The 5 longest flights you can take – CNET

I’m weird. I like long flights. I like the idea of sitting down for a few hours, watching a movie or three and ending up on the far side of the world. I’ve taken several of the longest flights you can. And now even longer flights are possible thanks to new routes and aircraft.

And by “longest” I mean in terms of scheduled time in the air, not the raw distance. After all, isn’t the time the more important factor? You don’t feel the distance in your sore legs and tired eyeballs.

The actual distance and time can vary a lot, depending on route, winds, and ETOPS (if applicable). Plus, it’s not just a question of whether a plane can fly the distance, it’s whether it can regularly fly that distance and be profitable.

Here’s a look at the five longest flights you can take right now, plus some other interesting info. The ticket prices are for a round-trip booked one month from time of writing. I looked them up on Google Flights. In real life, prices will obviously vary a lot depending on when you book but I’ve included them for comparison.

If you’re wondering what the aircraft that fly these extended routes look like on the inside and out, check out the gallery below.

5. Abu Dhabi to Los Angeles, Etihad: 16 hours 35 minutes

There are several long flights that take about 16 and a half hours, including two from San Francisco to Singapore (United and Singapore Airlines) that are around 16 hours and 30 minutes. This Etihad flight uses a Boeing 777-200LR, a plane that you’ll see again on this list. The flight costs about $1,484 for a round-trip.

4. Dallas to Sydney, Qantas: 16 hours 50 minutes

You knew Australia would enter into this somewhere, right? I haven’t flown any long haul flights on Qantas, but I have flown them a lot around Australia. (You get lovely cookies.) Qantas flies the massive Airbus A380-800s on this route, allowing it to fly nonstop both ways — before the A380 it used a Boeing 747 and stopped in Brisbane on the way to Sydney for more fuel. Price is around $1,866 round-trip.

3. Johannesburg to Atlanta, Delta: 16 hours 55 minutes

I’ve actually done this flight. It is, by all accounts, long. In fact, if you travel all the way from LA, as I did, it’s almost exactly to the antipode. Delta uses a Boeing 777-200LR. A round-trip ticket on this flight for two months from now costs $1,137 round-trip.

2. Auckland to Dubai, Emirates: 17 hours, 25 minutes

To me, this is the most interesting flight on this list. Not for its distance or time, since there’s one that’s slightly longer, but for its size. Auckland is not a big city, but Emirates flies an A380-800 on this route with 491 seats. The flight time is list listed at 17 hours and 25 minutes, but for the year it’s offered this service the airline says the average flight time is 16 hours 57 minutes — though half of those flights were with a 777-200LR.

I haven’t flown this route, but I did fly an Emirates A380 from Dubai to London. It was massive and beautifully appointed. I also had the row to myself, which isn’t bad at all. Round-trip on the Auckland/Dubai flight when I checked was $1,729.

Here are a some pictures of the Emirates A380 that flies from SFO to Dubai.

1. Auckland to Doha, Qatar: 17 hours, 40 minutes

The current king of the long flight is Qatar, flying 9,031 miles or 14,534km. It lasts a watch-the-entire-Star-Wars-saga-long 17 hours and 40 minutes. The aircraft on this flight makes a bit more sense than the similar Emirates flight as Qatar uses a smaller Boeing 777-200LR with 259 seats. This was also the most expensive flight on this list: $2,486 round-trip.

The future

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Airbus A350-900ULR in SA livery.

Airbus

You’ve probably heard of different, even longer routes. The ones above are those that you can fly right now, but even longer flights are on the horizon (so to speak). Some of these include Qantas flying from Perth direct to London, the first time these two countries would be connected by a nonstop flight, which is scheduled to begin in 2018. Qantas has also said it’s pushing Boeing and Airbus to give them aircraft options that can fly from Sydney to London, profitably, within the next five years. That’d be pretty amazing.

And which aircraft might be able to handle these new ultra-long routes? The upcoming A350-900ULR for one. It’s going to allow Singapore Airlines to resume (and presumably not lose money on) nonstop New York to Singapore flights, taking around 19 hours. The upcoming Boeing 777X-8 with its folding wing tips will have a similar range and even greater passenger capacity.

boeing-777x-9.jpgboeing-777x-9.jpg

A Boeing 777X-9. The longer distance -8 will be about 22ft/7m shorter but still have folding wingtips.

Boeing

What’s perhaps most interesting about the expansion of long-haul flights is how they’re revolutionizing the air travel industry. Thanks to more fuel-efficient aircraft such as the Boeing 787, Airbus A330neo and upcoming A350 updates, new “long and skinny” or “long and thin” routes are possible. This means long flights between two smaller markets that don’t make economic sense when you need to fill a 777 or 380. Examples of long and skinny routes include Tel Aviv to San Francisco, Boston to Beijing, Stockholm to Oakland, and so on. These long-haul efficient planes have led to the birth of budget long-distance airlines such as Norwegian and WOW — think Southwest or Ryan Air, but for long distances.

Expect to see more of these types of airlines and routes in the future, offering inexpensive flights from smaller cities to destinations on a continent far, far away. How cool is that?


In his alternate life as a travel writer, Geoff does tours of cool museums and locations around the world including nuclear submarines, medieval castles, iconic music studios and more. You can follow his exploits on Twitter and Instagram, and on his travel blog BaldNomad. He also wrote a bestselling sci-fi novel. Got a tour-worthy spot you think he should check out? Let him know!

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