Sitting comfortably? The ten longest flights – and how to survive them.
With Qantas having just launched its 17-hour nonstop flight from Perth to London in March 2018, Business Traveller rounds up some of the contenders for the world’s longest flight – present, past and future.
Note that the approximate distances quoted below are the great circle distance (ie: the shortest distance between the two destinations measured along the surface of the earth) – these can differ quite considerably from those actually flown by the airlines.
Also, where flight durations quoted, these are for the longer of the two legs.
In February 2017 Qatar Airways launched what is the world’s longest commercial nonstop flight, between Doha and Auckland. Spanning approximately 17 and a half hours and covering 14,535km, the route marks the Gulf carrier’s first destination in New Zealand.
Flights are operated by Qatar’s B777 aircraft configured for 42 fully flat business class seats and 217 in economy. The business class seats are laid out 2-2-2 with generous leg room for each, while the economy seats are situated 3-3-3.
Fellow Gulf carrier Emirates has also operated non-stop flights to Auckland since March 2016, and this route was the holder of the longest non-stop service until the introduction of Qatar Airways’ flights from Doha (situated around 300km west of Dubai).
The daily service was originally operated by B777-200LR aircraft, but has since been upgraded to the carrier’s A380 superjumbo. Its economy cabin features 86cm seat pitches, while the business class seats pitches are quite longer at 112cm.
Emirates also offers the option of flying from Dubai to Auckland with a stopover in Australia on one of the carrier’s three daily A380 services.
From: Los Angeles
United’s Los Angeles-Singapore route is currently the world’s longest Boeing Dreamliner service and the longest U.S. flight to anywhere in the world with a flight time of nearly 18 hours. The airline also operates a flight to Singapore from San Francisco with Boeing Dreamliner that spans 13,595km.
United’s B787-9 aircraft hosts three classes, with 48 business class seats, 88 Economy Plus seats, and 116 in economy. Economy Plus and economy cabins both yield 3-3-3 seat configurations, though the Economy plus offers slightly more leg room. Business class seats recline fully while Economy Plus and economy seats only recline 12-15cm.
United also recently launched a nonstop flight to Sydney from Houston on Jan. 18, another lengthy flight serviced by a Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner aircraft. Clocking in at 17.5 hours, the flight is the only nonstop service from Houston to Australia.
United’s Houston-Sydney flight will offer 252 seats: 48 United Polaris business class, 63 Economy Plus and 141 economy.
Prior to the Auckland services above, Australia’s flag carrier held the record for the world’s longest commercial flight, between Sydney and Dallas. This route was launched in 2014, and is currently operated by Qantas’ A380 aircraft, with a flight time of around 16 hours 50 minutes.
The aircraft offers 14 first class, 64 business, 35 premium economy and 371 economy seats. Economy seats feature 79cm seat pitches while premium economy starts at 97cm.
To: San Francisco
The carrier launched nonstop flights between Singapore and San Francisco in October 2016, a route which is currently the longest in the airline’s network.
The route is operated by SIA’s new A350-900 aircraft, which are configured in three classes, with 42 business class seat, 24 in premium economy and 187 in economy. Premium economy recline 20cm backward, and seat pitches are 15cm longer than economy.
The Australian flag carrier now flies nonstop between London and Perth using its new B787-9 aircraft.
The 17-hour flight is just short of Qatar Airways’ Doha-Auckland service in terms of distance, but it is also the only direct, nonstop route between the UK and Australia.
Qantas’ Dreamliner aircraft operating the flight is configured for three classes, with 42 fully-flat Business Suites, 28 of the carrier’s newly-designed premium economy seat, and 166 in economy.
To: Los Angeles and New York
Distance: 14,113km and 15,348km respectively
Singapore’s flag carrier has previously operated nonstop flights to both Los Angeles and New York but was forced to cancel the services in 2013, when it retired its A340-500s from service.
SIA has since signed an agreement to be the launch customer for a new ultra-long-range variant of the Airbus A350 aircraft, paving the way for the carrier to relaunch these services from March 2018.
Should these come to fruition SIA is likely to regain the crown for the world’s longest commercial flight, with the Singapore-New York route being around 800km longer than Qatar’s Doha-Auckland service.
A special note to...
To: San Francisco
Air India’s route between Delhi and San Francisco is considered by some to be among the world’s longest, because of the considerable difference between its great circle distance (12,400km), and the actual route taken by the carrier.
The flight’s current routing over the Pacific Ocean means it can cover as much as 14,500km, which places it up there with Qatar Airways’ and Emirates’ services to Auckland.
And the longest ever commercial flight...
Distance: around 18,000km
In 1989 Qantas operated a one-off, nonstop delivery flight for one of its B747 aircraft (named City of Canberra), covering 18,000km and taking just over 20 hours.
The flight had 16 paying passengers on board, making it what is generally considered to be the longest ever commercial (non-charter) nonstop service.
Additional research by Olivia Hultgren