It’s only March, but attention is already turning to next year for the people working on Project Sunrise - the ambitious Qantas plan for a non-stop flight from Sydney to London and New York operated with A350s in a low-density configuration. New seats have already been publicised, with the now classic private suite concept in the two premium cabins, and Qantas has secured a new lounge facility in Heathrow as their plans for a super luxury product are slowly released. These exciting developments got us thinking about how much the longest non-stop flight has increased in the last twenty years, and it’s some distance!
But first, a note on the qualifying criteria for inclusion in our table of the longest non-stop flights since 1997: many airlines operate short-term, sometimes charter flights with a scheduled prefix, but some of those obscure flights are not included here as we have only counted services that operated at least twice weekly throughout the calendar year.
The World's Longest Flight Routes
There are certainly some patterns to the data and some interesting insights. Perhaps one of the biggest is the increase in actual distance since 1997 when the longest route was 6,925 miles, this year the longest will be 8,279 miles; a 32% increase in range. Even more incredible, the New York JFK – Singapore sector will be operated by a twin-engine A350 in 2023, whereas all those years ago it took a four-engine aircraft to operate that distance. Some of the more ‘mature’ amongst you will remember that the northbound sector for South African Airways we see at the top of this table, made a refueling stop on its way to New York.
Which Airline Has the Longest Flight Route in the World in 2023?
Singapore Airlines are the ‘masters’ of long-haul, non-stop services - in sixteen of the twenty-seven years analysed they have operated the longest flight route. And in recent years, a few miles difference in sector length between their Newark (EWR-SIN) and JFK (JFK-SIN) services, gives them the two longest non-stop routes in the world.
What is surprising from the analysis - given their records of innovation and market creation - is that both Emirates and Qatar Airways only appear once in the list in 2016 and 2017 respectively (both with Auckland as the end destination). Positively from a sustainability perspective, since 2017 the longest non-stop service has always been operated by a twin-engined aircraft type highlighting the technological advancements the industry continues to make every year.
Over the twenty-seven years, New York features an incredible nineteen times in the list of longest flight routes. The longest consecutive route is the Newark (EWR)- Singapore Changi (SIN) service from 2004 through to 2013 on the A340; it may be a bit of a slow aircraft, but it could certainly fly some distance! Indeed, for 25 years the United States featured in the longest non-stop routes, a remarkable statistic that highlights the power of the US international market for airlines generally.
Will 2024 See the Longest-Ever Flight?
Given the US market presence, missing from this list of airlines are any from the United States or Europe, perhaps for domiciled carriers in those markets there are enough shorter-haul routes of interest. The whole contest of the world’s longest non-stop route always grabs the attention of travelers, and in 2024 we will probably see the launch of what will be the final record-breaker for the longest-ever non-stop flight: Sydney-London at 9,190 Nautical Miles will claim the prize...at least until Air New Zealand and Auckland try their luck!
Below is a mapped visual of the longest non-stop scheduled flight routes. This shows the longest routes from 1997-2023 with Sydney to London Heathrow added as a 'question mark' for becoming the longest route in 2024. Data source: OAG Schedules Analyser.