Human race is driven by records and exploits, which are stimulating our imagination and speeding up the pulse in our veins. They deflect our thoughts from every-day reality. Since my childhood I am interested in commercial aviation, so the longest direct air passenger flights, which are being served onboard the mightiest aircrafts, by the finest carriers in the world are the endless source of positive energy and inspiration for me.
Longest non-stop flights by distance:
1st place : Dallas/Forth Worth (DFW) – Sydney (SYD) – 13 804 kilometers – Qantas (QF8)
Flight number QF 8 departs from Dallas/Forth Worth International Airport Terminal D six times per week at 9:10 pm. DFW is located directly between Dallas and Forth Worth and moved a little bit to the North from the straight line set by Interstate highway number 30, which links those two cities. Airport is currently 9th busiest in the world by passenger traffic and handled almost 59 million travelers in 2013. It has 5 terminals, lettered from A to E, among of which Terminal D is the newest one, opened in 2005 and capable to accommodate Airbus A380. The other four are now being renovated, under 2,6 billion USD program, called TRIP (Terminal Renewal and Improvement Program). The airport was designed to shorten the way from the car to the plane, which means that every terminal is semicircular or U shaped and filled with parking lots. This makes life much easier especially for highly motorized american society. Dallas is a very convenient place for transfers to all US cities, due to its USA center location. The airport is the main hub for worlds biggest airline by passenger carried, American Airlines (194 million) and fleet size (971 planes). Qantas QF8 flight is the return one, served by Airbus A380-800. The plane has changed Boeing 747-400ER in September 2014 and solved insufficient range problem of this airliner. Jumbo Jet, was able to fly only 14 205 kilometers, which was enough, to travel from Sydney to Dallas non-stop. The plane needs to land in Brisbane Airport (BNE) for refueling, due to regular headwinds (jet streams) while flying in the west direction. A380 has the range of up to 15 700 km (Qantas version around 14 800 kilometers), which let it easily operate on this route, regardless of the weather and winds. Plane is fitted with four class cabin layout and 484 seats. The oldest A380 in Qantas fleet, has seven years, while the youngest are approaching four. According to airline officials, this plane, is the best product for ultimate long routes like this one. Landing in Sydney is scheduled for 6:05 am of local time which is +2 days from the departure date. Supposing your flight is on Monday at 9:10 pm from Dallas, you will arrive at SYD at 6:05 on Wednesday. What is even more entertaining, people on outbound QF 7 flight from SYD to DFW take off at 14:25 and arrive at 13:45 on the same day. Sydney Kingsford-Smith Airport (named after famous Australian aviator) is located on the South side of town. In 2013 it handled 38 million passengers being the 31st busiest airport in the world and 1st in Australia. It is a main hub for Qantas.
2nd place: Johannesburg (JNB) – Atlanta (ATL) – 13 582 kilometers – Delta Airlines (DL201)
According to IATA (International Air Transport Association) Delta Airlines (DL) was the largest airline in the world by passengers carried in 2013. Together with its Delta Connection subsidiary transported almost 165 million passengers and has a fleet of 773 planes. As American Airlines (AA) and US Airways (US) finally merged in December 2013, this new carrier becomes the biggest with 971 planes and almost 194 million passenger carried in 2013. The distance between AA and DL is so huge that is almost certain that the biggest airline in 2014 will be American Airlines. Delta started to fly from Atlanta International Airport (ATL) and O.R. Tambo International Airport in Johannesburg in 2009 with a Boeing 777-200LR. This plane is been called “Worldliner”, what underlined its capability to fly further than any of competitors, bridging the distant cities, which required stop for refueling before. Range of this airliner is impressive, slightly more then 17 000 kilometers and in Deltas three class configuration may transport up to 291 passengers. DL owns ten of such planes and its age varies from four to five years. Delta connects ATL and JNB seven times per week. Due to strong high altitude winds route from JNB to ATL lasts longer then from ATL to JNB, 16 hours 50 minutes versus 15 hours and 20 minutes. The DL201 flight takes off from Johannesburg JBL Airport located on the east side of the city at 8:55 pm. O.R. Tambo has handled almost 19 million passengers in 2013. According to preliminary figures it would be around the same number in 2014. Although the airport doesn’t rank among the biggest in the world it belongs to the list of only 8 airports serving all continents except Antarctica. Additionally due to high altitude (airport is located at almost 1700 meters above sea level) DL201 flight has to use all of the very long (4,4 kilometer) runway to fight thin air on that level. JNB is the biggest airport in Africa and home for South African Airways (SAA). Delta 777-200 LR lands in Atlanta at 6:49 am. Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport is by far the busiest airport in the world and handled slightly more than 94 million passengers in 2013. It is the main hub for Delta Airlines but also important in Air Tran (now part of Southwest) time schedules. ATL is the busiest airport in the world since 1998 and it is very unlikely any other airport overtake it in the next couple of years. Surprisingly it is not in the top 5 American airports by international passengers which means its focus is still on domestic flying. To be fair, I have to mention, that US market is domestic oriented and first american airport on the list of busiest airports in the world by international passenger traffic is New York’s JFK and occupies 18th place. ATL Airport authorities however constantly striving for further growth of international routes.
3rd place: Abu Dhabi (AUH) – Los Angeles (LAX) – 13 502 kilometers – Etihad (EY171)
Abu Dhabi, a capital of United Arab Emirates and the biggest emirate in the federation, in 2003 has become a home for Etihad Airlines, when the national carrier of UAE has been established. “Etihad” means union in arabic and after more than ten years of permanent growth, in 2013 the airline carried almost 12 million passengers, which was 16% increase in comparison to 2012. Just recently the airline took delivery of its first Airbus A380-800 and Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner, which bring the airline standard and quality to much higher level. On A380 the bold and ambitious concept of residence class was introduced along with refined first and business class. The last two are also available onboard 787-9s. Ultra long-haul non-stop flight from AUH to LAX is carried by Boeing 777-200LR. It has 225 seats and there are only 5 of this planes in Etihad fleet. Its age varies from seven to eight years. Abu Dhabi International Airport is also in the middle of rapid expansion. The new Midfield Terminal will be finished in 2017 and initially will be able to increase total capacity beyond 25 million passengers. The building will be easy expandable to 50 million passenger yearly. Both in Dubai and Abu Dhabi authorities are considering aviation as a crucial element of their future growth. AUX has connections to all inhabited continents in the world. In 2013 almost 17 million passengers passed through the airport. This is 12,4% increase from 2012. Passengers on EY171 flight may now use United States border pre pre-clearance facility, constructed in Abu Dhabi Airport in January 2014. This simplifies immigration formalities in Los Angeles. 777-200LR takes of at 8:50 am and after 16 hours and 30 minutes at 13:25 lands at Los Angeles International Airport sixth busiest airport in the world in 2013. It handled 67 million passengers in that year. According to preliminary figures, in 2014 that number growth to almost 71 million. Once confirmed, LAX will break their best all time result, which was achieved in 2000. This airport is the only hub in USA which serves three biggest american legacy carriers at the same time. American Airlines, Delta Airline and United Airlines are all competing for Los Angeles inbound and outbound travelers. Additionally, LAX is a focus city for Southwest, Virgin America and Allegiant Air and a couple more. It has 9 terminals, including Tom Bradley International Terminal, ready to accommodate Airbus A380.
4th place: Dubai (DXB) – Los Angeles (LAX) – 13 420 kilometers – Emirates (EK215)
Among Emirates Airlines (EK) ultra long-haul routes to United States cities, EK215 connection from DXB to LAX is the longest one. Apart from that, EK serves a couple of nearly as distant cities, including Houston (13 144 kilometers away from Dubai) San Francisco (13 041 kilometers) and Dallas (12 940 kilometers). All of this destinations are operated by the biggest plane in the world, Airbus A380-800, real flagship of this airline. Emirates currently uses 57 of this gigantic machines. The first A380 were delivered to EK in 2008 and the youngest are just few months old. Each quarter a couple of this planes are being delivered by Airbus. On the way to LAX, Emirates uses 489 seat version of A380 which is one of the two different configurations available in its fleet. This is less dense version, which features additional cargo storage area in the aft of the plane. EK215 departures from Dubai every day at 8:55. If you are interested in more detailed description of DXB airport I recommend you to read my previous article about it. After 16 hours of flight at 13:55 the plane lands at LAX, which I mentioned earlier.
5th place: Jeddah (JED) – Los Angeles (LAX) – 13 409 kilometers – Saudia (SV41)
Jeddah, is the second largest city in Saudi Arabia and the biggest harbor by the Red Sea. The city has more than five million inhabitants and it is the main gateway to Mecca. King Abdulaziz International Airport handled 27 million passengers in 2013 and was the biggest airport in Saudi Arabia. SV41 flight is served with Boeing 777-300ER, which are at most 3 years old. It takes 16 hours and 40 minutes to reach LAX. The plane equipped with 305 seats in 3 class layout, takes off at 5:15 am and lands at 10:55 am. LAX is the end destination for 3 of 5 longest passenger flight in the world, which is a pretty amazing achievement.
In the end I would like to add that in 2013, two longest non-stop passenger flights of all time have been cancelled. Singapore Airlines has closed its routes from Singapore (SIN) to New York, Newark airport (15 345 kilometers – 18 hours 50 minutes flight time) and Los Angeles (14 114 kilometers – 18 hours 5 minutes flight time). Both of these segments were served by Airbus A340-500, which has a range of 16 670 kilometers.