Our directory of things of interest

University Directory

The Long Haul: are the world’s cities getting closer?

Emirates’ long-haul record was soon overtaken by Qatar’s Doha-to-Auckland route. But how long will the latest record last? Emirates’ long-haul record was soon overtaken by Qatar’s Doha-to-Auckland route. But how long will the latest record last?
28 Mar
2017
The new ‘world’s longest flight’ now spans a distance of more than 9,000 miles, from Doha to Auckland. But is there any limit to aviation’s global connectivity?

Seat backs raised, tray tables folded, bags under the seat in front of you. Seeing the world from the comfort of a jumbo jet has never been easier, and worldwide aviation numbers are booming. A record 3.7 billion passengers undertook flights in 2016, according to International Air Transport Association (IATA) figures.

Flight lengths also continue to increase. October 2016 saw the Emirates Dubai-to-Auckland service become the world’s longest – at 8,824 miles. Yet this record was soon broken by over 200 miles, when Gulf competitor Qatar Airways launched its Doha-to-Auckland route in February. Competition over this prestigious title looks set to remain high, with Qantas planning to launch a 9,000-mile London-to-Perth flight, the first non-stop route between the UK and Australia, and Singapore Airlines expected to resume its 9,500-mile service to New York in 2018. Are these record-breaking flight paths indicators of a world becoming smaller and more globalised than ever before?

‘It’s only a relatively small number of flights,’ points out Lucy Budd, Senior Lecturer in Air Transport at Loughborough University. ‘If you look at the total number of departures, it’s tiny. And the aircraft themselves aren’t flying any faster, because they’re not going supersonic.’

But the difference is they’re more fuel efficient; you can go further with the same amount of fuel. In that sense you could argue that it is accelerating time-space compression.

Budd highlights that these record-breaking flights stand in sharp contrast to the boom in low-cost carriers, particularly across Europe and Asia. ‘The industry’s really interesting at the moment,’ she explains, ‘because you seem to have this polarisation between the rush to the very long-haul, point-to-point routes, which have been enabled by new aircraft such as the Boeing 777-200 LR [‘long range’] and Airbus as well, doing the really long-haul routes and breaking records. And at the other end, the low-cost airlines are much more about the short-haul; pack them in, operate loads of different flights, keep the fares down, and stimulate demand that way.’

She adds that while these new long-haul aircraft are now fully capable of flying well over 10,000 miles without needing to refuel, whether passengers would actually prefer to spend up to 18 hours in the air on a single flight is another question altogether.

This was published in the April 2017 edition of Geographical magazine.

Related items

Geographical Week

Get the best of Geographical delivered straight to your inbox every Friday.

LATEST HEADLINES

Subscribe to Geographical!

University of Winchester

EDUCATION PARTNERS

Aberystwyth University University of Greenwich The University of Winchester

TRAVEL PARTNERS

Ponant

Silversea

Travel the Unknown

DOSSIERS

Like longer reads? Try our in-depth dossiers that provide a comprehensive view of each topic

  • The Human Game – Tackling football’s ‘slave trade’
    Few would argue with football’s position as the world’s number one sport. But as Mark Rowe discovers, this global popularity is masking a sinister...
    Essential oil?
    Palm oil is omnipresent in global consumption. But in many circles it is considered the scourge of the natural world, for the deforestation and habita...
    Hung out to dry
    Wetlands are vital storehouses of biodiversity and important bulwarks against the effects of climate change, while also providing livelihoods for mill...
    The Air That We Breathe
    Cities the world over are struggling to improve air quality as scandals surrounding diesel car emissions come to light and the huge health costs of po...
    When the wind blows
    With 1,200 wind turbines due to be built in the UK this year, Mark Rowe explores the continuing controversy surrounding wind power and discusses the e...

MORE DOSSIERS

NEVER MISS A STORY - Follow Geographical on Social

Want to stay up to date with breaking Geographical stories? Join the thousands following us on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram and stay informed about the world.

More articles in PLACES...

Deserts

Biosphere 2 was one of the most ambitious experiments in…

Forests

High-quality, affordable drones can revolutionise the way that landscape and…

Mapping

Benjamin Hennig charts the impact of volcanoes on nearby human…

Mapping

A volunteer-led digital mapping project is at the heart of…

Cities

As the planet urbanises, attention is turning towards the most…

Forests

Palm oil is omnipresent in global consumption. But in many…

Cities

A rising number of cruise ships and their ‘overlooked’ diesel…

Mapping

Benjamin Hennig charts the growth and impact of the world’s…

Deserts

Long-term studies reveal the Sahara desert has expanded substantially over…

Water

South America’s wealthiest economy is at a crossroads between environmental…

Forests

The European Court of Justice finds the logging of a…

Mountains

In this extract from his new book, Tides, mountain climber…

Cities

New data from the World Health Organization reveals that nine…

Water

In the wake of the water crisis in Flint, Michigan,…

Mapping

Benjamin Hennig maps out the global production and distribution levels…

Water

Millions of Americans are living in areas at high-risk of…

Mapping

New interactive maps combine precipitation and temperature to show climate…

Cities

Public transport in India could be on the verge of…

Water

To retrace the route of the fur voyageurs on the waterways…

Cities

IPCC Cities and Climate Change Conference: Alberta host dresses non-renewable…