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

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...

Water

An artificial intelligence tool can predict where conflicts related to…

Water

Hundreds of historic landfill sites are at risk from erosion…

Cities

London has officially become the first of a new kind…

Mountains

A new model of the monsoon system, which dispenses with the Himalaya Mountains,…

Places

In the second of his features on the world’s geopolitical…

Water

The discovery a long ‘tongue’ of ice beneath a glacial…

Mapping

Benjamin Hennig explains two cartograms which demonstrate the global water…

Places

Get on your bike with this collection of stories to…

Water

The Brown Bank a haven for marine life in the…

Forests

The first payment under the Redd+ scheme to conserve tropical…

Places

In the first of a series on geopolitical curiosities and…

Cities

A socioecological model is predicting the areas of major US…

Mapping

Following the collapse of the upstream tailings dam in Brumadinho,…

Mapping

The domestication of animals for food, secondary products, labour and…

Cities

Strap in for a newer, greener experience in virtual city…

Water

A major investment in data collection along the Nile could…

Forests

Several factors are contributing to extreme deforestation in Haiti, with…

Cities

Illegal wells are depleting groundwater basins beneath Tehran causing it…

Mapping

Mapping the trade war between the US and China and…

Mapping

Check out this superb selection of mapping books - ideal…