on EK IAH-DXB-BKK-SYD with a whopping 2 hour layover in Dubai. I think that Emirates gave you the choice to get off of the plane at one point in BKK for the technical stop, but I don’t know if she was able to then.

    The routing was a tidy 15,880 miles one-way all in economy. Something like 34 out of 36 hours in an airplane.

  2. That actually sounds rather heinous, even in F. Did you take anything to help put you to sleep or do just rely on general exhaustion? It’s not like you could have some champs to take the edge off, either.

  3. That sounds pure oof. I would not take that flight unless in business with a flatbed.

    If I HAD to take it in economy, I’d likely fly RUH-JED, stay a night, and then fly the longhaul. Hell, even if not a night, at the very least getting out of the plane, even if it means rechecking my bags.

  4. “What this also doesn’t do justice to is just how horribly timed this flight is for someone who isn’t a night owl. ”

    NOT TRUE. 1:40am in JED is 3:40pm in LAX. So drink some coffee and watch IFE and by the time you take off in RUH it’s bedtime in LAX and you can have your bed made.

  5. @ WP — Agree, though keep in mind Saudi Arabia generally doesn’t issue tourist visas (or transit visas that allow you to leave the airport), or else I would have done the same.

  6. We recently did ADD-JED-FRA on LH, and I’ll agree that the middle of the night ground stop (which turned a 7 hour flight into a 2 hour and 5 hour flight with an hour on the ground) made it considerably less enjoyable. I can imaging it’s even worse when you have that much longer to go!

  7. There’s a certain point that any flight gets way too long. 20 hours is crazy for being on a plane. Bet you wish the Residence flight had been that long! Ha

  8. I had a flight with Royal Air Maroc from CMN to GRU to GIG.
    THis flight was timed pretty OK with an early morning arrival in GIG.
    Was managed pretty well imho. Not the best way of getting there but the fare was right en service was fine!

  9. @ Nikolaj — No clue whatsoever. I know they’re planning on reconfiguring 777-300ERs, but haven’t even heard of plans for the 777-200LR. They have such a small fleet of 77Ls that it will be tough to take them out of service, given that many routes can only be served by that plane. So I wouldn’t count on the route having the new product in the next couple of years, personally.

  10. Is there a transit Hotel at the airport in Jeddah that you could use for 1 night,and not need to pass immigration?

  11. You are so bloody well organized. Hats off to you in that respect. Your life must be one pile of complicated affairs and you handle them really well.

  12. I’d be dead on arrival if I did that one, even in F. Can’t begin to imagine what the passengers in economy felt like after this one. Totally insane!

  13. I was once on a Philippine Airlines flight from YYZ-YVR-MNL. The Vancouver stop was only to pick up passengers and we were not allowed to disembark. I was on my seat for nearly 24 hours!

  14. i used to do JFK-HKG on CX with the stop in YVR pretty routinely for work, in Y, J and F over the years. that’s about 21 hours butt-in-seat without any delays. even in CX F that’s a long time to sit on an airplane.

  15. I think the longest flight I’ve ever taken was back when a volcano in Iceland erupted and shut down European airspace for a time (2010?). Flight was DOH-IAH, and we deviated south of the normal flight path.

  16. Your top ten list is a little out of date. Air Canada is flying Vancouver to Melbourne and it is a little over 8200 miles.

  17. @ Graham — As far as I know the route only launches in December. This was intended to be a list of current routes, so I didn’t include future routes (since that’s always subject to change).

  18. I’ve flown the Dubai-Houston route on Emirates in 2013. My parents actually flew that route (Riyadh-Jeddah-LAX) in Economy once.

  19. We flew QF1 SYD-DXB-LHR same aircraft and seat 24:05 including 1:45 in DXB, 10,902 miles. Mercifully in F. As gluttons for punishment we actually started in AKL and continued on to DUB.

  20. How is the crew gets paid there? US carriers begin paying crew when either door is closed or at pushback depending airlines. Being in the “office” for five hours without pay isn’t much fun

  21. I flew SFO-SIN nonstop on Singapore Airlines this past Feb/March. 17hrs! We did their premium economy which was worth every penny. Would have been awful back in economy. I would definitely do that flight again in their premium economy.

  22. I once took a GRU-MAO-BOG-YYZ-LAX all on miles for our family of 4, and once landing at LAX we realized our bags didn’t make it. Twas a “never again” adventure. All in economy btw.

  23. Did you arrive on Saturday? If so, I have a video of your landing (happened to be grabbing a burger @ In N Out as Saudia came in).

  24. @Ben,

    Where do we stop (no pun intended) if we consider not-nonstop flights to figure which ones rank longest? I just flew Auckland – Doha – Paris with a meek 90 (just like your stop) minutes on the ground in Doha. That is 18.20 hours + 1.30 + 7.15 (it used to be 6.30 but the no-flys out of Qatar extend it due to a new routing over Iran). At 27.05 hours (31 hours door to door), does it make me a Super Hero?

    Everything is by the way relative… The trip did not feel like an ordeal, whereas I remember NYC – Paris Concorde flights which, at 3.45 hours, seemed endless due the pre-perception that it had to be so quick…

  25. @ pavel ive done that flight too. It isn’t 21 hours is it? I thought it was like 16-17 hours of actual time.

  26. How full was economy? I’m always super curious how these ultra long haul flights do in terms of filling up the seats. Particularly out of LAX, considering there are 3-4 flights a day from the middle east. I’m always afraid that if the routes aren’t performing well, that they’ll be canceled. How is there the demand to fill these routes, especially in economy?

  27. Also, it’s pretty cool that LAX will have 5 of the top 10 longest flights in the world once LAX to Singapore is re-introduced in October. Impressive!

  28. Hi Ben

    Another one to try in the new year will be Qantas’ Perth-London (or the reverse) non-stop, around 9,010 miles

    Back in 1998, my wife & I flew Houston-Portland-Vancouver-Honolulu-Sydney-Canberra in Economy with nothing other than transiting times at the various airports. Seat pitch was much more generous in those days & we had Qantas Club membership to ease the way via lounges in Vancouver, Honolulu & Sydney. From memory, it was around 28 hours from our friends’ door in Houston to our door in Canberra. Mercifully, I seem to have forgotten the details of each individual flight…

  29. Try this.

    BNE to SYD-

    SYD to LAX- 6 hour layover arriving in daytime afternoon

    LAX to DFW.

    35 hours including layover with 7 month who slept less than 9 hours of that 35 hours. If I did that economy I would have died. Still messed me up for 7 days

  30. @Bill: JFK-YVR is 5.5 hours (at a minimum). Ground time at YVR is roughly 1 hour at the bare minimum. YVR-HKG is just under 13 hours normally. So 19.5 hours if all goes well. But that was definitely the exception to the rule as we usually spent 2 hours and change on the ground at YVR, had routine delays ex-JFK, etc.

  31. @lucky tourist visas are issued but they’re limited and apparently only issued to groups of at least 4, but we’re going through some shakeup which includes introducing tourist visas and making some places more tourist friendly (we have tons of beautiful places here, but they’re often ignored due to how low tourism was on the agenda before the shakeup). Saudi probably isn’t the most ideal tourist destination, but if you’re stopping over then a night or 2 to see a part of the country wouldn’t hurt.

  32. @archer528 from May-September and Dec-Jan, all Saudi-US routes (JFK/IAD/LAX) do really well in all classes (students abroad traveling to/from the States for summer/Christmas break, parents visiting their children, and families on summer break visiting the States). As far as I know, Saudia operates nonstop LAX-RUH flights between June and mid September (though the outbound RUH-LAX always stops in Jeddah except that one summer where they operated nonstop).

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