The Rise of 20-Hour Long Flights

The Rise of 20-Hour Long Flights

This video was made possible by Squarespace. Build your website for 10% at 17 years ago, an aviation frontier was broken. Just before noon on March 1, 2001 a Continental
Airlines 777 lifted off from frosty Newark Airport across the river from New York City. It tracked north over the US, then Canada,
then just kept flying north until north became south. It flew south over Russia, then Mongolia,
then mainland China before setting down at Chek Lap Kok Airport in Hong Kong after 16
hours. With that, there was a new longest flight
in the world. The two cities had never before been connected
by non-stop commercial flights. This was at the time a momentous achievement—all
the business travelers making frequent trips between the two financial centers badly wanted
this quicker flight—but you may be surprised that such a flight was an achievement so recently. Nowadays, non-stop New York to Hong Kong flights
are far from exceptional. Five planes carrying more than 1,000 passengers
total fly non-stop daily between the two cities and nowadays, this route doesn’t even crack
the list of the top 20 longest flights in the world. Especially in the past three years, there’s
been a noticeable and dramatic rise in the number of ultra-long haul flights. Among the ten longest non-stop flights, the
one on this list that’s existed the longest, since 2009, is Delta’s daily service from
Johannesburg to Atlanta—the only flight by an American airline to South Africa. In 2016 United started non-stop flights between
San Francisco and Singapore—ending an era during which there were no non-stop connections
between the two countries. Just recently in October, 2018 Philippine
Airlines began flying from Manila to New York non-stop on their new a350. In 2014, Qantas starting flying non-stop in
both directions from Sydney to Dallas—then the longest flight in the world. In early 2018 United added another connection
to down under with their route from Houston to Sydney. Singapore Airlines added another US connection
in November 2018 flying to Los Angeles and Emirates has operated the longest nonstop
a380 flight in the world from Dubai to Auckland since 2016. Qantas started the first and currently only
non-stop connection between Australia and Europe in March, 2018 with their daily dreamliner
service from Perth to London and Qatar operates what was until recently the longest non-stop
flight from Doha all the way to Auckland. Lastly, the longest flight in the world, confidently
beating the runner up by over 500 miles, is the newly launched daily Singapore Airlines
flight between Singapore and Newark clocking in at 9,534 miles and up to 19 hours of flight
time depending on winds. Eight of the ten flights on this list were
launched in the past three years. While it can be expected that as technology
advances airplane range will get longer, there’s been a noticeable acceleration in the addition
of non-stop routes between earth’s furthest city pairs. Like any phenomenon, this has causes and effects. One factor driving this surge in ultra-long
haul flights is the release of two new planes in the past decade—the a350 and 787. Six of the ten longest routes are flown by
one of these two planes. Now, planes have existed before that could
fly the routes these fly but they weren’t as economical. Singapore Airlines previously flew the world’s
longest flight from Singapore to Newark from 2004 until 2014 on the a340 but its high fuel
consumption forced them to cancel the route as soon as oil prices ticked up. To fly fewer passengers a shorter maximum
distance, an a340 uses 35% more fuel than the a350. Economics is everything with the world’s
longest routes. The truth is that flying a non-stop flight
from Singapore to New York uses more fuel than flying a stopping service from Singapore
to Tokyo to New York. Now, this might seem counterintuitive since
planes use far more fuel per minute taking off than they do in cruise and flying nonstop
requires one take off instead of two but that’s failing to consider that it uses fuel to carry
fuel. With a 777-200, for example, flying 800 nautical
miles will use about 30.6 pounds of fuel per mile. That pounds per mile average decreases up
until reaching a total flight distance of about 3,000 nautical miles. Beyond that, the pound per mile figure increases
up until 8,000 nautical miles where the aircraft would burn 32.2 pounds of fuel per mile flown. This is because eventually, the added burn
from flying the extra fuel needed to fly long distance overtakes the extra fuel used to
take off. That means that, with this aircraft, which
is used to fly the daily 8,000 mile Qatar flight between Doha and Houston, it would
be more efficient on a fuel consumption basis to fly something like Doha to Paris, Paris
to Halifax, and Halifax to Houston rather than flying the whole trip in one go. This is part of the reason why cargo airlines
rarely fly ultra-long haul routes. While UPS has plenty enough cargo to support
a non-stop flight between their Louisville and Hong Kong hubs and the aircraft that could
fly it in one go, they fly the route with a stop in Anchorage partially for fuel saving
reasons. Of course, any time on the ground is time
that an aircraft could be in the air making money so that degrades the savings and that’s
part of why cargo airlines don’t only fly in 3,000 mile hops. Time matters for cargo airlines but not nearly
as much as it does for passenger airlines. Passenger airlines have to deal with people
which are far more sensitive to a few extra hours of travel time than boxes. Non-stop flights are typically more desirable
especially to the business traveller which is why airlines will price connecting itineraries
typically higher than non-stop ones even on short routes where the cost to the airline
of operating a connecting itinerary is higher than that of a non-stop flight. With higher costs, airlines therefore need
to justify operating non-stop flights instead of stopping ones. Singapore airlines does operate another flight
to New York via Frankfurt with a far larger a380 but the non-stop flight is primarily
operated to appeal to the business traveller who can pay more. Often, the routes with enough demand to support
ultra long-haul flights are the ones with high business traffic between big, wealthy
cities like Sydney, Singapore, Hong Kong, London, and New York. Even though Hawaii, for example, is one of
the top vacation destinations in the world, you just don’t see many long-haul flights
to it from places like London because leisure travelers are more sensitive to price and
they’d rather pay less to fly via Los Angeles rather than on a non-stop from London for
more. For this reason, on the a350’s Singapore
Airlines uses to fly to Newark, they didn’t even bother including an economy class, the
kind that leisure travelers tend to book. They only have premium economy and business
class. With the lower weight from fewer bags, seats,
and passengers the plane can fly more efficiently to the other side of the world and, from the
airlines perspective, they’re not loosing out on much since, at the prices they would
have to sell economy seats at to be competitive, they really wouldn’t be making much money
anyways. The higher margins of premium classes give
them a better shot of breaking even on this flight. Of course, the other factor contributing to
the rise of these ultra-long haul flights is the low cost of fuel. Jet fuel prices halved in 2015 and bottomed
out at a cost of only 85 cents per gallon in January 2016. Since then prices have steadily risen leading
some to question whether troubled times were ahead for the industry but prices again took
a dive in October 2018. Overall, over the past four years, prices
are lower than ever and with that fuel represents a smaller proportion of an airline’s cost
so it’s proportionally cheaper to fly longer distances. This fluctuation in fuel cost has also contributed
to the rise, and in some cases fall, of long haul budget airlines such as Norwegian Airlines,
Wow Air, and Primera Air. So we’ve established the causes of this
proliferation of ultra-long flights but what are its effects? One of the busiest long distance flows of
passengers is from Europe to Australia and New Zealand and vice versa. As two areas with close cultural and business
connections plenty of people travel between them despite it taking about 24 hours each
way. Before the turn of the century almost every
major European Airline flew to Australia via some stopping point like Bangkok, Singapore,
or Hong Kong including Air France, KLM, Lufthansa, Alitalia, and British Airways—some with
multiple daily flights. Today, though, there is only one sole flight
by a European Airlines to Australia—British Airways’ once daily flight from London to
Singapore to Sydney. Meanwhile, Qantas is the only Australian Airline
and Air New Zealand the only Kiwi airline to operate services all the way to Europe. All the airlines on each end have lost market
share to those in between—the Asian airlines. In the past few decades airlines like Emirates
and Singapore Airlines have become the most popular for those traveling between the two
areas as, if you were to fly British Airways you would have to start in Sydney and end
in London. Flying on Emirates, on the other hand, you
can start at any of their six non-stop destinations in Australia and New Zealand, connect via
Dubai, and end up at any of their dozens of European destinations with one stop. It’s just faster and often cheaper and so,
while British Airways operates seven weekly flights to Australia, Emirates operates 84
and Singapore 137. Both of these airlines and more including
Cathay Pacific, Etihad, and Qatar Airways have become experts in operating connecting
flights between Europe and Australasia. But the reason they’re able to do this is
because you have to stop on these routes anyways—it’s too far for non-stop flights. Or rather, it used to be. Since March, 2018, number three on that list
of longest flights is Qantas’ new non-stop flight from Perth to London. Many were skeptical when this flight launched
that customers would prefer it to a one-stop option where they could pay less and stretch
their legs halfway through their trip but the data proves otherwise. Since launch, 92% of available seats on this
route have been sold. This is an exceptionally good load factor,
as its called, as Qantas’ average load factor for international flights is only 84%. For this reason Qantas is strongly considering
launching other non-stop European routes from Perth to Paris and Frankfurt. In addition, other airlines are looking at
starting new non-stop routes from Europe to Australia. Founder Richard Branson has said that Virgin
Atlantic is looking to start non-stop flights from London to Perth, “as soon as possible.” Turkish Airlines, based in Istanbul, is technically
still a European Airline, even if it’s just miles from the border with Asia, and it’s
set to become to first airline to start flying non-stop from Europe to Sydney if it follows
through with its announced plans to launch these flights in 2019 with its new 787 dreamliners. While the once daily Qantas flight is doing
little to cut into the Asian carrier’s profits right now, if more and more flights start
bypassing the Asian hubs, the major connecting airlines could be given a run for their money. Meanwhile, the race is on to see who will
start flying what is perhaps the most valuable route in the world that doesn’t yet have
a non-stop connection—Sydney to London. Chance are the first will be Qantas. A number of years ago, Qantas challenged aircraft
manufacturers Boeing and Airbus to create a plane that could fly the 21 hour non-stop
flight fully loaded all the way to London. The manufacturers are close to delivering
and Qantas has said they will make their decision between the Airbus a350-1000ULR or Boeing
777-8 by the end of 2019. From there, flights would start in 2022 or
2023 not only on the Sydney to London route, but also potentially from Melbourne and Brisbane
and to New York and Paris. Being the airline of choice for Australians,
perhaps no airline globally has a better shot at making a 21 hour non-stop flight work than
Qantas. With the arrival of the newest set of planes,
airlines can now fly as far as 11,000 miles non-stop. That means that nearly every populated point
on earth can feasibly be connected by non-stop flights. With more technological advancements on their
way, absolutely every point on earth will soon be reachable non-stop. What that means is that the only factors now
restricting the development of ultra-long haul flights are economic, not technological. In many ways, the question of whether this
trend of the proliferation of ultra-long hauls is up to the mercy of fuel prices. If they stay low, we’ll have more and more
18, 19, or 20 hour flights while if they go up, you can be sure that airlines will cancel
these routes in droves. While the planes are not flying any faster,
they’re getting passengers to their destination in less time so these new non-stop routes
to the other side of the world are helping to make the world just a little bit smaller,
one flight at a time. If you have an idea for a business, whether
it just be just you as a freelancer or the next Fortune 500 company, one of the first
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same link will get you 10% off and you’ll be supporting the show while you’re at it. Also, on my other channel, Half as Interesting,
I just released a video on the longest duration non-stop flight to ever exist—the 32 hour
flight Qantas flew from Perth to Sri Lanka during WWII in order to reconnect the empire. Click the annotation on-screen to check that
out and I’ll see you again in two weeks with another Wendover Productions video.

100 thoughts on “The Rise of 20-Hour Long Flights”

  • Wendover Productions says:

    As I mentioned at the end, I also did a video on the longest duration commercial flight in the world on my other channel, Half as Interesting–a little collaboration with myself. Check that video out here:

  • “…have to deal with people, which are far more sensitive to a few more hours of travel time than boxes.”


    My flat screen tv: COME ON I AINT GOT ALL DAY BUB

  • A 20hr flight will really destroy Etihad, Emirates and the like. Nobody wants to stop there. Singapore is interesting, HK the same, but the Middle East is just skippable.

  • So, somebody thinks this is an achievement but i can tell you through personal experience, these flights are hell…unless of course, you don't mind coughing up $25,000 so you can lie down and be pretentious about the wine and the tiny little plates of food. It's just absurd.

  • The longest Flight I ever took was London to Miami. I had no problem with that but I don't know if I could endure more than double that on a plane maybe first class but I wouldn't be able to afford that.

  • Just got off a 16-hour flight with a stop in Taiwan, in economy, hated it… But thank you for the explanation on the economic aspects of long flights. I always thought it would be cheaper to fly non-stop.

  • I've done the Sydney-Dallas flight a couple of years ago, made worse by a mad run to clear customs, run to the other terminal, and try to get a connecting flight to Mexico at the end…you're a puddle of human at the end of it.

    I still think the goal is an electric motor for take-off, with the fuel engines kicking in at cruising altitude. The fuel sources can act as a safety reserve for each other, plus you're not burning massive fuel during thrust. It would also allow for additional range.
    I'm sure they already have a prototype of this working, but just throwing it out there.

  • Everybody pissing and moaning about being in Economy for 16+ hours and saying they fly Premium Economy or Business – remember, you're in a metal tube in the sky with 2 people controlling your destiny – i'm just happy to make it to the other end.

  • it's strange, but i personally prefer a flight where you get to stop halfway. the change in pace and another set of takeoff and landing just make the journey less boring

  • FastCarsNoRules220 says:

    20 hours? I only flew a 12 hour flight from Manila to Los Angeles once in my life, back when my family and I were migrating from Singapore to Canada, and I already feel like I don't want to go back to Asia anymore just because I couldn't handle it…

  • I think we're good on distance, we need to figure out how to make these trips quicker. Flying is like being in a bus. Even a 2 hour flight is enough to drive you mad

  • Robert Burnett says:

    Any flight over 4-5 hours means premium econ. for me. No nudging of elbows and leg relief. I have a modest income. But worth the extra dollars.

  • Robert Burnett says:

    By the way, airline speeds haven't increased in 50-60 years. And airport boarding had increased by hours. Example…"Cheers", 1980s: Sam had just one hour to get to the Boston airport. A friend said, "You have time, Sam ". Wow.

  • This is so ungreen. What would Greta Thornberg say? They also need a stretch version that trades some range for increased capacity, since carrying 4000 miles of fuel is not fuel efficient, so planes should refuel within 2000 miles whenever possible. This also allows passengers to stretch their legs, thereby reducing legroom requirements, which again increases efficiency.

  • Phillip Mulligan says:

    Every time I see a video of hypersonic flights that last 20 minutes from New York to Melbourne on YouTube, I just laugh. If they only know how astronomically expensive such a flight would be to operate as a transportation company. The complexity and logistics of such hypersonic vehicles are on a different planet. It would make a flight on a private chartered luxury business jet super cheap. Supersonic travel is ultra expensive due to extra fuel and frequent highly specialized maintenance. Hypersonic ballistic flights would be impossibly expensive except for the very few billionaires. Such hypersonic vehicles are best used for pushing booster payloads into orbit, not from surface to surface destinations. The costs would be absurd.

  • After I watching this video, I finally figure out of some reasons here. Why Emirates can't launch flights from Dubai to Panama? Firstly, distance from Dubai to Panama is 13821km or about 8200 miles. That means it's a long haul flight for Emirates, about 17h 35m for direct flight. Secondly, Panama City is a main leisure destinations in Central America, not for business destinations. While Dubai is a mixing city between business and leisure destinations, I don't think their flight could it work for Emirates because flying in economy class on ultra long haul flights is notoriously expensive especially leisure budget travellers. We will noticed that economy class on ultra long haul route will be half empty. They need to make a stop via somewhere in Europe before reach to Dubai from Panama City to avoid expensive payloads. The same reason goes for Lima, Peru, which is also much further from Dubai, approximately 19 hours for direct flight.

  • Qantas is a poorly managed airline consistently losing money, and is more expensive than airlines like Singapore airlines. Their service is good though but for most price will win out

  • This is dumb!
    Staying in a plane for more than 10 hours!

    How in the hell can someone tolerate such a nuisance?!

    Long flights just seem like an inconvenience to me. Anything longer than 6 hours honestly is just not worth it. I'd take 3 short flight than a long 10+ hour flight, even if it costs me extra.

  • Arl Tratloandletmealonewithureshitads says:

    longest airtime for me was just over 26hrs, from North Germany, via Frankfurt-Singapore.Auckland… longest time in a airplane was 16hrs, in a MD-11 from KLM, Amsterdam-Lima, with fuel stop on Bonaire ( Dutch Antilles), longest fligth was also Amsterdam – Lima 14.5hrs in a 777( if i remember right)..
    best flight was in Singapore and Lufthansa A380, worst in a 767 between Paris and Philadelphia… dont ask, best food also Singapore and LH, Airfrance and KLM close behind… i flew from Cuzco to Lima, 45 mins in a airplane and i have no idea what type it was…
    most scary moments was,
    1# the moment we was on the tip our right wing, and having the touch down 5 secs later ( on my very first flight) in Paris
    2# the moment we droped 400ms in a airhole over Belguim..
    3# watching the runway we was suposed to land, from the seat next to the ile in a 767, ca the last 1 minute of the approach to the first wheel touching the runway… sidewinds.. first ever applauding in a airplane for me…. that pilot knew what he was doing…
    4# flying from Paris to Philadelphia with Airfrance, its December 2001, chatting in the transfer bus stoped everytime, when it approached a United Airlines plane ( AF and UA have a cooparation), but started again after passing it… 1 day later they arrested the guy on a BA flight with the shoe bomb, also all German aiports there close because of heavy snowing.. i didnt saw a single snowflake for 2 months…

  • LOL…As someone who's flown with Turkish, I can safely say they would not be a choice for a short-haul flight let alone a long one. hops

  • I’m not sure where you’re getting your info, but I flew nonstop from NYC (don’t recall whether JFK or Newark) to Singapore years ago, in the early 2000s.

  • People who take air planes have selfish reasons. They do not believe in global warming. No one believes that not taking air planes is more healthy. Better be poor to stay safe than rich and die in a plane crash.

  • Next year: Nonstop Australia to Australia around the world
    People: Wow can't Walt
    Quantas: No luggage is allowed, we need more room for fuel.

  • I can see a few more ultra-long routes coming online with the new ULR A350 series. Air France / Air Tahiti will definitely be interested in a Paris-Pepeete and Paris-Noumea run. There's three airlines all competing on Paris-Papeete now, including long-haul LCC FrenchBee, and there's a major convienience factor for passengers in avoiding the security and visa beureaucracy of the current fuel stops in LAX or SFO. If they could do be done non-stop, they could just be run as regular domestic flights.

  • Channel LuckySpock - Left 4 Dead 2 says:

    Dumies, if i had an Airplane company i would fly to both of the poles. seems that no one else is. Ild be a Billionaire.

  • Panteleimon Ponomarenko says:

    Perth is the most affluent city in Australia, meaning consumers typically will have more money to spend on a Qantas nonstop.

  • These flights are deleterious for the elderly due to cabin pressure(my grandparents last flight was in 2015 as he is due to reach the age of 90 by 2016)

  • Could it be possible that mid-air refueling technique is used in commercial aviation (after making the aircraft capable & certified of doing so, of course) so that there will be some fuel saving in those ultra long flights?

  • With these long flights, surely there will have to be a new type of economy class- not premium, but maybe a cleverer way to pack people in while adding some comfort on these flights

  • Xarelto. I take it per doctor’s instructions on all flights over six hours, including my longest to date, 13 hours. It prevents blood clots. Next question?

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