Globalist Quiz

Flying the Longest Distance

What is the longest non-stop flight in the world today?

Credit: Ramona Heim Shutterstock.com

Takeaways


  • Non-stop service between the US and China began in 1996, with a flight between Detroit and Beijing.
  • Ultra long-haul flights require the plane to be in the air for 12 hours and cover 7,500 miles.
  • The 8,340-mile flight from LA to Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, is the fourth-longest long-haul flight.

Crossing an ocean from one continent to another used to be an act of incredible adventure. Now it can it be done in a matter of hours and requires little more than the purchase of an airline ticket.

Audio version on Marketplace Radio:

Listen to The Globalist’s Stephan Richter and Marketplace’s David Brancaccio discussing this quiz on Marketplace Morning Report (length 2:50 min.)

We wonder: What is the longest non-stop flight in the world today?

A. Washington, DC to Beijing, China
B. Johannesburg, South Africa to Atlanta, Georgia
C. Sydney, Australia to Dallas, Texas
D. Singapore to Newark, New Jersey

A. Washington, DC to Beijing, China is not correct.

As the seat of government of the world’s two largest economies, Beijing and Washington, DC, are arguably the two most important cities in the world. Nevertheless, a non-stop flight did not connect the capitals of China and the United States until 2007.

At 6,940 miles (11,170 km), the Washington-to-Beijing route is relatively short as long-haul flights go. Flight distance and duration (about 14 hours and 15 minutes) are minimized by using the so-called polar route, which sends planes almost directly over the North Pole.

United Airlines Flight 807 flies almost due north from Washington over Canada’s Hudson Bay, over the polar icecaps and down through the Eastern Siberia region of Russia. During the Cold War, Russia closed its airspace to commercial flights from Europe and North America to the Far East.

It was not until 1998 that Moscow made four different polar routes available again to long-haul flights. Non-stop service between the United States and China began in 1996, with a flight between Detroit and Beijing.

By 2006, there were ten non-stop flights operating between Chinese and U.S. cities. As of 2014, there were 35.

B. Johannesburg, South Africa to Atlanta, Georgia is not correct.

The Delta Airlines flight from Johannesburg, the largest city in South Africa, to the southern U.S. city of Atlanta, Georgia, is currently the second-longest non-stop commercial flight, according to a list compiled by the aviation news site flightglobal.com.

At 8,430 miles (13,570 km), the Johannesburg-to-Atlanta route is the only one of the ten longest non-stop flights that does not originate or terminate in Australia, Hong Kong or the Arabian Peninsula. All ten flights have a U.S. city as one of the terminuses.

Ultra long-haul flights such as Johannesburg-to-Atlanta require the plane to be in the air, without any scheduled stopovers, for at least 12 hours and cover at least 7,500 miles (12,070 km).

Over such a range, aircraft consume about a gallon of fuel per seat for every 78 miles flown (or three liters per 100 km). The Boeing 777 and Airbus A380 — the planes operated on all ten of the longest non-stop flights — carry between 300 and 550 seats.

C. Sydney, Australia to Dallas, Texas is correct.

The longest non-stop commercial airline flight is the 8,570-mile (13,790-km) trek between Sydney, Australia, and Dallas, Texas. The flight is operated by Australian carrier Qantas and takes nearly 17 hours to complete.

In September 2014, Qantas began using new Airbus A380s on the route. The Airbus A380 — the world’s largest passenger jet, with up to 550 seats — is used on three of the ten longest non-stop flights. The seven others are all flown by the Boeing 777.

While all ten of the longest non-stop flights originate or terminate in the United States, only the transpacific Qantas flight connects to Australia.

Four of the ten connect U.S. cities with the United Arab Emirates, whose Dubai International Airport is the world’s busiest for international passengers.

Three of the ten connect the U.S. cities of New York, Newark and Dallas with Hong Kong. The 8,340-mile (13,440-km) flight from Los Angeles to Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, is the fourth-longest long-haul flight, after Sydney-Dallas, Johannesburg-Atlanta and Abu Dhabi (UAE)-Los Angeles.

D. Singapore to Newark, New Jersey is not correct.

The Singapore-to-Newark route operated by Singapore Airlines holds the record as the longest regularly-scheduled non-stop commercial flight. The flight traversed 9,535 miles (15,345 km).

The route, which took nearly 19 hours to fly, began operation in June 2004. The airline ended service between Singapore and the New York City-area airport in November 2013.

At the same time, Singapore Airlines suspended operations of its Singapore-to-Los Angeles route, which at 8,770 miles (14,100 km) was then the second-longest route.

The airline cancelled the routes as part of a reshuffling of its existing fleet of aircraft toward more fuel-efficient planes to help it deal with volatile fuel prices.

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