Qantas’ 18 Hour 9,124 Mile Buenos Aires Boeing 787 Flight

What is 18 hours in the air when you are one of the world’s most experienced long-haul airlines? Just another day in the office for Qantas. The Australian airline is preparing to fly from Buenos Aires to Darwin in October. It is a mammoth flight, one of several unusual long-haul city-pair flights recently operated by Qantas.

Qantas is operating an unusual repatriation flight from Buenos Aires to Darwin in October. Photo: Qantas

A 9,124-mile hop from Argentina for Qantas

As first reported in Executive Traveller on Wednesday, Qantas is getting ready to operate a repatriation flight from Buenos Aires to Darwin on October 5. As the report notes, the flying distance is an impressive 9,124 miles (14,683 kilometers). It is marginally longer than QF9, Qantas’ pre-pandemic daily flight between Perth and London Heathrow.

What makes this flight extra special is its routing. Very few flights fly near the South Pole and over the Antarctic continent. But this looks like being one of them.

The flight is one of a series of repatriation flights operated by Qantas on behalf of the Australian Government. Qantas has recently picked up the pace of these flights, saying it will fly 90 repatriation flights in 90 days. The Buenos Aires flight is one of those.

QF14 is due to take off from Buenos Aires (EZE) at 12:45 on October 5. After around 18 hours in the air, the Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner is scheduled to land in Darwin (DRW) at 18:45 the following day. Why Darwin? The Australian Government mandates a 14-day supervised quarantine for all inbound international passengers and has a large quarantine camp just outside the northern Australian city.

Because of that, most Qantas repatriation flights make a beeline for Darwin. But Simple Flying reckons this is definitely the first time any airline has operated between Buenos Aires and Darwin nonstop.


A temporary return to Buenos Aires for Qantas

Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT), which organizes and underwrites the repatriation flights, says they’ve helped over 55,000 Australians return since the onset of the pandemic, including more than 26,800 people on about 180 government facilitated repatriation flights like this one.

October’s flight will also see Qantas return to the Argentinian capital, albeit temporarily. The airline has twice attempted to make scheduled flights to Buenos Aires work. Qantas first flew there between 1998 and 2002. Those flights ended amid a continuing deterioration in the international aviation market that saw Qantas wind up flights to several other international ports around the same time.

In 2008, Qantas tried again, commencing thrice weekly Boeing 747-400 services to BA via Auckland. Qantas ended those flights in 2012 when it switched its South American port to Santiago. At the time, Qantas argued Santiago made more strategic sense. It was the home port of oneworld partner LATAM and one of South America’s gateway cities. Until the travel downturn, Qantas maintained those Santiago flights.

Qantas last flew Boeing 747-400s to Buenos Aires. Photo: Getty Images

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Qantas’ departure left Aerolineas Argentinas the only airline flying nonstop between Sydney and Buenos Aires. But Aerolineas Argentinas went on to quit the route in 2014. Aerolineas Argentinas had been flying between the two cities for years. However, the airline only went nonstop in 2012, hoping to benefit from Qantas’ exit.

While some keen flyers might like the idea of an 18-hour flight on a Dreamliner that crosses the Antarctic, these repatriation flights are reportedly pretty spartan affairs. The focus is on masks, PPE, and social distancing rather than the choice of wines, IFE, and folksy Qantas service. Still, if you’ve been waiting for over a year to get home, that won’t matter much.