Two Historic Flights Took Off This Week

Filed Under: Travel

This has been a pretty big week for aviation in terms of firsts. I’ve written about both of these routes before they actually launched, but now that both flights have taken off, I thought it would be fun to look at them one more time.

The first ever nonstop scheduled flight from Australia to Europe

Arguably the most interesting new route of 2018 operated for the first time yesterday (Saturday, March 24, 2018). Qantas 9 operated from Perth to London nonstop, which is noteworthy since this is the world’s first ever scheduled commercial flight operating nonstop from Australia to Europe.

The flight is being operated daily using a Boeing 787-9, and covers a distance of 9,010 miles. This makes it the world’s second longest flight, as Auckland to Doha on Qatar Airways covers a distance of 9,032 miles, so it’s just a hair longer.

Yesterday’s flight from Perth to London was blocked at 17hr20min, while the entire journey ended up taking 17hr14min.

That’s a long trip, and I imagine quite convenient if traveling in business class, given that the plane features Qantas’ new seats. However, in economy (where the 787 is in a 3-3-3 configuration), I imagine this is a significantly less comfortable journey.

A flight to Israel over Saudi Arabia

On Thursday, March 22, 2018, Air India launched 3x weekly flights between Delhi and Tel Aviv. As such that may not seem so noteworthy, though what makes the route interesting is that Air India was granted permission to operate the route through Saudi Arabian airspace.

In the past few decades, the only flights that have operated direct from Saudi Arabia to Israel have been on Air Force One with a US president onboard, so even being able to use the airspace is a big deal.

As big of a deal as this is, there was a lot of misinformation when this was first announced. An Air India spokesperson said that the airline had been granted the right to fly over Saudi Arabia, while the Saudi Arabian aviation authorities denied that was the case. Now that the inaugural flight has operated, we can officially confirm the flight did use Saudi Arabian airspace.

Despite this, Air India still isn’t able to operate anywhere close to a direct routing, given the other airspace they have to avoid. As a point of comparison, EL AL flies from Mumbai to Tel Aviv, which is almost exactly the same distance as Air India’s Delhi to Tel Aviv flight. EL AL’s flight is blocked at 7hr35min, while Air India’s flight is blocked at 7hr25min.

The direct distance of both flights is about 2,500 miles, while the distance flown for Air India is ~3,430 miles, and the distance flown for EL AL is ~3,680 miles.

For reference, here’s the FlightAware for the Air India flight:

And here’s the FlightAware for the EL AL flight:

Bottom line

These new flights from Qantas and Air India are both quite interesting.

The Qantas flight is significant since it connects two continents that didn’t previously have a direct link. While it’s cool to have such a flight, the catch is that 17+ hours in 787 economy probably isn’t all that pleasant. Furthermore, unless you’re originating in Western Australia, your journey isn’t necessarily any more direct, since you’ll still have to connect in Perth.

A new flight to Israel that uses Saudi Arabian airspace is a step in the right direction, and I hope the trend continues. I’m skeptical. Some argue this is a sign of relations warming up a bit, though I’d argue just as easily that it’s a slap in the face towards EL AL, since it puts them at a further disadvantage.

  1. I have to do LHR to Australia, including Perth, for a work trip sometime in the next 2 or 3 months. My employer pays J. But even with the novelty value, I’m not sure I want to do that direct flight rather than my original idea (Qatar via Doha). It just doesn’t look like fun, for the saving on time – and I write this as someone who usually prefers direct flights to messing about with changes just to get a slightly better hard product.

    Any views?

  2. @Lucky, was that a typo when you said the flight time difference is just 10 minutes between El Al and Air India? If not, this doesn’t really seem to be significant at all.

  3. Question is how feasible are these very long haul routes? Many sources say the Perth to London flight on a 787 could only carry 200 passengers so they could carry enough fuel to make it.

  4. Well, now that QF9 made it , Maybe one day we will see a direct MEL-TLV (over Saudia airspace ofcourse 🙂 )

  5. “I imagine this is a significantly less comfortable journey”

    Ya think? Even in business class it would be a taxing journey.

  6. Lucky—any plans to review the new Qantas business class product? I plan to fly MEL-SFO later this year and would love to have an idea of what I can look forward to!

  7. Great reporting in the section titles! OF9 was the first scheduled flight between Australia and the UK or Europe.

    Around 1989, Qantas flew LHR to SYD non-stop in a 747-400 but it only carried 16 passengers and was not a scheduled flight. Later, Airbus flew a A340-200 from LeBourget to Auckland, New Zealand carrying a minimal number of passengers.

  8. @The nice Paul: QF9/10 actually operate MEL-PER-LHR and back using the same plane on both legs. This gives Perth passengers a non-stop option and preserves the one-stop flight from Melbourne, while creating a new one-stop option from many other Australian cities.

    Previously, passengers from Adelaide or Brisbane, for example, would have had to connect in both Sydney or Melbourne and Dubai to get to London, putting Qantas at a disadvantage against the Asian and Middle Eastern carriers.

  9. I’ve read a lot of how much work they have done to manage the human body clock (chilli, chocolate, lighting etc.)

    I would be interested in hearing from someone in the know if any of it makes a material impact? Also, how many beers would David Boon sink on this QF9 flight?

    I understand the longest flight by planned route but I wonder what the longest route is/will be accounting for actual distance flown e.g. accounting for diversions due to weather or whatever?

  10. The nice paul. Over a couple of decades I’ve flown east coast AU to the uk a lot ( nearly always in economy :-(. recently I took the Qatar option as it was a steal of a price. It’s by far the best option, service was brilliant, food great and Doha is such a pleasure compared to Abu Dhabi or Dubai. The only other option to try is Finnair, as a transit through Helsinki is equally relaxing. Having said that Perth has a new terminal and is also a good connection for the 4 hr hop to the east coast

  11. @Arcanum, @Jay

    Thanks for feedback. Qatar is my go-to favourite airline, so I may just stick with what I know works!

  12. Last summer, I did PER – HEL with a stop in HKG on Cathay and Finnair. I was supposed to go to LHR, but the PER to HKG segment was delayed, so Cathay put me on Finnair. Final destination was CPH. It was a long day, but I flew in J. PER to HKG left at midnight and was an 8 hour flight. I probably slept 7 hours. Layover in HKG was less than 90 minutes, so it was nice to stretch my legs and move around, but not too long. No shower in the lounge or anything.

    Another 10 hour flight to HEL in the Finnair A350 was definitely comfortable and not a big deal. The final leg to CPH was rougher, but all in all, not bad for 20 hours of flying.

    Would I have wanted to do PER to LHR in one sitting? I really didn’t mind the stop in HKG and I loved leaving PER late as I hardly remember the PER-HKG route. I think I would get a bit more bored with 17 hours on one plane vs 18-19 hours on two planes and a short break.

  13. I agree while a long flight i think it would be worth it yes for the novelty though it really does make it a shorter trip which some people like especially since a lot of people (not me) get stressed about connections etc

    @The nice Paul fly QF9 while Qatar good try out the 787 maybe go Qantas one way and Qatar the other

  14. This certainly is a long flight, but it’s all relative. I suspect some contributors may not be used to the 24-28 hours trek that Australians make to Europe (eg 14+hours to Dubai and 6-8 hrs on to Europe depending upon your destination).

    A transit within Australia has attraction even from the east coast particularly if it’s made at a civilised time as opposed to the common 2-4am transfers in Dubai. Also, this is a very convenient flight for Western Australians.

  15. For the last few years we have annually travelled from YVR to CPT over the pacific. CX to HKG and then to JNB + a short hop to CPT. Both the CX flights are in the 15 hour range but for me that allows a leisurely meal and a good sleep plus a few movies. Hate flights shorter than 10 hours. So might be tempted to try the PER-LHR route.

    The LAX-DOH-CPT route and the JFK-JNB routes are also quite nice with the extra time in the air.

    All in J of course.

    Worst ever was DXB-DFW in EK Y on a 380 – 16 hours of pure misery.

  16. The Qantas promotion of London to Australia has been boring me to tears since the announcement. The west coast of Australia holds less than 10% of the country’s population, so the only advantage I see is to most UK people who seem to have a cousin/aunt/uncle in Perth.

    QF9 still originates in Melbourne, but now leaves mid afternoon, rather than late evening, which means I would effectively lose that day, and have to contend with London peak hour traffic upon arrival, and necessitating a long day trying to shift my body into the new timezone.

    Admittedly, I rarely catch QF9/10 anymore, as the 20% premium Qantas charges over their oneworld partners is too expensive for my pocket. I typically now catch the midnight Cathay flight to Hong Kong, catch the train into Central for a relaxing lunch with friends, and then catch the afternoon flight to London, landing in the early evening, and allowing me to head straight to bed, and feeling fresh the next morning.

    The plane geek in me means I will catch the MEL/PER/LHR leg at some stage, but it son’t be a regular occurrence for me.

  17. Considering the fact that a huge % of my flights are on economy, I can’t imagine sitting in economy for 17 hrs 15 mins (LHR to PER). And apparently, the plane does not even have wifi?

  18. I flew on SQ21 (EWR-SIN) a few years ago, all business-class flight, which used to be longest non-stop flight at close to 18 hours.
    I love flying, and SQ is one of the best airlines.
    Still, after 18 hours in an aluminium tube, I could not wait to get some fresh air.

  19. In addition to the direct service all other QF flights now go via Singapore to LHR. There are no longer any QF metal going to Dubai. No Wifi on any QF long haul but pork is back on the menu.

  20. For those that argue that Australia to London is still no quicker than connecting via Perth than it is via Singapore etc, they are assuming that all travellers live in Sydney or Melbourne. For people living in Adelaide, Canberra, Alice Springs, Cairns and rural WA it is one stop less than we used to have.

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