What’s The Shortest Transatlantic Flight?

Filed Under: Advice

Here’s something of absolute no consequence that I’m nonetheless quite intrigued by. I know I have a lot of readers who are airline/plane nerds, so off the top of your head, think about what you think the shortest transatlantic flight is.

You can let me know below if the route that came to your mind is correct or not.

How do you define a transatlantic flight?

I think the first challenge in deciding on the shortest transatlantic flight is deciding what exactly constitutes a transatlantic flight. I mean, the definition — “crossing the Atlantic” — is obvious enough.

But how do you define that? Is a flight from the US to Iceland transatlantic? What about a flight from the US to the Azores? Personally I don’t view either of those routes as being transatlantic, though I think someone else could reasonably disagree with me.

Meanwhile I’d say a flight that gets close to the coast of a continent — say within a few hundred miles — is transatlantic. Others can certainly disagree with me, so I’m prefacing the below route with a warning that people can reasonably disagree with me.

Some of the shortest transatlantic flights

When I think of short transatlantic flights, the first route that comes to mind is New York to London. It’s certainly not the shortest, but it’s the transatlantic route I most associate with not being able to get enough sleep due to how short it is. That flight covers a distance of about 3,500 miles.

There are plenty of routes that shorter, and arguably Air Canada’s flight from St. John’s, Newfoundland, to London, England, is the shortest. That flight covers a distance of just about 2,300 miles, so it’s shorter than many transcons.

Is there actually a shorter flight, though?

That might not actually be the shortest transatlantic flight. Cabo Verde Airlines operates a couple of flights that might be contenders as well.

They fly once weekly between Sal, Cape Verde, and Recife, Brazil. This flight covers a distance of just under 1,900 miles, and is blocked at four hours.

But there’s an even shorter one. They also fly twice weekly between Sal, Cape Verde, and Fortaleza, Brazil, which covers a distance of just under 1,800 miles.

Cape Verde is just a few hundred miles off the coast of Senegal, so personally I’d consider it close enough to being on one side of the Atlantic for the purposes of calling a flight transatlantic. Others may disagree, though.

Bottom line

Unless I’m missing something, St John’s to London is the shortest “traditional” transatlantic flight, as it typically takes 4-5 hours.

However, many would argue that some flights to & from Cape Verde are shorter transatlantic flights, though that comes down to whether or not you think Cape Verde is close enough to the African continent for the route to be considered transatlantic.

Does anyone know of any shorter transatlantic flights? Do you consider Sal to Recife to be a transatlantic flight?

  1. I flew DUB-YYT on a Westjet 737 which is shorter than LHR-YYT, though it seems that has been discontinued.

  2. I don’t really see the logic that Iceland is just removed, and the rest of the post is about routes to other European Islands. What about mainland Europe?

  3. Transatlantic would be from the North American continent to the European continent…an island that is part of Europe does not qualify

  4. I think there is a fair case to exclude ALL islands. trans-atlantic should mean fully across the atlantic – ie your journey does not finish in the atlantic which any island in the atlantic fails to beat. So Ireland/UK both drop out. So does the Cape Verde’s. So does St Johns on Newfoundland as it is not connected to the continental mass. i think under that condition the shortest is Air Transats seasonal CDG- Halifax route at 3038 miles. There may be something shorter from Brazil to Africa though.

  5. From november 2019 it appears that Corendon Dutch Airlines (a turkish airline based out of Amsterdam) will be running an Amsterdam- Banjul (Gambia) – Natal (brasil). The transatlantic leg from Gambia to Brazil is only 1800mi. But they don’t have fifth freedom. sad.

  6. If talking about a simple term as connecting between two major geographical regions (i.e. N. America and Europe, S. America and Africa etc), and considering Greenland to be part of North America as geologically more associated (but politically Europe due to the Danish administration), then Reykjavik to Kulusuk comes to mind. Only at 459 miles, roughly a two-hour propeller ride across the ocean by Air Iceland Connect.

  7. If we’re talking continental plates, then à flight from Flores or Corvo to Horta (all in the Azores, with the former two on the North American plate and the latter on the African plate) comes to mind.

  8. Islands should be excluded. Transatlantic means there is no more atlantic beyond the point of origin and destination.

  9. In the early days of trans-Atlantic flight, planes would fly from Gander, Newfoundland, to Shannon, Ireland, about 2000 mi, which is why there are international airports in both of those out-of-the-way places.

  10. Well played Ben love this article to get the conversation started ! Is an island connected to the ” continent ” eg by a tunnel then no longer considered an island? If so then LHR is back in the agenda. Also just for laughs – what is the longest transatlantic crossing ?? SINGAPORE – NYC ? Or maybe a flight from South Africa to N America ??

  11. In terms of the North Atlantic, everyone disqualifying Ireland and the UK because there should be “no more Atlantic” beyond the destination appear to be missing the fact that the Atlantic stops at the west coast of Ireland. East of Ireland you have the Irish Sea, and east of the UK you have the North Sea. So, given that the point here is Transatlantic and not continental North America – continental Europe, they would count. Of course, that doesn’t make them any closer than South American – African routes transatlantic, so it is purely an academic point.

  12. @Richard/Mishas So by the definition of “not connected to the continental mass”, does that mean that JFK-LHR isn’t a transatlantic? Both NYC/Queens (JFK) and England (LHR) are “not connected to the continental mass” because they’re both islands.

  13. Kurt, a fair point, but the difference (from, say, the Comoros) is that what lies between Long Island and Britain and the respectively North American and European mainlands is certainly not the Atlantic Ocean.

  14. I’d also add that the latitudinal distance must be greater than the longitudinal given typical convention. For instance, I don’t think we’d call a flight from southern Mexico to northern Canada a “transcon”, even though it geographically is, unless I’m missing something.

  15. Not really relevant, but calling the country “Cape Verde” is not correct. They have proclaimed themselves to be Cabo Verde around 5 years ago for all official purposes, including the UN.

  16. I would define that particular airport as ‘continental’ if you can get from it to the mainland via ground transportation.
    So London is ‘continental’ because you take eurostar to Paris/Brussels.
    JFK is continental because you can get to NJ/Upstate by car/train.
    Cabo Verde or Ireland are not ‘continental’

  17. @Baqa
    So by your definition, on the west side, the Atlantic ends somewhere between the Canaries and Bermuda because what lies west of the Canary Current is the Sargasso Sea.

  18. @Kurt I’m glad someone pointed out that jfk is on an island.

    The big issue here is the arbitrary definition of oceans and continents. How is Greenland “North America” but Iceland is “Europe?” They’re far closer to each other than either “main” continental landmass. We don’t say that MIA-MEX crosses the Atlantic, but the “Gulf of Mexico” is really just a large bay of the Atlantic.

  19. England is different from other islands. There is a tunnel between Kent and Calais, so you can walk from England to mainland without ships and plane. Therefore, I think it should count as part of East of Atlantic

  20. In terms of a route that is useful to people in English-speaking nations, it would have to be Ireland to Eastern Canada. Shannon to St. Johns IF it is actually flown.

    There is or was certainly a flight from Dublin to Halifax, although I can’t recall which airline I flew that route on.

    There are also refueling stops in places like Gander and Bangor.

  21. Any flight which spans across the Atlantic Ocean is referred to as a transatlantic flight.
    Source: QR Zendesk.

    The question is what qualifies as being sufficiently across the Atlantic? In my opinion, islands within the Atlantic do not count, even if surrounded by their own seas as I view seas as smaller territories within oceans analogous to states within countries, unless in sufficient proximity to the continental lands; i.e. Cuba, Trinidad & Tobago, and the British Isles may be included. However, Greenland, Iceland, the Caribbean, Azores, and other islands located sufficiently far from the Continental lands may be not. This is certainly and interesting yet complex topic.

  22. @T

    Within Iceland, Eagle Air operates a flight between Reykjavík and Vestmannaeyjar that spans the two plates while covering about half the distance of Corvo to Horta

  23. @Magice~ It will be welcome, if unexpected, news to many that you can walk from Kent to Calais and vice versa, presumably by the Chunnel. Especially to those would be immigrants desperate, for some misguided reason, to get to England.
    My understanding is that attempting this adventure is strictly illegal not to mention suicidal.

  24. It all depends upon what the definition of “is” is… Lucky, for me a transatlantic flight is one that completely crosses the Atlantic…ergo, starting or landing on an island does NOT count! Cape Verde is a “cheat.”

    Once you accept islands, now you’re looking at the Canary Islands, the Azores, Madeira, AND Iceland. And if you accept islands, then what’s to stop claiming that (e.g.) Lisboa to Madeira is “transatlantic”? After all, you crossed SOME of the Atlantic Ocean, just like the flight that runs from Cape Verde to Brazil… No. Continent to continent is transatlantic…or transpacific.

  25. Re the argument that it’s valid to consider Great Britain part of Europe because it’s connected by ground transportation, the obvious conclusion is that flights to England only started counting as transatlantic in 1994. Just sayin’.

  26. With the cancellation of the St. John’s, Newfoundland to Dublin nonstop Westjet flight, the shortest “traditional” transatlantic flight is St. John’s, Newfoundland to London Heathrow (YYT-LHR) nonstop on Air Canada, operated by a 737MAX and blocked at 5 hours. If you want something from the contiguous North American mainland, that would be Halifax, Nova Scotia to Dublin (YHZ-DUB) on Westjet and blocked at 5:12.

  27. Some fairly uneducated comments here, the Atlantic ends on our (Ireland’s) West Coast or further south on the French/Portuguese/Spanish coast, flying past here will bring you past the North Sea/Irish Sea, The channel, or, further south, the Med.

    As was mentioned, Westjet previously flew St. Johns – Dublin while Europe Airpost ran Halifax – Dublin, they might still do that, I’m unsure.

  28. So to all those who claim that flights from the UK/Ireland don’t qualify as transatlantic, just what would they describe them as instead?

  29. How about we go by American continents to European / African continents, and it counts if it’s on the continental shelf? That way, the British Isles (the UK and Ireland) are on the European continent (by virtue of being part of the continental shelf), and Newfoundland is on the North American continent. Cabo Verde, the Azores, Bermuda, and Iceland are all very clearly islands geophysically separated from any continent.

    St. Johns to London would be the shortest North Atlantic route by that definition (although theoretically St. Johns to Shannon would be even shorter, it just doesn’t exist).

    At the equatorial Atlantic, I guess a flight between Natal, Brazil and Freetown, Guinea-Bissau (NAT-CKY) comes in at 1833 miles and would be the shortest possible route between South America and Africa, using commercial airports capable of handling that route, if it were to exist!

  30. @CM Shortest transpacific is harder to define – Alaska (undoubtedly part of North America) and Russia (undoubtedly part of the Eurasian continent) are only separated by the Bering Strait, about 50 miles wide, where the Pacific contacts the Arctic ocean.

    The closest Russian airport to the United States is Provideniya, Russia, which has a charter flight connection to Nome – only 233 miles!

  31. I thought TransAtlantic flight was a flight taken by a member of the LGBT community….. New York to Amsterdam gay parade?

  32. im trying to fly my personal plane from florida to europe..i dont ant to go north.. are there any islands between FOR and SID..
    thanks doc

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