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
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.

Share this story...

Submit to FacebookSubmit to Google PlusSubmit to Twitter

Related items

Leave a comment

ONLY registered members can leave comments and each comment is held pending authorisation before publishing. Please login or register to voice your opinion.

Geographical Week

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

Subscribe Today


Aberystwyth UniversityUniversity of GreenwichThe University of Winchester




Travel the Unknown


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

  • Diabetes: The World at Risk
    Diabetes is often thought of as a ‘western’ problem, one linked to the developed world’s overindulgence in fatty foods and chronic lack of physi...
    National Clean Air Day
    For National Clean Air Day, Geographical brings together stories about air pollution and the kind of solutions needed to tackle it ...
    REDD+ or Dead?
    The UN-backed REDD+ (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation) scheme, under which developing nations would be paid not to cut dow...
    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...
    The true cost of meat
    As one of the world’s biggest methane emitters, the meat industry has a lot more to concern itself with than merely dietary issues ...


NEVER MISS A STORY - follow Geographical

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...


HSBC has requested a Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil investigation…


Benjamin Hennig explores visions of a world made bright by humanity


The EU has asked the European court to authorise an…


Was last year’s El Niño a practice run for future…


Far from being separate threats, scientists have found links between…


Is the official height of Mount Everest accurate?


Where in the world is the highest density of languages?…


The next stage in autonomous vehicles is hoping to transform…


Geographical’s resident data cartographer presents a true picture of the…


What impact could an unprecedented incident of ‘river piracy’ have…


Norway is to undercut a mountainous peninsula to create the…


Benjmain Hennig explores global mortality with maps


Last winter’s cold conditions contributed a further influx of road…


As one of America’s biggest cities, supplying clean drinking water…


Cape Town’s Foreshore Freeway Bridge has been left unfinished for…


An interactive map highlights the shocking number of ongoing conflicts…


Repurposed NASA maps show the racial diversity (and segregation) of…


Benjamin Hennig maps Europe's public train networks


A new map of global landslide susceptibility reveals vast geographical…


For decades, scientists have been divided over how these eerily…