Last year was a fantastic year for ultra-long-haul international routes. Singapore Airlines kept flying the worlds’ longest route, Qantas selected the Airbus A350-1000 for its impending Project Sunrise flights, and the Boeing 777X looked promising to open up a plethora of new long and ultra-long-haul routes. However, with the ongoing crisis, many of these have been suspended. Simple Flying looks at the state of affairs on the current world’s longest international routes.
OAG released its 2019 report detailing the longest international routes globally, which Simple Flying will look at in this article. For the longest domestic flights, check out our article here.
Top spot: Newark to Singapore
The longest international route in the world launched to much fanfare when it launched the world’s longest flight in 2018 using an Airbus A350-900ULR, a specially configured jet capable of handling the 18-hour jaunt spanning 8,277 nautical miles (15,329 km) between Singapore (SIN) and Newark (EWR).
Unsurprisingly, this route is not in operation. Demand for long-haul international travel remains low – especially from lucrative business travelers that would generally be helping fill Singapore Airlines’ planes on this route. With 67 business class seats and 94 in economy, this is one premium-oriented route that would not make much sense to operate without strong bookings in business class.
Flight schedules currently have the route scheduled to resume daily flights from December 1st. However, that date will likely be pushed back, barring any major uptick in demand in the coming few months. While Singapore Airlines can rely on some connecting traffic on both ends, international travel restrictions and overall lack of demand have limited the airline’s ability to connect passengers from this flight onwards.
Auckland to Doha on Qatar Airways
One of the world’s most ambitious airlines is Qatar Airways. Unsurprisingly, the airline leveraged its position as a transfer hub between Europe and Africa to East Asia and Australia and launched flights in early 2017 using a Boeing 777-200LR. This special long-range aircraft made this 7,843nm (about 14,500 km) 18-hour route viable, from Doha (DOH) to Auckland (AKL).
Qatar Airways has been operating a very ambitious schedule. However, thus far, the route has been off the books with New Zealand’s border closed to foreign arrivals. Qatar Airways is supposed to resume these flights from October 25th, which may be too soon for the airline to resume services, depending on what the New Zealand government says.
From Australia nonstop to the UK
Another famous nonstop long-haul route is Qantas’ London-Heathrow (LHR) to Perth (PER) route. Operated using a Boeing 787-9, the route is the only nonstop option between Australia. This was the first of Qantas’ ultra-long-haul routes to Europe nonstop. This route clocks in at 7,829nm (14,499 km), just a tad shy of Qatar Airways’ DOH-AKL route, and takes up to 17 hours.
Qantas is not itching to get this route back up and running again. The airline is taking a very conservative approach with international flights grounded until at least mid-2021. Until demand is there, it is hard to see Qantas launch this once highly-successful route out of vanity. This route might be one of the last Qantas brings back once business demand picks up.
Another Middle East to New Zealand connection
Next up is Emirates’ 7,664nm (~14,200 km) 17ish hour flight between its hub in Dubai (DXB) and AKL. Normally operated using an Airbus A380, the nonstop route was also shelved amid the ongoing crisis. However, Emirates has been flying to Auckland via a stop in Kuala Lumpur (KUL) to and from New Zealand.
Emirates expects to get this route back up and running in January, which may be a somewhat reasonable timeline assuming demand will be there. However, that date can always be revised. Emirates has traditionally relied on its connecting hub model to keep this route in operation. The stopover in Kuala Lumpur helps Emirates fly a 777-300ER currently on the route, which would otherwise be a difficult feat.
Back to Singapore for the next longest route
In fifth place comes Los Angeles (LAX) to Singapore (SIN). Previously flown by United, this 7,611 nautical mile (~14,100 km) route is now served solely by Singapore Airlines using an Airbus A350-900.
Taking around 15 to 17 hours depending on factors like the route and wind, Singapore Airlines is flying this route currently three times a week. In December, the flight is scheduled to return to daily operations, though that also remains to be seen.
A long United Airlines route
Soon to be knocked out by a San Francisco to Bengaluru route, United’s longest route is between Houston (IAH) to Sydney (SYD), which spans 7,467 nautical miles (~13,800 km) and is flown using a Boeing 787-9.
United Airlines is not flying this route currently, which is unsurprising given Australia’s international travel restrictions. However, the airline is hoping to resume this route from spring 2021 in March, which is plausible, depending on how Australia’s government decides to reopen.
Lucky number seven for Qantas
In seventh place comes the 7,452 nautical mile hop between Dallas-Fort Worth (DFW) and Sydney (SYD) flown by Qantas using its mammoth Airbus A380.
This route has been enormously profitable for the airline, connecting joint venture partner American Airlines’ largest hub to its own in Sydney. However, international routes are not on the horizon right now, and with the A380s parked through 2023, if Qantas resumes this route, it will be with a smaller jet like a 787-9. Much like its Perth to London route, this one is likely off the books until at least 2021, though it seems likely that this route could return before the Perth to London one, depending on how the health situation unfolds.
Philippine Airlines flies to New York
Connecting the 7,392 nautical miles (13,690km) distance between Manila (MNL) and New York (JFK), Philippine Airlines has only flown this route since late-2018 using an Airbus A350.
Philippine Airlines has currently only been operating this route once a week using an A350-900. This route can take between 15 and 16.5 hours.
The first ultra-long-haul with competition
Both United Airlines and Singapore Airlines fly between San Francisco (SFO and Singapore (SIN). United uses a Boeing 787-9 while Singapore Airlines prefers its Airbus A350 on this 15-17.5 hour route crossing 7,330 nautical miles (13,575 km) between California and Singapore.
United Airlines is planning on resuming this route from November. Singapore Airlines is a bit more cautious with a resumption targeted for December.
Delta just barely in tenth place
Flying a route that is one nautical mile shorter than the previous route, at 7,329 nautical miles (~13,573 km), Delta has a route between Atlanta (ATL) and Johannesburg (JNB) in South Africa.
Previously flown onboard a Boeing 777-200LR, Delta has to get creative here as it retires that type. So, instead, the carrier will be flying an Airbus A350-900 nonstop down to JNB. The problem is, however, with the return since JNB is a hot and high airport, reducing aircraft performance, which means the return flight has to operate via a stop in Cape Town. Delta will fly passengers to and from Cape Town, but it does not have local traffic rights between Johannesburg and Cape Town.
Delta plans on resuming this route with thrice-weekly services starting December 13th.
Which of these are you most looking forward to getting back on? Let us know in the comments!