**Update: 03/30/21 @ 16:30 UTC – A Comlux spokesperson shared further information regarding the flight; details below**
At 12:57 local time on March 26th, a Boeing 787 departed Seoul airport operating flight XAA4787. The aircraft, operated by Comlux, spent the next 20 hours in the air before landing in Buenos Aires, Argentina, at 21:16. The same aircraft has since taken another short flight into Uruguay.
Over 20 hours in the air
Ultra-long-haul flights are still a contentious issue. Any flight over 12 hours comes with questions about pilot concentration and passenger health issues. But that hasn’t stopped some commercial and private airlines from pushing the boundaries of what ultra-long-haul really means.
12 hours in the air may seem like a long time, but one Comlux aircraft spent a massive 20 hours and 19 minutes on a trip over the weekend. The Boeing 787, registration P4-787, departed Seoul in South Korea and flew non-stop across the Pacific Ocean until it reached Buenos Aires, Argentina. According to Flightradar24.com, the flight had a great circle distance of 19,483km.
Simple Flying reached out to Comlux and CEO Andrea Zanetto confirmed that the flight was for private clients and wasn’t just a test. He confirmed the plane had six pilots on rotation with one engineer to keep an eye on the plane. Zanetto also said that Comlux was thrilled to undertake the challenge of offering luxury over such a great distance. He went on to point out that connecting Seoul and Buenos Aires is perhaps the longest route an aircraft can take.
Are ultra-long-haul flights one-offs?
Comlux is a luxury private charter airline that offers a range of aircraft, including Boeing 767, Boeing 777, and Boeing 787. Comlux facilitates private air travel for large groups of people, including sports teams, royal families, businesses, and governments. While private jets usually cater to only a few passengers at a time, it is possible that the Dreamliner was carrying an entire team of people half-way around the world.
Carrying a team of people that far requires precise calculations regarding weight and fuel consumption, but it is possible. Qantas used a Boeing Dreamliner with 49 passengers to fly for 19 hours and 16 minutes. Air Tahiti Nui also used a Dreamliner to fly for just under 16 hours. Clearly, carrying people that far for that long is possible, although many passengers might prefer to have a stopover and stretch their legs.
Is ultra-long-haul on the rise?
With new technology making ultra-long-haul flights possible, chances are we will see more and more of them popping up. Recent travel restrictions have added new complications to layovers as they may require crew and passengers to quarantine or not leave the aircraft at all. Once restrictions are lifted, ultra-long-haul may well become fairly standard.
Vistara is reportedly in talks with Boeing to add additional crew-rest areas to several Dreamliners to allow the crew to take breaks or even operate in shifts on long flights. Researchers have also been testing various in-seat physical activities to help passengers cope with the strain of ultra-long-haul. In addition, new aircraft have features such as customizable LED lighting to help minimize jetlag and minimize mental fatigue when flying for over 12 hours.
The result means we may well see more and more-ultra-long-haul flights in the future from both commercial and private charter airlines. Busy routes between major cities such as New York, London, and Sydney may well see regular ultra-long-haul flights over the coming few years. Airlines appear to be looking into the idea very seriously. The only question is how many people would be willing to spend that long in the air. Will there be enough people to make ultra-long-haul commercially viable?
What do you think? Would you be willing to spend 20 hours in the air if it meant no stopover? Let us know your thoughts in the comments.