Air India claims world’s longest passenger route

Air India has snagged the distinction of operating the world’s longest passenger flight by distance, simply by reversing the direction of one of its existing ultra-long-haul flights.

Late in 2016, the airline reversed direction of its flight from Indira Gandhi International Airport (DEL) in Delhi to San Francisco International (SFO) and began flying eastbound across the Pacific instead of westbound across the Atlantic. The change added 870 miles to the route for a total of 9,506 miles, but allowed the flight crew to take advantage of strong tailwinds that blow from west to east, chopping two hours off its overall travel time.

Emirates had held the dual distinction of world’s longest passenger flights by distance and duration since March 1, 2016, when it began operating the ultra-long-haul 8,825 statute mile flight between Dubai International Airport (DXB) and Auckland International Airport (AKL). Scheduled flying time for the westbound AKL-DXB flights of 17 hours, 15 minutes still gives it the distinction of operating the world’s longest passenger flight by duration. TheTravelPro was privileged to take the DXB-AKL flight, aboard a Boeing (NYSE:BA) 777-200LR, in May 2016.

Emirates had initially expected to hold the records for only a short time, as fellow Persian Gulf carrier Qatar Airways planned to launch its own flight to AKL from Hamad International Airport in Doha (DOH) on July 1, 2016. Qatar’s flight would have edged Emirates out of first place by 270 miles and 15 minutes’ flying time.

Qatar, however, was forced to push back the start of service on that route until Feb. 7, 2017 due to delays in aircraft deliveries. Now, that route will be second in terms of distance but will take from Emirates the honor of operating the longest by duration. Published flying time from AKL to DOH is 17 hours, 30 minutes. Flights in the opposite direction, aided by the jetstream, are scheduled at 16 hours, 10 minutes.

Singapore Airlines Airbus A350 in flight
Singapore Airlines A350
Ultra-long-haul aircraft

Only a very few commercial aircraft have the range necessary to negotiate these ultra-long-haul routes. The longest range Airbus jetliner in service is a version of the A340-500, capable of flying up to 10,358 statute miles. A version of the A380 is capable of flying 9,445 miles while a version of the A350-900 can fly 9,320 miles.

The longest range Boeing airliner in service is the 777-200LR, which can cover 9,842 miles, while the announced B777-8X will be capable of flying 10,010 miles.

Qatar will operate a Boeing 777-200LR on the DOH-AKL route.According to, Qatar’s 777-200LR is configured with 42 flat-bed Business Class seats, and 217 Economy seats that provide more space than many other carriers. Business Class seats are 22 inches wide with 78 inches of pitch while Economy seats are 18.9 inches wide – among the most generous Economy seats in the industry – with 33 inches of pitch.

For comparison, the Emirates 777-200LR on which I flew had eight First Class enclosed suites with seats that were 23 inches wide with pitch of 86 inches. The 42 flat-bed Business Seats were 20.5 inches wide with 60 inches of pitch, while the 216 standard Economy seats were 17 inches wide with 33 or 34 inches of pitch.

Air India also operates the 777-200LR on the DEL-SFO route. Their aircraft have eight flat-bed seats in First Class, 35 angle-flat seats in Business Class and 195 standard seats in Economy. First class seats are 23 inches wide with 88 inches of pitch, Business Class are just shy of 20 wide with 76 inches of pitch, while Economy seats are 18 inches wide with 34 inches of pitch, among the more generous in standard economy.

Neither distance nor duration record may stand for long. Singapore Airlines is reportedly preparing to reinstate its Singapore-New York (SIN-JFK) route that will cover 10,252 miles in 19 hours, making it the longest ultra-long-haul flight by both distance and duration. When that will happen, however, is uncertain. Singapore’s public relations office has not yet responded to TheTravelPro’s request for more details, and a check of the airline’s website for the SIN-JFK route for a flight in September 2017 returned only flight pairs that connected through a Western European gateway.

Preparing for an ultra-long-haul flight

While hopping on a short- or medium-haul flight is quite commonplace and requires only a modest amount of preparation for an experienced traveler, long-haul and ultra-long-haul flights are another matter. Prior to taking two back-to-back ultra-long-haul flights last spring, TheTravelPro published some tips on preparing for spending such a long time in the air. That article is available here.

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Photo provided by Singapore Airways
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