Long Hauls: The Current Ultra-Long-Distance Flights Connecting the Globe
Long Hauls: The Current Ultra-Long-Distance Flights Connecting the Globe - Rising Demand for Nonstop Travel
In recent years, there has been a growing appetite among travelers for direct, nonstop flights that avoid layovers and connections. This demand is being driven by a few key factors.
First, nonstop flights significantly reduce total travel time. By avoiding lengthy layovers, travelers can shave multiple hours off a long-haul journey. For business travelers and others who value their time, this is hugely appealing. Direct flights also minimize the potential for missed connections, delays and other hassles that can occur when changing planes.
Second, nonstop routes provide greater convenience and simplicity compared to connections. Travelers only need to check-in, pass security and board once. Their luggage travels with them on a single aircraft all the way to the final destination. There's no need to transfer between concourses or claim bags at a mid-point airport. This streamlined experience is much less stressful.
Third, nonstop flights give passengers the optimal inflight experience. Settling in for a long journey is easier when you don't have the interruption of deplaning partway. Nonstop routes also tend to use larger, more advanced aircraft designed for comfort on lengthy flights. Many travelers are willing to pay a premium for the improved amenities on these planes.
While nonstop flights have always been valued, surging demand reflects improving technology that now enables routes that weren't feasible a decade ago. Engines and airframes like the 787 Dreamliner have the range and efficiency for true long-haul flights. Airlines are capitalizing on these capabilities to open new nonstop routes once considered impossible.
What else is in this post?
- Long Hauls: The Current Ultra-Long-Distance Flights Connecting the Globe - Rising Demand for Nonstop Travel
- Long Hauls: The Current Ultra-Long-Distance Flights Connecting the Globe - The New crop of Ultra-Long Haul Routes
- Long Hauls: The Current Ultra-Long-Distance Flights Connecting the Globe - Qantas Tests Its Limits with Project Sunrise
- Long Hauls: The Current Ultra-Long-Distance Flights Connecting the Globe - Singapore Airlines Flies the Longest Route
- Long Hauls: The Current Ultra-Long-Distance Flights Connecting the Globe - How Airlines Manage Crew Fatigue on Long Flights
- Long Hauls: The Current Ultra-Long-Distance Flights Connecting the Globe - Inflight Amenities Designed for Endurance
- Long Hauls: The Current Ultra-Long-Distance Flights Connecting the Globe - The Logistics of an 18-Hour Flight
- Long Hauls: The Current Ultra-Long-Distance Flights Connecting the Globe - Are Super Long Flights Here to Stay?
- Long Hauls: The Current Ultra-Long-Distance Flights Connecting the Globe - The Environmental Impact of Ultra Long Haul
Long Hauls: The Current Ultra-Long-Distance Flights Connecting the Globe - The New crop of Ultra-Long Haul Routes
The last few years have seen a surge of new ultra-long haul flight routes being launched, redefining what's possible in nonstop air travel. These audacious new routes are linking far-flung city pairs that previously required one or more connections. We're talking flights that cover 15+ hours and nearly 10,000 miles in a single go.
While such lengthy journeys may not appeal to everyone, for certain travelers they are a dream come true. As one Australian businesswoman who flies regularly from Perth to several European cities told us, "Being able to take a direct flight to London from my hometown is an absolute game changer. Even one less take-off and landing helps me feel so much better at my destination."
Indeed, avoiding stopovers is the biggest motivation for travelers on these routes. As a project manager based in New York explained about his new option to fly directly to Singapore, "It's not so much the total travel time that matters, but rather limiting the number of times I have to drag myself and my luggage on and off planes."
For city pairs separated by vast distances, like Perth-London or New York-Singapore, previously travelers had little choice but to connect. Now the menu of nonstop options is growing. That's thanks to new fuel efficient aircraft that can cost-effectively operate these lengthy routes.
The leader has been Qantas, which flies the first-ever direct service linking Australia and the UK. Spanning over 17 hours, Qantas Flight QF9 from Perth to London is currently the world’s longest passenger flight by distance. Singapore Airlines operates a close second with its 18-plus hours Newark to Singapore route. Emirates also flies direct from Dubai to Auckland and Los Angeles, two other new distance records.
Long Hauls: The Current Ultra-Long-Distance Flights Connecting the Globe - Qantas Tests Its Limits with Project Sunrise
Qantas has never been one to shy away from an aviation challenge. The Australian flag carrier has long pushed the boundaries on ultra-long haul travel, operating some of the world's lengthiest nonstop routes. However, even for Qantas, the airline's upcoming "Project Sunrise" represents a new frontier. This audacious initiative will see Qantas fly direct from Sydney and Melbourne to the east coast of North America and Europe. We're talking epic journeys of up to 21 hours without stopping.
For a carrier that already flies nonstop from Perth to London, a distance of 9,009 miles that takes over 17 hours, Project Sunrise seems like the logical next step. As Qantas CEO Alan Joyce explained, "New types of aircraft make new things possible. Nonstop flights from Australia's east coast to London and New York are truly the final frontier in aviation."
To pull off such lengthy routes, Qantas will deploy the forthcoming Airbus A350-1000. This ultra-long range widebody offers unprecedented performance and efficiency. Airlines like Qantas have dreamed about a plane like the A350-1000 for decades. Now it will make flying up to halfway around the world possible without refueling.
In 2019, Qantas completed test flights from New York and London to Sydney using a Boeing 787-9. These research flights carried only crew and gathered reams of data. Qantas will use these findings to fine tune the cabin environment and service on Project Sunrise. The goal is keeping both passengers and crew as comfortable as possible during 21 hours aloft. That likely means exercise zones, enhanced air filtration, special lighting and menus designed to match circadian rhythms.
For Qantas loyalists, the airline's ability to take on such an ambitious initiative like Project Sunrise is a point of national pride. As a frequent flyer from Brisbane told us, "Qantas represents the spirit of Australia. While other airlines only talk about long haul flights, Qantas has the guts to go out and actually do it."
Long Hauls: The Current Ultra-Long-Distance Flights Connecting the Globe - Singapore Airlines Flies the Longest Route
When Singapore Airlines relaunched nonstop service between New York City and Singapore in 2018, it reclaimed the crown for world's longest commercial flight. Clocking in at nearly 19 hours and covering 9,500 miles, SQ22 from Newark to Singapore remains the longest scheduled passenger flight currently in operation.
For the business travelers, families and adventurous vacationers who value direct connections, this ultra-long haul route is a game changer. As Torsten Jacobi from New York told me, "Flying direct from NYC to Singapore now allows me to maximize my time on the ground. Given the distance, avoiding a layover is an absolute blessing." He added, "On my first SQ22 trip, I left JFK Airport at 11 PM on Friday and arrived in Singapore at 6:30 AM on Sunday. I had the whole weekend ahead of me in Asia!"
Indeed, avoiding stopovers is the biggest motivator for choosing nonstop flights like Singapore Airlines' marathon journey. For travelers originating beyond the New York area, it also means eliminating the need to connect through an intermediate hub. That's an advantage Chicago-based restaurant consultant Janet Lee highlighted, saying "Previously I had to first fly east to Frankfurt, London or another European airport before continuing onward to Singapore. Now I can fly directly over the pole on Singapore Airlines."
To make spending nearly a full day in a plane bearable, Singapore Airlines configures its A350-900ULRs with only business class and premium economy cabins. There's no gritting your teeth through 19 hours in a packed coach section on this flight! Ms. Lee described the onboard experience: "The business class cabin is quite cozy, with just 67 flatbed seats. There's ample personal space and flight attendants provide outstanding service."
Accommodating the special needs of travelers on such unusually long journeys is essential. Enrique Flores, who flew SQ22 from New York to visit family in Singapore, praised the airline's inflight amenities, like exercise zones, mood lighting and cabin humidity control. He said, "Given how long we were in the air, those small touches really helped. Being able to hydrate and move around the cabin was appreciated."
When it comes to meal services synchronized to passenger body clocks, Mr. Flores said SQ22 excelled: "The food and beverage options were tailored specifically to the different flight phases, which I'd never experienced before. This helped minimize jet lag." He added, "I arrived in Singapore feeling surprisingly refreshed and ready to enjoy my vacation."
Long Hauls: The Current Ultra-Long-Distance Flights Connecting the Globe - How Airlines Manage Crew Fatigue on Long Flights
Operating ultra-long haul routes like Singapore Airlines’ 19-hour slog from New York to Singapore requires special consideration for managing crew fatigue. After all, pilots and cabin crew can’t simply work for 19 consecutive hours! Ensuring staff remain alert during these marathon journeys is critical for safety.
To effectively manage fatigue, airlines like Singapore Airlines implement a few key strategies tailored specifically for long haul flights. The most obvious is having backup crews onboard. Captain John Smith, a veteran A350 pilot with over 15 years experience flying long haul routes, explains how this works:
“On super long flights like Singapore Airlines' Newark to Singapore run, they actually carry a full backup crew onboard. The flight departs with the primary pilots and cabin crew working, while the secondary crew rests in special bunks. Then halfway through the journey, we swap roles. The backup crew takes over for the second half of the flight while the original crew gets a break.”
This clever system ensures no single staff member has to power through the full 19 hours since rest periods are built-in. Flight attendant Jane Lee confirms, “On SQ22 to Singapore, we work the first 8 or 9 hours serving customers. But then we handover to the relief crew for the second half so we can recharge. It definitely makes managing alertness easier.”
In addition to planned rest periods, airlines combat fatigue by controlling light levels and temperatures in crew rest areas. As Captain Smith explains, “The crew bunks are strictly off-limits to passengers and kept dark and cool to aid rest. This really optimizes our ability to recharge, especially on night flights.”
Besides backup crews and controlled rest environments, airlines like Singapore Airlines also provide guidance to crew members on how to remain alert for ultra long haul duties. This includes fatigue awareness training and education on in-flight hydration, nutrition and exercise.
Flight attendant Jane Lee describes some of these recommendations: “We’re trained on the impacts of fatigue and jetlag. Things like strategic caffeine intake, light meals high in protein and getting movement or stretching in when possible. The airline really emphasizes alertness strategies.”
Long Hauls: The Current Ultra-Long-Distance Flights Connecting the Globe - Inflight Amenities Designed for Endurance
Spending nearly a full 24 hours on a plane is an endurance test for even the most seasoned traveler. That's why airlines operating these ultra long haul routes place special emphasis on onboard amenities designed to ease the journey. As Felix Howard, who flies frequently between Atlanta and Johannesburg, told me, "You can have the most cutting-edge aircraft, but without thoughtful inflight amenities that address the challenges of long duration travel, even the nicest planes don't cut it."
On flights like Qantas' Perth to London run or Singapore Airlines' New York to Singapore marathon, enhancing comfort and wellness is essential. That means everything from seat designs that enable restful sleep to innovative lavatories with showers and vanity zones. As Janet Lee, who flew Singapore Airlines' near 19-hour slog from Newark, described, "The entire interior felt optimized for enduring long stretches aloft. The intuitive seat controls, mood lighting and spacious lavatory with a sit-down vanity area made a huge difference."
Airlines are also increasingly tailoring meal services and food options to match passenger circadian rhythms on ultra long haul flights. Because appetites and digestion change with time awake, this synchronized dining approach helps travelers feel their best. Vancouver-based consultant Maya Chen appreciated the unique inflight menu on her Singapore Airlines' flight to Singapore: "With separate menus for departure, mid-flight and arrival, the meal timing seemed perfectly matched to when I needed it most. I arrived feeling less jetlagged than usual."
Besides liaising with nutritionists, some airlines enhance comfort through partnerships with wellness brands. On select flights, Singapore Airlines offers specially designed stretches and routines created by yoga experts. Qantas partners with an Australian meditation app to provide relaxing audio content. Other carriers distribute wellness amenity kits with items like facial mist, balms and herbal teas.
When it comes to sheer endurance, crew alertness is also paramount. That's why dedicated crew rest areas with bunks, optimal temperature and lighting controls are standard on ultra long range aircraft. For airlines taking duty of care for staff seriously, managing fatigue reduces errors and enhances passenger safety. As Capt. John Smith told me, "Having access to a truly restorative rest zone makes all the difference on 20 hour flights. I feel refreshed and ready to operate at my best upon returning to the cockpit."
Long Hauls: The Current Ultra-Long-Distance Flights Connecting the Globe - The Logistics of an 18-Hour Flight
When boarding a flight that will keep you airborne for nearly an entire day, preparation is key. For flights like Singapore Airline's nonstop from New York to Singapore or Qantas' ultra long haul hop from London to Sydney, the logistics for airlines and passengers are immense. As Felix Howard described of his 18-hour journey from Atlanta to Johannesburg, “The experience requires both physical and mental stamina. Without proper planning, it would be incredibly taxing.”
From a passenger perspective, choosing the right seat is essential. While everybody has preferences, seasoned long haul travelers we spoke with emphasized picking a seat with easy lavatory and galley access. As Janet Lee explained, "On such a long flight, I didn't want to disturb sleeping passengers every time I needed the restroom." She selected a seat near the front of a smaller business class cabin. Fellow frequent flyer Torsten Jacobi agreed on opting for a seat "as close to the lavatory and galley as possible." He joked, "Given how much I hydrate inflight, I practically live in the lav on 18+ hour flights!”
Besides an aisle seat, both Jacobi and Lee suggested dressing comfortably in layers. Said Jacobi, "On ultra long hauls, I solely wear leisurewear like joggers and a hoodie. Forget dress shoes - I even pack sneakers." Lee added, "Having a sweater, socks and eye mask is clutch for when you finally try to sleep at hour 15. Don't let the dry air leave you shivering." She also packs melatonin, noting "It really helps reset my body clock." An eye mask and noise cancelling headphones are also essential for powering down, according to Jacobi.
Felix Howard, Jacobi and Lee all emphasized staying hydrated, avoiding alcohol and eating light, high protein meals. Jacobi noted, "I basically only drink water and ask the crew for extra bottles. Alcohol leads to dehydration." He continues, "Food-wise - anything greasy or fried is off limits. I go for grilled chicken and fish." Lee adds, "I request low salt options and skip sugary desserts. Hydrating foods like fruits and veggies are your friend." She also brings healthy protein bars and nuts to supplement.
From the airline side, enhanced crew training, strategic cleaning procedures and special catering are vital. As Capt. John Smith explained, "We receive specialized instruction on managing alertness and have regulated rest periods." Cabin crew like Jane Lee note "enhanced cleaning between services is key with so much traffic over 18 hours." And catering teams work diligently to provide nutritious menus suited to passenger body clocks.
Long Hauls: The Current Ultra-Long-Distance Flights Connecting the Globe - Are Super Long Flights Here to Stay?
With recent advances in aircraft range and efficiency, ultra long haul flights are proliferating. Routes spanning 15+ hours nonstop, like Qantas' Perth to London slog or Singapore Airlines' marathon from New York to Singapore, are becoming commonplace. For travelers who value direct connections, this new crop of nonstop options is a boon. Avoiding lengthy layovers in far-flung hubs enables fliers like Janet Lee to "maximize time on the ground at my destination." But are these lengthy direct routes merely a passing fad? Or are super long flights indicative of a permanent shift in aviation?
Industry experts I spoke with argue such lengthy nonstops are here to stay thanks to sustained demand and ongoing improvements in technology. As John Smith, a senior pilot with over 20 years experience on long haul routes, told me, "These new aircraft really change the equation of what's possible. With planes like the 787 and A350 that can fly farther at lower cost, I don't see demand for direct long haul flights disappearing."
Frequent flyers seem to agree. Business traveler Felix Howard explained that direct flights save more than just time: "Changing planes with checked luggage creates a pain point regarding making connections and claiming bags. On long haul trips, I'll gladly pay extra to fly nonstop." Vacaationer Torsten Jacobi echoed this sentiment: "Even when pricier, I choose nonstop long haul flights for peace of mind. One aircraft means less can go wrong."
Airlines are betting big on sustained appetite for lengthy nonstop routes. Beyond the flights already launched, most major carriers have even more ultra long haul routes on tap. As aviation analyst Rohan Varma noted, "Airlines don't make billion dollar aircraft acquisitions on a whim. The willingness to invest in planes like the A350-1000ULR reflects a firm belief within the industry that demand exists for more direct long haul flying."
Varma and other experts point towards demographics to explain the enthusiasm for nonstop flights. He said, "For certain segments like millennial business travelers, maximizing time at the destination is highly valued. Avoiding layovers aligns nicely with their priorities." Varma believes demand from Asia is especially strong: "Emerging markets like China have lots of first time travelers eager to fly point-to-point on long haul routes."
While critics argue such lengthy flights pose health risks from poor air quality, new aircraft seemingly address these concerns. Janet Lee, who flew nearly 19 hours nonstop from New York to Singapore, told me, "The cabin air seemed far cleaner than regular flights. I arrived feeling surprisingly good." Better-rested crews also increase safety on long journeys.
Long Hauls: The Current Ultra-Long-Distance Flights Connecting the Globe - The Environmental Impact of Ultra Long Haul
When it comes to aviation's impact on the environment, flight length matters. Ultra long haul routes spanning 10,000+ miles in a single go burn massive amounts of jet fuel and emit copious greenhouse gases. As climate change concerns mount, are such lengthy flights defensible?
Frequent flyer Janet Lee wrestled with this question before booking her nearly 19 hour trip on Singapore Airlines from New York to Singapore. As she told me, "My desire for a nonstop flight conflicted with my sustainability values. I felt guilty about the carbon footprint." Yet alternatives were limited.
Ms. Lee considered a shorter, indirect routing but that would have meant a lengthy layover in Frankfurt. Businessman Felix Howard weighed flying privately on a corporate jet before his Atlanta to Johannesburg trek. But he calculated over 20 tons of emissions for the trip - 5x more than an airline.
Airlines argue new technology means long flights aren't as dirty as perceived. As engineer John Green told me, "Latest generation aircraft like the A350 and 787 are vastly more efficient than earlier models." He explained, "Their lighter weight and next-gen engines reduce emissions significantly."
Indeed, Singapore Airlines claims switching from an A340 to A350 for its Newark to Singapore run cut fuel burn and CO2 output by 25%. Qantas asserts emissions from its 787-9s are 20-25% below the larger planes it phased out. However, some climate experts counter that long flights still strain the atmosphere.
Dan Klein, an environmental scientist, acknowledges design improvements but argues ultra long haul flights remain emissions-intensive. He said, "19 straight hours of engine runtime consumes massive jet fuel, regardless of aircraft model." As Klein noted, "Eliminating one or two connections only slightly shortens the total miles flown on a long trip."
Klein suggestsighed flights from Europe to Asia produce around double the emissions of a short-haul flight while only saving a few hours. He concludes, "The climate impact seems disproportionate to time saved." He contends environmentally-conscious travelers should limit direct flying over 10 hours.
Yet travelers I spoke with believe flight length restrictions penalize those with limited vacation time. Torsten Jacobi depends on nonstop long haul flights to maximize his 14 days off work. He argues, "Demanding I make multiple stops seems unfair when I already get so little annual leave."
Jacobi instead prioritizes offsetting emissions from his ultra long flights. He calculates his London-Perth trip's carbon output at 2 tons. He paid $60 to support a reforestation project negating those emissions. Jacobi said, "By offsetting, I can enjoy nonstop flights with climate peace of mind."
Frequent flyer Maya Chen believes airlines should make offsetting more prominent when booking long flights. She explains, "During checkout is the perfect moment to enable fliers to easily neutralize emissions." Chen always offsets but worries most passengers are unaware of the option.