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Cathay Pacific plane
Photograph: Carlos Yudica /

There’s a new longest flight in the world

Cathay Pacific’s Hong Kong-New York route is being made longer by the Russian invasion of Ukraine

Ed Cunningham
Written by
Ed Cunningham

During the pandemic we kind of forgot that airlines competing to have the longest flight routes was a thing. After all, most of us couldn’t fly at all – never mind fly a really, really long way.

But now mega-long-haul flights are back with a bang. Last week Air New Zealand announced a whopping 17-hour direct flight from New York to Auckland, and just a few days ago Qantas, not wanting to be outdone, revealed a new route between Dallas and Melbourne, which will also take 17 hours. And now there’s another extremely lengthy flight in town. Cathay Pacific is changing the flight path of its Hong Kong-New York route, which could make it the longest in the world. 

These flights usually cover around 12,990km, flying directly north over China and Russia, and then over the North Pole. However, because of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, the new route is looking to avoid both Russian and Ukrainian airspaces.

So Cathay’s planes will have to go the long way around. They’ll fly westwards to Europe before then going over the Pole – and in doing so cover a frankly ridiculous 16,618 kilometres. According to Bloomberg, the new route could also take as long as 17 hours.

The current longest direct flight route in the world is between Singapore and New York, which takes 17 and a half hours to cover 15,349 kilometres. Cathay’s new route would cover much more distance but actually be quicker, likely due to jet streams.

Cathay Pacific’s new route is only at the planning stage, as the airline has only just applied for a permit to operate the new service. It’s unclear when it might come into effect, though, and it’s likely that the route will only last so long as Cathay deems it unsafe to cross Russian airspace. 

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