Airlines around the world have been making major operational changes as a result of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, largely avoiding Russian and Ukrainian airspace. While a lot of flights have gotten longer, I think Japan Airlines’ new routing to London might just be one of the most interesting reroutings that we’ve seen to date.
Japan Airlines flies “the other way” to London
Japan Airlines is no longer using Russian and Ukrainian airspace, and as a result the airline has canceled most of its flights between Japan and Europe. Flights between North Asia and Europe have historically been among the most reliant on Russian airspace, so airlines are having to adjust.
Nonetheless oneworld member Japan Airlines is continuing to operate select frequencies to London, and the routing is fascinating. For example, on March 2, 2022, Japan Airlines still operated its usual route from Tokyo (HND) to London (LHR), for flight JL43. The plane flew west over Russia, and the flight took 11hr47min.
Fast forward to yesterday (March 4, 2022), when Japan Airlines operated the flight without using Russian airspace. Instead of flying west, the plane instead flew east. It headed straight for Alaska, took a northerly routing over Canada, came in over central Greenland, flew over Iceland, and then approached London.
This time around the flight took 14hr50min, so that added over three hours to the flight time.
The flight faced significant headwinds in the other direction, returning to Japan. For example, on March 2, 2022, Japan Airlines flew the regular route from London to Tokyo (over Russian airspace), and that took 11hr12min. On March 4, 2022, the flight operated in the other direction, and that took 15hr27min, so that added over four hours to the flight time.
What a scenic routing, but this can’t be sustainable
On the surface this seems like it would have been an incredibly scenic routing, since Northern Canada, Greenland, etc., has some of the most gorgeous views in the world. Unfortunately it’s still winter, so looking at flight tracking software, it appears that these flights were in darkness most of the way.
The Tokyo to London flight was briefly in daylight over Northern Canada and Greenland, while the London to Tokyo flight was more or less in darkness the whole way. That’s a long time to be in the dark!
Bigger picture, it just seems like these flights aren’t sustainable. Long haul flights are already expensive to operate, and when you add in several extra hours of flying plus high oil prices, this seems like a stretch. Then again, I guess this is a pretty premium market, and there are all kinds of flights between other city pairs that are regularly longer. I’ll be curious to see how this plays out.
Japan Airlines is continuing to operate select frequencies to London at the moment, while avoiding Russian airspace. This is essentially causing the airline to fly “the other way” around the globe, adding several hours to the flight time in each direction.
I never thought we’d see the day where a scheduled flight between Japan and the United Kingdom operates over the United States, but that’s where we’re at…
What do you make of Japan Airlines’ London routing?