The World’s Longest Flight Is Now A Matter Of Dispute

Qatar Airways says its Boeing 777 200-LR has completed the longest commercial flight in the world – by time.

Measured by distance, the honor of operating the longest flight in the world is now a matter of a global dispute.

Qatar’s first Doha, Qatar to Auckland, New Zealand flight took off Sunday and covered 9,032 miles before landing on Monday.

Air India’s flight between Delhi and San Francisco connects cities separated by 8,264 miles. But Air India elects to fly a circuitous route of 9,389 miles because the flight encounters fewer headwinds and takes less time than it did previously. It is also operated with a Boeing 777-200.

Qatar’s flight QR0920 was scheduled to take 16 hours and 20 minutes. But it arrived in Auckland 15 minutes early, according to The New Zealand Herald.

The return flight was scheduled at 17 hours and 30 minutes, the longest flight in the world, with the added length attributed to headwinds.

The Doha-Auckland flight surpasses the 8,819-mile flight between Dubai and Auckland that is flown by Qatar rival Emirates, also using a Boeing 777-200 LR. Dubai-Auckland had been listed by some as the world’s longest flight.

In terms of distance, neither route surpasses the 9,389 miles covered by Air India’s Delhi-San Francisco flight.

Air India previously flew a shorter Artic route, which took it over the Atlantic Ocean and totaled 8,264 miles. It switched to trans-Pacific in October.

The trans-Pacific flight takes 14.5 hours, almost two hours less than trans-Atlantic.

“Flying Delhi to San Francisco over the Pacific Ocean instead of the Atlantic, as it had done till last week, has earned Air India the record of operating the world’s longest nonstop flight,” The Times of Indiareported in October.

Although the Pacific route is longer, “the flight took almost two hours less thanks to tailwinds — winds that blow in the same direction as an aircraft and thus make it go faster,” The Times said.

“The Earth rotates from west to east, and winds flow in that direction too,” according to an Air India official quoted by the newspaper. “Flying west means facing strong headwinds (that decreases an aircraft’s actual ground speed), and flying east means getting strong tailwinds, which does the opposite.”

OAG, which periodically compiles a list of the world’s longest flights, “measures flights by distance between point A and point B,” a spokesman said. By that measure, the Qatar flight is the longest in the world. “As the crow flies” is OAG’s preferred standard of measurement.

The longest flight by a U.S. airline is San Francisco-Singapore, which United serves with a Boeing 787-9. United first operated the 8,446-mile flight in June: The flight is now tied for the fourth longest in the world. In October, Singapore Airlines began a competing flight aboard an Airbus A350.

On Sunday, Auckland became Qatar’s first New Zealand destination: the carrier serves more than 150 destinations from its Doha hub and is a member of the oneworld alliance.

Qatar operates its Boeing 777-200 LR with 42 seats in business class and 217 seats in economy.

“The launch of our new service to Auckland is an important milestone for Qatar Airways as we expand both in the region and globally,” CEO Akbar Al Baker, a passenger on the first flight, said in a prepared statement.

At one time, Singapore Airlines flew non-stop from Singapore to both Newark and Los Angeles using an Airbus A340. Both flights were discontinued in 2013, partially because the four-engine aircraft was a gas guzzler.

Singapore Airlines plans to resume both flights in 2018, using an Airbus A350-900ULR.  At 9,534 miles, the eighteen-and-a-half hour Singapore-Newark flight would once again become the longest flight in the world – by any measure.