Stand back, Singapore Airlines and Qantas. Take a number, Air New Zealand, Qatar Airways and Emirates.
Cathay Pacific is about to eclipse the longest of long-range flights, and more by accident – or at least a twist of fate – than design.
The airline will reroute its New York-Hong Kong service to avoid Russian airspace, resulting in what would be the world’s longest commercial passenger flight measured by distance.
The airline plans to fly from John F. Kennedy International Airport over the Atlantic Ocean, the UK, southern Europe and central Asia, according to a memo to Cathay flight staff seen by Bloomberg News.
The distance of 16,618 kilometers (10,326 miles) would surpass Singapore Airlines’ New York service, which takes about 17-and-a-half hours to cover 15,349 kilometers.
The Cathay Pacific Airbus A350-1000 flight will take about 17 hours. A spokeswoman for the airline said the A350-1000 is capable of operating the route, which would typically fly over the Arctic and through Russian airspace. Many Asian airlines are avoiding Russia due to the conflict in Ukraine.
“We are always running contingency routings for potential events or scenarios,” the spokeswoman said.
“The Transatlantic option relies on the facilitation of strong seasonal tailwinds at this time of the year in order for the flight time to be between 16 and 17 hours, thereby making it more favorable than the Transpacific route.”
The airline said it is monitoring tailwinds every day, and that their benefits are diminishing. Jet streams tend to be stronger in the winter months.
Cathay is seeking overflight permits to operate the service, which it said was normal for a new route. Before the pandemic, which has severely reduced its schedule, the carrier operated up to three round-trips between Hong Kong and JFK daily.
Cathay’s most recent New York-Hong Kong flight stopped in Los Angeles before continuing over the Pacific and into the Asian financial hub without entering Russian airspace. The new, extended route would remove the need for a stopover, making it more cost-effective and competitive.
Several airlines have plotted routes to avoid Russia, mostly between Asia and Europe. Japan Airlines rerouted its service from Tokyo’s Haneda airport to London’s Heathrow via Alaska and Canada rather than flying over Siberia, adding 4.5 hour hours to the nearly 12-hour journey.
Such flight changes are likely to only be temporary given the costs carriers face from high oil prices, as well as uncertainty over the accessibility of Russian airspace.
Qantas’ proposed Project Sunrise 20-hour trips connecting Sydney with London and New York using an ultra-long range Airbus A350-1000 jet are still being planned after the pandemic delayed their launch. The airline did a test of the service in 2019, flying New York to Sydney with 40 passengers on a Boeing 787-9.
Air New Zealand last week unveiled a new ultra-long service from Auckland to New York JFK, while Qantas announced a Melbourne-Dallas route on Monday, both of which are due to start later this year. Qatar Airways and Emirates Airline flights to Auckland were among the world’s longest until they were suspended due to Covid-19.
This article is published under license from Bloomberg Media: the original article can be viewed here