The Top 5 Bucket List Flights You Must Take

There are too many dream-worthy destinations, airports, routes, and flight experiences to fit into one list. However, we have tried our best to narrow it down into a, by no means exhaustive, list of flights any traveler should have their heart set on.

United Hawaii
There are many spectacular flights in the world. Some of them even include several legs, such as United’s Pacific Island Hopper route. Photo: United

There are many things to consider when putting together a bucket-list flight compilation; route uniqueness, spectacular or scenic approaches, runways, plane types, and, of course, style.

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The list could go on in infinity, but we have tried to narrow it down to five, plus a couple of bonus entries. They each represent a particular segment, or appeal, so forgive us if your favorite dream stretch of air travel did not make it this time. Let us know in the comments which one you think we missed!

Top five bucket list
Queenstown Airport in New Zealand has spectacular views. Photo: JoeB via Wikimedia Commons

1. Approaching Queenstown

Now, while flying into New York’s JFK can make any jetlag fade like morning mist over the Hudson, and approaching London’s Heathrow from the East is a thing of beauty, they are not, well, that unique. These approaches might make for good small talk, but they will hardly earn you any avgeek bragging rights.

And while Lukla in Nepal and Paro in Bhutan have spectacular mountain views – you can even see Everest on a clear day, and Saba and St Maarten in the Caribbean have turquoise waters, Queenstown in New Zealand has both.

2. World’s shortest commercial flight

We will skip the world’s longest flight (Singapore to Newark with Singapore Airlines, potential flight time 18 hours 45 minutes) in favor of the shortest. Why? Because, to be honest, as much as we love flying, a 90-second hop between two Scottish islands sounds like a much more pleasant experience. Although it is understandable if someone should feel like close to 19 hours in the air is more bang for your bucket-list buck.

The Loganair flight operates between the islands of Westray (population 640) and Papa Westray (population 72) in the Orkneys, north of the mainland. Three regular pilots run the service, which is part of a three-leg circuit between the two islands and a third called Kirkwall.

The flights are operated by two Britten-Norman BN2B-26 Islander aircraft. And as they do not have time to reach more than 250 to 500 feet, it could even work for those with a fear of heights. Although, of course, there is the Scottish weather to take into consideration.

Loganair beach
The schedule at Barra is tide-dependent. Photo: Loganair

Bonus Barra

We’ll also throw in a different Scottish destination – Barra in the Outer Hebrides. Considered to be one of the unique commercial airports in the world, here you actually land right on the beach! The schedule is tide-dependent, as the runway is covered by water parts of the day. So, if you are doing the 90-second hop, might as well fit that in while you are out and about in Scotland.

3. Pacific island hopping

One of the unique routes in the world is the “Island Hopper.” It runs between Guam and Honolulu, Hawaii, via several small islands in Micronesia and the Marshall Islands.

Specifically, it flies from Honolulu to Majuro to Kwajalein to Kosrae to Pohnpei to Chuuk to Guam or the reverse. Launched in 1968, it is operated by United Airlines and one of their Boeing 737-800s three times a week. It is marketed as United’s flight 155 from Guam to Honolulu, and flight 154 in the opposite direction.

The Top 5 Bucket List Flights You Must Take
The United Island Hopper is one of the unique routes in the world. Photo: Redgeographics via Wikimedia Commons

A mechanic always travels along on board, complete with a set of spare parts for the aircraft, as there are no resources on the islands that far out in the Pacific. Since many runways are very short, fire trucks stand at the ready to cool the brakes after each landing.

One of the stops, Kwajalein, is an active US military base. Which means no photos, and no disembarking to stretch your legs.

Other than being one of the most exciting routes in the world, the views are, of course, nothing short of spectacular!

emirates new first class suite
Emirates’ first class suites offer 40 square feet of personal space plus sliding doors. Photo: Emirates

4. Emirates 777 first-class suites

The Gulf carriers have always been synonymous with outstanding, albeit expensive, first class products. The UAE flag-carrier Emirates introduced its new first class suites in 2018 on select 777-300ERs. And they are really something to write home about.

With floor to ceiling doors, it is the first and, so far, only airline to offer fully enclosed and private suites. The seat provides its resident with temperature and lighting control, and the mid-suites have virtual windows, not to feel too claustrophobic.

Meals are prepared by the crew when you fancy, and there is a personal widescreen for in-flight entertainment and thousands of channels to choose from, and not to mention the Dom Perignon.

So far, the carrier has only outfitted nine of its 157 777s with the new suites, so to make sure you get on one, the configuration needs to be 1-1-1 right up front, with only six seats in the segment, rather than eight.

Routes that typically feature the refurbished 777s include Dubai to London Stansted, Vienna, and Frankfurt, as well as Tokyo Haneda, Riyadh, and Kuwait City.

5. The Polar route

While what you will see on this route will depend entirely on what time of year you embark on the journey, it is still an aviation geek’s must. Many airlines fly this route, and although none will take you right over the actual pole, some will get you pretty close.

For example, If you fly from Hong Kong to Newark Liberty International with Cathay Pacific or Emirates from Dubai to some US West Coast destination, you will come within a few degrees latitude of it.

5 bucket list flights
The polar route from HKG to EWR will get you pretty close to the actual Pole. Photo: GCMaps

Honorary mention 1A on BA 747

An honorary mention as it is, sadly enough, no longer attainable, would be to have flown in seat 1A of a British Airways 747. This would have placed you in the nose, even in front of the pilots. Due to the curvature of the plane that far forward, your window would also have been slightly angled, providing a unique perspective.

British Airways, Boeing 747, Aircraft Graveyard
The famous 1A seat would have had you in front of the pilots. Photo: Getty Images

So there you have it, by no means exhaustive but a list of some of the routes we would love to take one day, and the ways in which we wish we could fly them.

Have you done any of the above? What are the top three of your bucket list? Let us know in the comments.