The First Nonstop Flight From Europe to Australia Is Taking Off — and It'll Be in the Air for 17 Hours
As more next-generation jets like the Boeing 787 Dreamliner and the Airbus A350 roll off the production line, airlines are pushing the boundaries of commercial air travel with longer and longer flights.
So it should come as no surprise that just three months after United shifted the rankings of the longest flights in the world by launching nonstop service between Houston and Sydney, Qantas has shaken things up again as it begins flying its much-anticipated new nonstop flight between Perth and London.
The Perth–London route is groundbreaking for a number of reasons. It becomes the first regularly scheduled nonstop commercial airline service connecting Australia and Europe. It is also the route for which Qantas’s newest aircraft, the Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner was ordered and programmed with jetlag-reducing features to make the 17-plus hours in the air more bearable. (If you're wondering what it will be like on this flight, here's how Qantas is making it comfortable.) Qantas Group CEO Alan Joyce explained, “We designed the seats with more space since we know it’s ultra long-haul.”
That’s a good thing, because Qantas is already negotiating with Boeing and Airbus to figure out ways newer aircraft might make even longer journeys possible within the next decade. The airline is considering possibilities like Sydney to London, Melbourne to New York, and Brisbane to Paris, any of which would easily hit the 20-hour mark.
“We keep on pushing these horizons,” Joyce said. “When we first started flying 14 hours across the Pacific, people thought it was a bit long, but they embraced that. People will embrace this one and eventually being able to fly directly between these destinations.”
Until then, Perth–London will be Qantas’s longest route, beating out the airline’s current flights between Dallas and Sydney. Qantas Flight 9 departs Perth at 6:45 p.m. and arrives at London Heathrow at 5:05 a.m. the following morning. Qantas Flight 10 departs London Heathrow at 1:15 p.m. and arrives back in Perth the next day at 1:00 p.m.. Passengers will be on board for 17 hours, 20 minutes on the outbound, and 16 hours, 45 minutes on the return, over a distance of 9,010 miles each way.
Qantas’s 787-9 Dreamliner has a total of 236 seats including 42 of the airline’s latest business class lie-flats in a 1–2–1 configuration so every passenger has direct-aisle access. Each is roomy at 24 inches wide and reclines to a bed that is 80 inches long. Each also has its own 16-inch entertainment screen, USB and AC power ports, and stylish wood finishes.
The premium economy section has just 28 seats in a 2–3–2 layout. Each is 20.5 inches wide, has 38 inches of pitch and reclines to nine-and-a-half inches with netted footrests for ergonomic relaxation. Their entertainment screens are 13.3 inches wide and each seat has five small stowage areas for items like tablets, passports and water bottles.
The back two cabins comprise economy, with a total of 166 seats. Arranged in a 3–3–3 configuration, these seats are 17.2 inches wide, have 32 inches of pitch and recline six inches. They feature 12-inch entertainment screens, integrated mood lighting and personal device holders so passengers can also enjoy content on their own devices.
Among the jet lag-fighting features specific to the Dreamliner are better pressurization and humidity and windows that are up to 65-percent larger than those on conventional aircraft – all possible thanks to the aircraft’s construction using strong plastic composites. In the cabin, passengers will notice dynamic lighting programs jointly designed by Qantas and Boeing to help passengers’ circadian rhythms sync with the destination time zone faster. The airline’s chef partner, Neil Perry of Australia’s Rockpool Dining Group, has designed all-new menus and service timing to help nudge passengers’ internal clocks toward the time zone in their destination, too.
At time of writing, tickets for the inaugural flight were still available in economy for $1,099 one-way, or $1,428 round-trip. Premium economy and business class were sold out, though later in March and in April, fares dipped to $3,734 in premium economy and $5,139 in business class round-trip.
Now that Qantas’s flight is taking off, here are the new rankings of the top 10 longest flights in the world as of March 24, 2018. Though we normally rank these flights by duration, we are changing things up this time and sorting them by flight distance.
Flight distance remains relatively constant (give or take a few maneuvers to avoid rough air, storms, or conflict zones). However, flight times can vary widely, even on the same route. This has to do with factors like the type of aircraft flying a route, which can change, as well as airport traffic, seasonal headwinds and more.
Because of those discrepancies and the frequency with which airline schedules change, we used distance as our main metric instead.
The 10 Longest Flights in the World
1. Qatar Airways: Auckland – Doha
Distance: 9,032 miles
Flight time: 18 hours, 5 minutes
2. Qantas: Perth – London
Distance: 9,010 miles
Flight time: 17 hours, 20 minutes
3. Emirates: Auckland – Dubai
Flight time: 17 hours, 5 minutes
4. United: Los Angeles – Singapore
Distance: 8,770 miles
Flight time: 17 hours, 50 minutes
5. United: Houston – Sydney
Distance: 8,596 miles
Flight time: 17 hours, 30 minutes
6. Qantas: Dallas Ft. Worth – Sydney
Distance: 8,578 miles
Flight time: 17 hours, 15 minutes
7. United and Singapore Airlines: San Francisco – Singapore
Distance: 8,447 miles
Flight time: 17 hours, 5 minutes (United), 16 hours, 40 minutes (Singapore Airlines)
8. Delta: Johannesburg – Atlanta
Distance: 8,436 miles
Flight time: 16 hours, 50 minutes
9. Etihad: Abu Dhabi – Los Angeles
Distance: 8,390 miles
Flight time: 16 hours, 30 minutes
10. Emirates: Dubai – Los Angeles
Distance: 8,339 miles
Flight time: 16 hours
Special case: Air India: San Francisco – New Delhi
Distance: While the polar route Air India usually follows on this flight covers 7,707 miles, the airline sometimes takes advantage of strong tailwinds to fly via the Pacific instead, covering a distance of 9,507 miles in less time than the shorter flight path.
Flight time: 15 hours, 55 minutes to 16 hours, 30 minutes
We might not have long to wait until the rankings shift again. Singapore Airlines has proposed resuming its services from Singapore to both Los Angeles and New York City once it takes delivery of specially configured ultra-long-range Airbus A350-900ULR jets. So stay tuned.