On January 1, 1914, a Benoist XIV floatplane made the world’s first scheduled commercial airplane flight from Tampa to St. Petersburg, Florida, covering a distance of 21 miles in 23 minutes. Today, airliners make non-stop trips that cover a third of the globe. But which commercial flight is the longest in the world?
Determining the longest flight can be a bit tricky, since there are different ways to measure it. You can count the total miles covered over the ground in a great-circle route, but some flights deviate from the great-circle to take advantage of tailwinds that shorten the flight time. The airliner flies more total miles, but covers fewer great-circle miles over the Earth. You can also measure the length of the flight in simple hours and minutes, but that can change from flight to flight depending on weather conditions or other factors.
At the moment, the longest flight in both great-circle miles and hours is Qatar Airways Flight 921, which flies from Hamad International Airport in Doha, Qatar to Auckland Airport in Auckland, New Zealand. QR 921 covers 9,033 statute miles (14,538 kilometers) and has a scheduled flight time of approximately 17 hours and 30 minutes at a speed of about 550 mph. Qatar Airways uses a Boeing 777-200LR for the flight, but will eventually switch to an Airbus A350 XWB.
The second and third place flights are both made by an Airbus A380-800, and are flown by Emirates (Flight 449) from Dubai, UAE to Auckland (8,824 statute miles, 14,200 kilometers) and Qantas (Flight 8) from Sydney, Australia to Dallas, Texas, (8,578 statute miles, 13,804 kilometers), and each take about 17 hours to reach their destination.
Though Qatar 921 is the longest at the moment, it is not the longest of all time. In 2005, a Pakistan International Airlines Boeing 777-200LR flew non-stop eastward (instead of westward) from Hong Kong to London Heathrow, a distance of 21,602 kilometers, or 13,422 statute miles, a flight which lasted 22 hours and 22 minutes (some accounts list a slightly longer flight time). There were eight pilots on the flight, but only 27 passengers. And Qantas is hoping to inaugurate service from Sydney, Australia to London Heathrow, a distance of 17,016 km or 10,573 statute miles. Qantas used to fly that route in the 1940s, the so-called Kangaroo Route, but that trip took four days and made six stops for fuel. Their proposed service would make the same trip in about 20 hours.
Flight distances determined and maps created using Great Circle Mapper
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