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 squarespace.com/Wendover. 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
steps in making an idea reality is setting up a website. No matter what you do, it’s crucial in this
century to have a website and Squarespace helps you set up a site in as little as minutes
for a reasonable monthly price. Their website builder is simple to use and
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website. Squarespace also has excellent, award-winning
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today by signing up for a free-trial at squarespace.com/Wendover and then, when you’re ready to launch, that
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 Comments

  1. 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: https://youtu.be/EDeJKQSyGXI

  2. Sarah Bouzid says:

    I really appreciate the work done on this video !

  3. Edward Miller says:

    OTHER COUNTRIES WILL SOON HAVE SST..SUPERSONIC AIRLINES..U.S. BETTER GET UP TO SPEED!

  4. Carl Huck says:

    20 hours in coach? JUST SHOOT ME.

  5. Adelia says:

    im disappointed that the environmental factors weren't considered

  6. Solis Outdoors says:

    7:05 Both Airlines, WOW Air and Primera Air has gone belly up. lol The simply cannot survive in the market.

  7. Shivati Starr says:

    The incremental trip is only more economical if the aircraft doesn't fill up! But if it does get gas at any of the inbetween stops.. It actually uses fuel to carry more fuel for longer.

  8. label1877 says:

    I have taken 22 hour flights from Atlanta to the Philippines with a fuel stop in Hawaii. Never again, I fly Atlanta to LA, spend a day at Venice Beach then fly out the nest day to Manila. For some reason 16 hours is way better than 22.

  9. hiscoffeekreme says:

    rip new zealand

  10. Orpheus says:

    Air Canada is now doing Melbourne to Vancouver

  11. Krystal says:

    This is what I needed to watch, thanks.

  12. Mike F says:

    Hold on where do you get you calculation from. Do you know maths at all? How will it take more burn more from nonstop over stop trip. Every time you stop you dump fuel, remember you also have fuel load on every take off. Even if the fuel load is not equal to non stop it add up to nonstop. You burn more fuel in stop over nonstop.

  13. ned kelly says:

    If airlines don't find a way to make passengers more comfortable, the passengers will limit the length of non stop flights. People will find that they simply cannot endure the longer flights, or they will start dying of DVT.

  14. Ride Red says:

    Good lord, I was getting stir crazy at 3 hrs from Phx to Seattle. Lol

  15. johnsamu says:

    I'm not sure if you should be happy with ultra long flights. I already become a walking corpse after 11-13 hours, I don't want to think about 20+ hours in a plane 😆🤢

  16. Pius X says:

    As a plane enthusiast I'd rather catch 2 or 3 planes to get to my destination than one direct ultra long flight.

  17. D woodkamp says:

    Back in the 50s London – Tokyo 88 hours what's the problem?
    (We did make some progress).

  18. asdkotable says:

    It sucks to be a Canadian going to China. Unless you take a loooonnnng trip through Europe, you'll have to take the Pacific route, which is 12-14 hours long, with no place to stop in between. I wish we could stop somewhere for a transfer, such as in Vladivostok or Anchorage or something, just to stretch our legs, but I suppose it's not economically viable.

  19. MVE says:

    Is it even healthy to sit in a aluminum tube for 20 hours??

  20. Jonathan Hernandez says:

    Small note, The Newark to Singapore route was actually around as far back as 2004 with an A340 instead of the current A350. That route was discontinued between 2013 and 2018 for some time due to lack of demand

  21. RICK11211 says:

    WOW …….

  22. Mo n says:

    Wow sir 😢

  23. Blisterbill says:

    Did Lax to Singapore. That’s a long flight in coach.

  24. N M says:

    Fuck wow airlines mang

  25. Daniel Black says:

    11:45 If you try hard enough, anything can be made ugly. Just look at the new iPhone designs to see what I mean

  26. Wayne says:

    Silly question but if it's becoming so cheap to fly and planes more efficient then why isn't premium becoming the new economy class.

  27. ShakespeareCafe says:

    As John Denver sang in Starwood in Aspen: "It's a long time to hang in the sky"
    and not an insignificant dose of radiation

  28. Caro says:

    That's messed up

  29. edfdsfsd dsgfdsgsd says:

    I choose fastest flight every time.

  30. Michael Mccarthy says:

    Once planes are fully autonomous they can carry more fuel and passengers and save on crew costs plus are safer.

  31. Daniel Nöchel says:

    Holy $h!t…. 18,5 Hourse of straight flying…. my longest flight been from Frankfurt (Main) to New York at 7 Hourse and that was taugh…

  32. The Holy Emerald says:

    We need straight flights from Miami to India or at least China/Japan/Australia/somewhere in East Asia. This is the third most populated state in the USA and there's still only just 3 flights that fly directly from Miami/Ft. Lauderdale to Asia. Funny.

  33. woof beast says:

    I once spent 12 hrs on a plane from California to New Zealand. That was a worryingly long time to be in the air over the Ocean.
    The food was good.

  34. L Blueful says:

    > Hottest year on record
    > Airlines: let's increase flight time!

  35. Jolyon Welsh says:

    what a fucking waste of money.

  36. Jolyon Welsh says:

    I don't travel. so what is the point? That's why there is YouTube.

  37. Thad Rurak says:

    This video makes me dislike flying even more. Great video though!

  38. Joshua 윤호 Han says:

    I hope to fly one of these flights in the future

  39. Rochdi Tidjani says:

    You talk way to fast. I had to hit the "pause" button several times just to see what each flight has to offer.

  40. Ed SR says:

    I hate those long flights, to be honest. I’d prefer to go supersonic

  41. Eugenio Vincenzo says:

    This is how you win the frequent flyer jackpot…

  42. Rattly says:

    virgin atlantic is gone

  43. xX_Banana_Xx says:

    everybody exept flat earthers: this looks cool he used a cool round earth animation

    flat eathers: OMG THE EARTH IS FLAT THIS GUY IS STUPID

    nobody: THE EARTH IS A DINOSAR

  44. alex2143 says:

    I absolutely love the idea of Emirates etc of using a hub and spike network type of architecture in this way. A single stop isn’t all that terrible, and in order to connect one European city to all of the other cities in its network and vice versa, it only needs one additional flight.

  45. Andre says:

    I went on the rank 6 flight

  46. Don says:

    10 hours 45 minutes is long and boring flight from Honolulu to Manila PI .

  47. Clark Gable says:

    amazing … & flying over the world's most hostile land too .

  48. Peter benn pan says:

    Soon there will be hybrid planes! 😱✈️

  49. Ralf Siegesmund says:

    stimulating and insightful as always.

  50. Mackenzie Spoelstra says:

    Im going from toronto to vancouver to Sydney my butt will turn into the cushion at the halfway mark..

  51. Xtinct- Josh says:

    I had a 13 hour flight from Chicago to Japan it was kinda torcher

  52. Titanickiller786 says:

    This is the best time to make fuel efficient supersonic jets

  53. Evan Courtney says:

    I wonder at what point it would be economical to use aerial refueling to enable these ultra long flights? On the other hand, having experienced a 17 hr nonstop flight (KC-10, McGuire to Yokota at .82 Mach!) I can't say the experience was one I'd look forward to repeating.

  54. David M Ambrose says:

    I would rather eat nails than take a 20 hour flight

  55. Sarah Koenigs says:

    I have a hard enough time with Milwaukee to Chicago.

  56. Arnav Gairola says:

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

    meanwhile

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

  57. Roballium says:

    Nice video Half as Int- I mean Wendover.

    Learned a lot about bricks in this one-

  58. salvaje20 says:

    Fuck that. I'm not sitting in a plane for 20 hours.

  59. MLG Lucas says:

    I struggled to not commit suicide on a 7 hr flight

  60. 14vimalk says:

    Time for planes to have sleeper coaches like trains?

  61. marymarluis says:

    Please talk about of economic failIure of AIRBUS A-380

  62. Mike says:

    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.

  63. Gregg Hanson says:

    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.

  64. DefensePad Global says:

    Thank God USA didn't have a different unit for time

  65. MoFBox says:

    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.

  66. Bird Plane LANE says:

    nearly slit my wrists on 14 hour flight from LA to London 😣

  67. Florian Rochler says:

    i wish you were just, like, better #HalfAsInteresting

  68. J Tenn says:

    Those poor Air flight attendants, could you imagine working a 20hr shift? I can barely handle the typical 8 hr shift!

  69. Jebediah Kerman says:

    Still waiting on Toronto to Melbourne…

  70. msnjmswdl_ says:

    Manchester UK to San Francisco CA was a fuck off flight, felt like smashing the window and jumping out

  71. Fala Lala says:

    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.

  72. FranticChicken says:

    these plane videos hit different even tho i hate flying it’s so uncomfortable 😂

  73. Nathan Nainggolan says:

    Correction on SQ21&SQ22: 17h30m-19h.

  74. phunkyfeelone says:

    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.

  75. phunkyfeelone says:

    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.

  76. K M says:

    They need to go super sonic again.

  77. Tyler Blask says:

    i just came back from vacation in hawaii and the picture of hawaii was right where i stood

  78. sn3192 says:

    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

  79. Peter Kitching says:

    Btw BA flys more than 1 a day to Australia

  80. just lea says:

    Not even if they paid me. Jesus

  81. Crazy Life says:

    WOW, wonderful information.

  82. M&M Playz says:

    The longest flight I have ever was on Emirate was Dubai to New York jfk (sorry for the bad grammar)

  83. 230968 says:

    The earth is certainly not flat. About time flat earthers shut up.

  84. Y Sun says:

    20 hours long haul in an economic seat= hell! Before I can afford a business class that’s not going to be my option!

  85. 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…

  86. zane’s world says:

    Hawaii to ZURICH via Vancouver next week. 15 hours of travel time, not to bad compared to other flights you mentioned.

  87. Niklas Enblom says:

    I’m an aviation enthusiast but spending 19 nonstop hours in the air seems to be a bit of a stretch for me.

  88. Thermalburn says:

    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

  89. LQP says:

    economy class 5 hours with wifi that didn't work is enough-ish for me

  90. Tickle Dad says:

    I flew Newark to Singapore.
    Not as bad as it may sound.

  91. SpiffyDiamonder says:

    It’s always Newark

  92. Isaac Tierney says:

    Surprisingly, I’ve found that most direct flight are cheaper than connections.

  93. 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.

  94. 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.

  95. Kal_Jor_El says:

    Are you pursuing any degree in Aviation? Brilliant research and execution.

  96. Karthik Patali says:

    Air India operates the world's longest flight in the shortest time

  97. funkyleah says:

    I used the fuel to carry the fuel

  98. Brick Life says:

    I live in Australia and i have never and hate qantas

  99. GWS says:

    "Because people are more sensitive to time than boxes."

    Amazon Prime has entered the chat

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