The USA’s Ridiculously Short Routes

The recently published ‘Busiest Routes 2020’ report, compiled by travel data provider OAG, is a comprehensive investigation into the world’s most extreme airline routes, in terms of not only passenger numbers and competition levels, but also length. The USA, in particular, is home to several incredibly short domestic routes, but where exactly can these be found?

United planes SFO
Despite serving long-haul destinations worldwide, San Francisco is also home to one of the USA’s shortest domestic flights. Photo: Getty Images

Top 10 all shorter than 65 miles

For a country with such a large landmass as the USA, some of its domestic flights are astonishingly short. In stark contrast to its longest scheduled domestic flight, Boston, Massachusetts-Honolulu, Hawaii, which the report puts at 4,418 nautical miles, all 10 of the USA’s shortest domestic flights are less than 65 miles long.

Even the country’s shortest scheduled international flight, Seattle, Washington-Victoria, Canada, would still be some 20 miles too long to make the list. This begs the question, how short must a flight be to be one of the USA’s ten shortest? The following rundown of the top 10 will examine these brief hops in greater detail.

1) Petersburg-Wrangell, 24 miles

The shortest of the short hops that make up this list is found in Alaska. With 724 scheduled flights a year, this 24-mile flight is scheduled to take 22 minutes. Served by Alaska Airlines using Boeing 737 aircraft, it makes up one part of one of the world’s most notable flight routes, the famous Milk Run.

Alaska Airlines 737
Alaska Airlines serve the USA’s shortest domestic route using Boeing 737 aircraft. Photo: Getty Images

This multi-legged route from Anchorage, Alaska’s largest city down, to Seattle also stops in Ketchikan and Juneau, the state’s unlikely capital city. As well as providing a vital link to passengers in rural Alaska, it also serves as a supply chain for cargo, as the name implies.

The USA’s Ridiculously Short Routes
PSG-WRG is the shortest route in the US. Image: GCMap

2) Cape Girardeau, Missouri-Paducah, Kentucky, 39 miles

More than one and a half times longer than Petersburg-Wrangell is the USA’s second shortest domestic flight, from Cape Girardeau just over the Missouri/Kentucky state border to Paducah. OAG’s report indicates that this 39-mile hop was served by 1,228 scheduled flights in 2019, although research suggests that presently no flights are operating on this route.

Cape Girardeau was previously a stopover on a United Express flight to Chicago operated by SkyWest. However, while it is no longer connected to Paducah, both airports do instead have a twice-daily scheduled direct service to Chicago at the time of writing.

The USA’s Ridiculously Short Routes
CGI-PAH is just 39 miles long. Image: GCMap

3) Allentown/Bethlehem/Easton-Philadelphia, 48 miles

This intra-Pennsylvania hop was served by 2,036 scheduled flights in 2019, operated by American Eagle, the regional branch of American Airlines. These made use of Embraer ERJ-145 aircraft, although, once again, the route does not presently appear to be operational. Despite this, Allentown, also known as Lehigh Valley International Airport, did still seem to have a relatively extensive operating schedule at the time of writing.

4) San Francisco-Santa Rosa, 56 miles

Coming in at 56 miles in length, this intra-California flight is served by 728 scheduled United Express flights a year. Operated by SkyWest Airlines, these flights are scheduled to take 40 minutes, and make use of Bombardier CRJ200 aircraft, of which SkyWest is the largest present operator.

United Express flights operated by SkyWest Airlines serve the route between San Francisco and Santa Rosa. Photo: Getty Images

5) Milwaukee, Wisconsin-Chicago, Illinois, 57 miles

Just a mile longer than San Francisco-Santa Rosa, this 57-mile hop along the western shore of Lake Michigan is the most frequently served of the top 10, seeing 8,817 scheduled flights a year. The route is also served by cargo operator FedEx Express.

United Express features once again on this route between Mitchell International Airport and O’Hare, but this time with additional competition provided by American Eagle. Scheduled to take an hour or just under, United Express flights are operated by Air Wisconsin using Bombardier CRJ200 aircraft, whereas American Eagle flights operated by SkyWest utilize the CRJ700 variant.

Delta planes getty
Milwaukee Mitchell International Airport sits at one end of the most frequently served route in the top 10. (Photo by DANIEL SLIM/AFP via Getty Images)

6) Meridian-Hattiesburg/Laurel, 58 miles

Once again, the increment to the USA’s next longest domestic flight is just one more mile, namely to the 58-mile intra-Mississippi hop between Meridian and Hattiesburg/Laurel. Once served by 614 scheduled flights, this appears to be another route that has been put on hold as a result of airlines reducing their schedules in response to the lower passenger numbers caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

Despite this, both airports are still served by United Express flights to and from Houston.

While Meridian and Hattiesburg/Laurel are not presently connected as before, they are still served by direct flights to and from United’s hub at Houston Intercontinental. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

7) Alpena-Pellston, 60 miles

This 60-mile route connecting two counties in northern Michigan sees the least service of any in the top 10, with 521 scheduled flights a year. Served by Delta Connection, these flights are scheduled to take 42 minutes. Like numerous others in the top 10, they are also operated by SkyWest Airlines using Bombardier CRJ200 aircraft.

8) Colorado Springs-Denver, 63 miles

The second most frequently served route in the top 10, with 6,607 scheduled flights a year, this 63-mile hop sees United Express connect Colorado’s two busiest airports. It serves both the state’s largest city by area (Colorado Springs) and its capital city (Denver).  Flights on this route are scheduled to take an hour or just under, and, once again, are operated by SkyWest Airlines using the Bombardier CRJ200.

Southwest Gates Denver
Denver International Airport, served by the USA’s 8th shortest domestic flight, is the largest in North America by land area. Photo: Getty Images

9) College Station-Houston, 63 miles

The second route in the top 10 measuring 63 miles long, this 45-minute hop connects Texas A&M University with the state’s second busiest airport, George Bush Intercontinental. Served by 1,816 scheduled United Express flights a year, this is yet another route that sees SkyWest’s Bombardier CRJ200 aircraft utilized.

10) Detroit-Lansing, 64 miles

The longest of the top 10, but still coming in at just 64 miles, this 45-minute flight connects Michigan’s state capital, Lansing, to its largest and most populous city, Detroit. Served by 3,218 scheduled Delta Connection flights a year, the route is plied by Endeavor Air’s Bombardier CRJ200 aircraft.

Delta CRJ900
Delta Connection, operated by Endeavor Air, serves the longest route in the top 10 between Detroit and Lansing. Photo: Getty Images

It is clear to see from the fact that some of the routes mentioned above are not presently operational that the present coronavirus pandemic is continuing to have a significant impact on airline schedules. With that in mind, who knows how next year’s top 10 will shape up.