On Wednesday afternoon at 13:37 local time, a Virgin Australia Boeing 777 touched down in Brisbane, Australia. Origin of departure: Paris, France. Flight time: 19 hours and 45 minutes. The aircraft was returning from a repatriation flight to get stranded French citizens back to their homeland.
19 hours and 45 minutes in the air
On Tuesday morning, 09:52 local time, Virgin Australia’s Boeing 777-300ER with tail number VH-VPD took off from Paris-Charles de Gaulle Airport with Brisbane Airport in Queensland, Australia as its destination. The aircraft landed a marathon 19 hours and 45 minutes later. This meant it beat the flight time set by its archrival Qantas, who had a record-breaking test-flight from London to Sydney in October last year. Virgin Australia’s flight was an additional 26 minutes.
Had the aircraft been fully loaded, such a long flight without stopping to refuel would not have been possible. But, as reported by the Australian Frequent Flyer, the plane was being ferried back from Paris, where it had landed Monday from Auckland, NZ, via Hong Kong. The Auckland to Paris flight was operated as a repatriation flight on behalf of the French government, resulting in the carrier’s first-ever visit to the French capital.
The great-circle distance from Paris to Brisbane is 16,532 km. However, according to Flight Aware, the actual distance flown by the aircraft, nicknamed Avalon Beach, was 18,209 km. According to news.com.au, the plane left Paris with 144 tonnes of fuel and arrived in Brisbane with only six tonnes left.
Alas, not an official record
Even though the flight time was longer than the Qantas nonstop London to Sydney last year, it does not quite steal the prize. The distance from London to Sydney is 300 miles further than from Paris to Brisbane. Although the Qantas flight of 19 hours and 16 minutes carried passengers — 49 special invitees — it can not technically be regarded as a commercial flight.
The Qantas flight operated by one of the airline’s Boeing 787 Dreamliners was conducted as a “research” flight, with continous testing of the passengers’ emotional and physical states. This was done to measure the impact that ultra-long-haul flights would have on the overall wellbeing of passengers.
The record for the longest domestic commercial passenger flight was instead set last month, as Air Tahiti Nui operated flight TN064 with a 787-9 Dreamliner from Papeete nonstop to Paris. That flight lasted 15 hours and 45 minutes, covering 15,715 km. The airline operated another flight on the 7th of April, and another one is scheduled for this Sunday. This is as it is operated between French Polynesia and mainland France.
Reinstating domestic routes
Virgin Australia has suspended its international services, but it has continued to operate charters to bring back stranded passengers from across the globe. While for some time, it operated only one domestic flight, a once-daily Sydney to Melbourne, the carrier announced yesterday that it would be reinstating another 16 routes across the country.
Could you imagine yourself being on a plane for nearly 20 hours? If it was possible with regular commercial traffic, would you consider it? Let us know in the comments.