Coronavirus Rejiggers the List of the World’s Longest Flights

By Anna Breuer on 18 March 2020
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The arms race by airlines to operate the world’s longest flight came to a sudden halt after the coronavirus caused a significant retrenching in the number of flights operated worldwide.

More recently, however, with the onset of the coronavirus outbreak, it seems that airlines are tripping over each other to see who could announce the most suspensions, as countries sealed their borders left and right.

The ban on foreigners entering the United States led to what may be a temporary new record holder: Air Tahiti Nui, a French carrier based in Tahiti with a fleet of four Boeing 787 Dreamliners, just operated a 9,775-mile (15,731-kilometer) flight from Papeete to Paris.  This route typically includes a stop in Los Angeles to refuel and take on additional passengers, but the restrictions made that stop impossible.

Singapore Airlines’ flight from Newark to Singapore, the previous record holder, continues to operate, as does Qatar Airways’ non-stop from Auckland to Doha in the number 2 slot. Qantas Airways non-stop from Perth to London is number 3, Emirates Auckland-Dubai service is tied at number 4with Los Angeles-Singapore on Singapore Airways, the former number 5 placeholder.

Unfortunately, United will soon be cutting its Houston-Sydney service (number 6), and Qantas will stop all international flying including the aforementioned Perth-London service and number six on the list, Dallas-Sydney.

Meanwhile, Philippine Airlines, which operates the world’s eighth longest flight, New York to Manila, temporarily suspended all domestic service on Tuesday and will temporarily suspend international flying including the New York service on Friday.

United, which shares the number 9 slot with Singapore Airlines, will temporarily discontinue its San Francisco-Singapore service later this month. Delta, which on Wednesday announced plans to park over 600 aircraft and scale back capacity by 70%, will undoubtedly suspend the flight in the number 10 slot, Johannesburg, South Africa, to Atlanta.

The longest-flight-in-the-world title has a long and checkered history.  The dissolution of the Soviet Union opened up the airspace over Russia, allowing new circumpolar routes to be used, including Continental Airlines’ 8,065-mile (12,980-kilometer) Newark-Hong Kong route launched March 1, 2001, which was bested a month later by a United Airlines flight from New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport to Hong Kong by roughly seven miles.  Singapore Airlines introduced a 9,534-mile (15,344-kilometer_ great circle route, which is the shortest distance between two points on the Earth’s surface) from Newark to Singapore that passed within 81 miles (130 kilometers) of the North Pole, attaining the short-lived record until its return flight the following day achieved a slightly greater distance.

Still, rising fuel prices and a major recession caused the cancellation of multiple ultra-long distance flights, allowing new and eventually even longer flights to compete for the title.

Given the volatile nature of the situation, it isn’t possible to predict at this time which airlines and flights will be the top ten on the world’s longest flights list in even one month’s time, but as Napoléon Bonaparte said, “Glory is fleeting.”

(Photo: Accura Media Group)


Accura News

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