Lonely Planet Writer

Buckle up for ultra long haul non-stop flights

Cheap oil – along with new generation aircraft – are ushering in an era of “ultra long-haul” flying with non-stop flights set to approach twenty hours in duration.

Emirates Airlines.
Emirates Airlines. Image by Roderick Eime / CC BY 2.0

In three weeks, the first voyage of Emirates’ new service to Panama City will take off from Dubai before arriving 17 hours and 35 minutes later in Central America. The non-stop flight will become the longest scheduled flight in the world, overtaking an existing service from Dallas to Sydney by Qantas … which clocks in just under sixteen hours.

However, the new record is unlikely to last with even longer flights predicted this year including the tantalising possibility of direct routes from the UK to Western Australia. Singapore Airlines have already announced that they will fly direct from their home base to New York in 2017, a nineteen hour trip.

A report on travel trends by the US website cheapflights.com said: “The dropping price of oil, of course, has helped keep airfare competition alive and likely allowed for the pace of expansion of international low-cost carriers. It’s also fuelling the return of the extreme long-haul flights.”

Singapore Airlines has reintroduced the longest non-stop flight in the world, which takes passengers from Newark, New Jersey to Singapore.
Singapore Airlines has reintroduced the longest non-stop flight in the world, which takes passengers from Newark, New Jersey to Singapore. Image by Aero Icarus / CC BY 2.0

This era of ultra long-haul is not in fact a new phenomenon at all, and in the mid-2000s, a number of such scheduled flights were introduced. Singapore Airlines had actually launched a service to New York and Los Angeles a decade ago but oil prices rose dramatically in 2009 and 2010 and the viability of that era of long range flights vanished.

A combination of cheaper oil, and also more fuel efficient ultra long range aircraft from Airbus and Boeing, are now making them a realistic option again. Of the ten longest flights currently in operation, four of them originate in the United Arab Emirates, two each from Dubai and Abu Dhabi to Los Angeles and San Francisco respectively. Los Angeles is the destination city for four of the ten longest, the two above and also services from Jeddah in Saudi Arabia and Doha in Qatar.