Cathay Pacific’s 10,000+ Mile New York Flight

Cathay Pacific’s 10,000+ Mile New York Flight

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Cathay Pacific’s flight from New York to Hong Kong is about to start flying “the long way” around the globe…

Cathay Pacific’s New York flight problem

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is posing all kinds of challenges for airlines around the globe, given airspace bans that are in place. Airlines from many countries have been banned from using Russian airspace, while other countries are simply choosing to avoid this airspace. This is particularly challenging for airlines that relied on Russian airspace to operate long haul flights.

Cathay Pacific is now facing this problem for its route between New York and Hong Kong, which is the carrier’s longest route. Cathay Pacific will be increasing frequencies in this market shortly, as flights between the United States and Hong Kong have been banned for the past several weeks.

As Cathay Pacific is restarting this route, the airline is facing a major challenge. At 8,072 miles in each direction, this New York to Hong Kong journey is an ultra long haul flight, though ordinarily well within range for an Airbus A350 or Boeing 777.

The catch is that this route has historically taken a polar routing, which involves spending significant amounts of time over Russian airspace. The airline is now avoiding Russian airspace on this route (for what it’s worth, airlines from Hong Kong aren’t banned from using Russian airspace, but rather this is a precaution the airline has chosen to take).

To give a sense of the issue this poses, Cathay Pacific last operated a one-off flight from New York to Hong Kong on March 19, 2022, and the plane made a fuel stop in Los Angeles:

  • The flight flew from New York to Los Angeles in a flight time of 5hr16min
  • The flight flew from Los Angeles to Hong Kong in a flight time of 15hr41min

That’s right, Cathay Pacific flew nearly 21 hours from New York to Hong Kong. The airline will now take a different approach to operating this flight.

Cathay Pacific is resuming New York flights

Cathay Pacific will fly 10,000+ miles from New York to Hong Kong

As reported by Danny Lee at Bloomberg, Cathay Pacific will be taking a new approach to operating its New York to Hong Kong flight going forward. The airline will fly “the long way” from New York to Hong Kong, covering a distance of 10,326 miles.

The flight will operate east toward Europe, flying over the United Kingdom, Germany, etc. It will then continue just south of Russia, flying over Turkey, before eventually crossing China.

While this flight would cover a ridiculously long distance, it will “only” take around 16-17 hours, given the incredibly favorable tailwinds going east this time of year. The airline will use an Airbus A350-1000 for the route, which should be capable of operating this as long as tailwinds remain strong.

Is this now the world’s longest flight?

There are different metrics by which you can calculate the world’s longest flight — you can do so by direct air distance between the airports, by actual distance flown between airports, or by flight time. It’s being claimed that at 10,326 miles, this will be the world’s longest commercial passenger flight as measured by actual distance flown.

I’m not sure that’s the case, though. Singapore Airlines’ flight between Singapore and New York is the longest flight in the world in terms of direct air distance between cities. The New York to Singapore flight is taking a very similar routing to what Cathay Pacific will be taking, at least for the first half of the flight.

Singapore Airlines’ New York flight is taking a similar routing

Looking at data from SQ23 over the past week, it has covered an actual distance of anywhere from 10,547 miles to 11,008 miles. All of those distances are further than what Cathay Pacific will be flying from New York to Hong Kong. So Cathay Pacific’s flight will be very long, but it won’t quite be the longest in the world, unless I’m missing something.

Bottom line

As Cathay Pacific restarts regular service on its New York to Hong Kong flight, the airline is facing the same challenges as many other airlines in avoiding Russian airspace. Cathay Pacific plans to fly east from New York to Hong Kong, meaning the flight will cover a distance of 10,000+ miles.

Thanks to the power of a strong jet stream, the flight will “only” take 16-17 hours, not much longer than the flight used to take when operating a polar routing.

With no end in sight to these airspace restrictions, airlines are going to face quite some challenges with routings, especially with seasonal jet stream changes.

What do you make of Cathay Pacific’s New York to Hong Kong routing?

Conversations (16)
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  1. Neil Eisner Guest

    Will they use the former route or this longer route for calculating Loyalty Points earned?

  2. NJP11 New Member

    I assume the BOS to HKG flight will follow a similar route when that restarts in August; provided the conflict is still ongoing?

  3. Gordon Scott Guest

    This should be very interesting

  4. uldguy Diamond

    That is just too long to sit on a plane in business, let alone economy. Unless first is available I’d just as soon connect somewhere along the way and stretch my legs.

  5. Miramar Guest

    Does anyone know what is going on with Cathay First? They seem to have stopped selling first class seats to NYC and London, right? I guess the A350 doesn't have first class, though they don't seem to be selling first class on flights scheduled for the 777 either. So does that mean they are basically shutting down first class for the foreseeable future? Hopefully I'm missing something.

  6. Guy watson Guest

    Glad I am not in need of flying

  7. Steve Guest

    How will the return flight go?

    1. Michael SEA Member

      Likely taking advantage of the jet-stream still by going over Japan, Alaska, and Canada. That routing is only about 8800 miles, only about 800 miles longer than the polar route via Russia.

  8. Mak Guest

    I doubt that this has anything to do with safety - its much safer to fly over peaceful and uninhabited Siberia than to fly an extra 2 hours in the air elsewhere. To the extent this isn't cheap virtue signaling, I an only imagine that its an issue with payment systems and other logistics to pay Russia for overflights and to organize for the potential of irregular flight operations if a plane is forced to...

    I doubt that this has anything to do with safety - its much safer to fly over peaceful and uninhabited Siberia than to fly an extra 2 hours in the air elsewhere. To the extent this isn't cheap virtue signaling, I an only imagine that its an issue with payment systems and other logistics to pay Russia for overflights and to organize for the potential of irregular flight operations if a plane is forced to land in Russia. In any case, this seems ridiculous to me - but won't affect me as I'm not willing to deal with Hong Kong's silly quarantine rules as much as I'd like to make a trip there.

    1. Steve Diamond

      Agreed, so instead of flying over a safe empty void of siberia lets fly right up to the edge of Ukraine! Where are all the greenies complaining about all the extra fuel this is wasting.

    2. UA-NYC Guest

      The "greenies" realize it's not the smartest time to be flying over Russian airspace...moron.

  9. Billy Bob Guest

    Flying Seoul to Bucharest soon... we'll see how they go

  10. Duncan Guest

    Bet you’d love to be on that flight Ben, except you probably wouldn’t want my son and I sitting behind you like on that flight from HK to YYZ, a few years ago.

  11. ken Guest

    do Chinese airlines still use Russian airpace to fly to us or eu? How about Korean and Japanese flights to NYC? Do they go the other way around?

    1. Sean M. Diamond

      Chinese airlines use Russian airspace for most of their European and North American routes.

      Japanese and Korean airlines are presently not doing so (although Korean carriers were doing so until around a week ago).

      The primary foreign users of Russian airspace at present are carriers from China, India, Turkey, Iran, UAE and Qatar - as well as many of the former Soviet states like Kazakhstan and Belarus.

    2. ken Guest

      thanks, so it is up to the airline to decide? I thought Eu or USA won't let airlines that pass through Russian airpace land in their airports but it seems like it is airlines' choice, meaning it is an advantage for airlines to choose to pass the russian airspace.

      For japanese and korean airlines, is it more difficult or they go around the pacific for shorter flights? From the pictures, it looks like it is more challenging for them than Cathay

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Michael SEA Member

Likely taking advantage of the jet-stream still by going over Japan, Alaska, and Canada. That routing is only about 8800 miles, only about 800 miles longer than the polar route via Russia.

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Sean M. Diamond

Chinese airlines use Russian airspace for most of their European and North American routes. Japanese and Korean airlines are presently not doing so (although Korean carriers were doing so until around a week ago). The primary foreign users of Russian airspace at present are carriers from China, India, Turkey, Iran, UAE and Qatar - as well as many of the former Soviet states like Kazakhstan and Belarus.

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Mak Guest

I doubt that this has anything to do with safety - its much safer to fly over peaceful and uninhabited Siberia than to fly an extra 2 hours in the air elsewhere. To the extent this isn't cheap virtue signaling, I an only imagine that its an issue with payment systems and other logistics to pay Russia for overflights and to organize for the potential of irregular flight operations if a plane is forced to land in Russia. In any case, this seems ridiculous to me - but won't affect me as I'm not willing to deal with Hong Kong's silly quarantine rules as much as I'd like to make a trip there.

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