Aviation authorities in the US have relaxed rules to allow twin-jet aircraft to fly over the North Pole, twin-jets include Boeing’s 737, 777 and Dreamliner, and Airbus’s A320 and A330. This not only allows some airlines to save on fuel costs because of more direct routes, it opens up the prospect of flying to new destinations or existing ones in a shorter time.
Finnair has expressed approval for the new rule. “The ability to fly across the North Pole gives Finnair a great competitive advantage as the geographical location of Helsinki enables short routes to key Asian destinations,” said a spokesperson from the Finnish carrier. Although Finnair claims they can benefit from this new routing, the fastest route between Europe and North Asia would in fact be over Siberia, Russia, Mongolia and mainland China.
"In the days before the Russians granted over-flying rights to the Western carriers, airlines routed their Europe-Japan/Korea flights via the Pole. The journey time via Alaska was around 15 hours. Today, the London-Tokyo flights take around 12 hours non-stop eastbound, and 13 hours westbound," said Business Traveller consumer editor, Alex McWhirter.
Singapore Airlines and Cathay Pacific are also open to utilising the route.
An SIA spokesperson said other than one flight to New York other Singapore Airlines flights do not fly across the North Pole. "We are constantly exploring potential new routes and will announce them at the appropriate time.”
“Cathay Pacific is already flying the polar routes to/from New York/Toronto and Chicago. What this (Santa’s shortcut) means for us is that there will be less reliance on some of the more remote airfields from a planning perspective,” said a spokesperson from Cathay Pacific.
“The rule change enables flights to be planned on routes that are either further away from the current en-route diversion airports, or along the current routes but without dependency on some of the current en-route diversion airports,” the spokesperson added.
However, not all airlines contacted deem the route useful to their network, “JAL does not foresee the newly approved ‘Santa’s shortcut’ over the North Pole to make significant difference to our existing operations. Currently, our longest route is between Tokyo and New York, and we are already utilising the most efficient flight path,” said JAL’s spokesperson.