Although ultra-long flights are nothing new, every few years or so, an airline embarks on a journey to stretch the limits of imagination and set a new record that makes traveling the globe nonstop easier. This time around, it’s Qantas, the national airline of Australia. Qantas is taking off in 2025 with a Sydney to London Heathrow route that will cover 9,190 nautical miles and take almost 20 hours to complete.
Before that flight takes off and you want to sample the current world’s longest nonstop flight, look to Singapore Airlines. According to OAG Aviation, the company that officially keeps track of aviation fun facts, the recordholder since 2021 for the world’s longest flight in distance is Singapore Airlines’ New York JFK to Singapore Changi route, clocking in at an extraordinary 18 hours and 40 minutes and leaving in its vapor trail a distance of 8,279 nautical miles, calculated using great-circle distance.
Its next competitor is, well, itself, with a flight from Newark Liberty International to Singapore Changi measuring in at 8,277 nautical miles, just two miles shorter than the blue-ribbon winner of JFK to Singapore. Both flights are operated by the comfortable ultra-long-range Airbus A350-900.
Rounding out the top five longest flights is Qantas’ Perth to Heathrow flight at 17 hours and 45 minutes and 7,829 nautical miles, followed by yet another Qantas flight from Dallas-Fort Worth to Melbourne at 17 hours and 35 minutes for 7,814 nautical miles.
The list rounds out with a tie between Qantas and Air New Zealand for the Auckland to New York route for 7,671 nautical miles and clocking in at 16 hours and 15 minutes. Each of these flights is aboard the Boeing 787-9, a workhorse for international aircraft.
Nautical miles differ from land miles and are based on the circumference of the earth. A nautical mile equals one minute of latitude. The Singapore Airlines flight from JFK to Singapore, then, is 9,537 land miles as compared with its 8,279 nautical miles.
Consider this nonstop flight in perspective. A satellite-tagged bar-tailed godwit, a beautifully feathered, sandpiper-like wading bird equipped by Mother Nature for long-distance travel, flew directly if not tenaciously across the Pacific from Alaska to Tasmania, some 8,425 miles, without stopping for food or rest. The journey took 11 days and one hour, and not once did it complain of jet lag.
Also just for fun, consider that the International Space Station travels nonstop at lightning speeds of 17,500 miles per hour, meaning it orbits Earth every 90 minutes or so. Every day, the crew is treated to 16 sunrises and sunsets.
Whether aviation, avian or aeronautics of space, there’s always a record to be broken.
The upcoming Qantas flight from Sydney to London, part of the airline’s Project Sunrise program, takes off in 2025 with a specially designed widebody Airbus A350 that generously will have fewer seats than other long-haul aircraft. Instead of the 300-plus passenger count that is normal for long-haul flights, these marathon flights will have just 238 seats, which in turn means more legroom and cabin space. That means more comfort for passengers as the plane whisks across the continents.
Project Sunrise is, according to Qantas’ website, “the final frontier of aviation,” with the goal of delivering more direct routes to Australia and significantly reducing travel time of up to four hours as compared to one-stop flights. Qantas also promises a “second to none” flying experience inspired by medical and scientific research. With the timing of the flights, passengers could wake up to two sunrises within one flight.
Of course, if you pony up to fly first class for the epic flight, Qantas plans for extra-wide beds, a 32-inch ultra-high-definition television, a 22-inch wide recliner lounger chair and access to its sophisticated and snazzy first class lounges at airports around the world, all of which come complete with world-class restaurants in case you plan to eat before you fly to leave more time to sleep onboard the aircraft.
As a veteran of several long-haul flights — I’ve flown New York to Johannesburg on South African Airways, Newark to Singapore on Singapore Airlines, Atlanta to Istanbul on Turkish Airways, and most recently Los Angeles to Brisbane on Qantas — I wonder how airplanes can stay up in the air for so long and not drop out of the sky. In a nutshell, it’s because long-haul aircraft makers like Boeing and Airbus use more fuel-efficient, lighter materials and better aerodynamics.
Crew fatigue isn’t an issue, as flight attendants and pilots are swapped out and rest in private compartments hidden away behind secret staircases. Meals, of which you can expect two or three on most ultra-long-haul flights, are often overseen by renowned chefs. Qantas lounges and inflight meals, for example, are directed by Chef Neil Perry, one of the best known chefs in Australia, while Singapore Airlines’ International Culinary Panel consists of epicurean titans including Georges Blanc of France, Matt Moran of Sydney, Sanjeev Kapoor of Mumbai, Yoshihiro Murata of Kyoto, and Zhu Jun of Shanghai.
Rejoice, global nomads, rejoice. With nonstops that take as long as the Qantas and Singapore Airlines routes, you’ll worry less about missing a tight connection or losing your luggage and instead enjoy the time above the clouds and catching up on reading or napping, noshing on gourmet food and snacks, and catching a sunrise or two.
For more info
For more details on Qantas Airways and Project Sunrise, visit www.qantas.com.
For more fun facts on aviation, including statistics and flight databases, visit OAG Aviation at www.oag.org.
For those who want to experience the current world’s longest nonstop flights on Singapore Airlines, visit www.singaporeair.com.
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