Qatar Airways has hailed itself the official operator of the longest commercial flight in the world with the successful launch of its Doha to Auckland service.
Flight QR920 of the country’s national carrier left Doha at 5:10 a.m. on Sunday morning and was due to land at Auckland Airport in New Zealand at 7:30 a.m. However, it touched down 15 minutes early after almost 16 hours and 10 time zones later.
Four pilots steered the route’s inaugural flight on Boeing 777, which can host 42 passengers in business class and 217 in economy. It was supposed to be launched back in December but faced delays, Doha News reported.
Setting Flight Record
QA chief executive Akbar Al Baker, who joined the flight, assured the market that they’re in it for the long haul.
“We never close a route when we launch,” he said in an NZ Herald report. “We are not an airline that is only here for good times.”
The return flight of the 9,031-mile voyage on the same aircraft is expected to take 17 hours, 30 minutes — longer than all of the NZ-filmed movies “Lord of the Rings” and “The Hobbit” trilogies, the airlines noted. It could, however, take over 18 hours due to headwinds.
The historic journey, costing about US$1,300 round-trip, beat out other contenders for world’s longest flight, including Emirates’ Dubai to Auckland route. Air India has a longer flight by distance, a Delhi to San Francisco route, but the journey takes only 14 hours and 30 minutes.
OAG, periodically compiling a world’s-longest-flights list, measures the flights “by distance between point A and point B." Based on this measure, QA’s flight emerges as the longest to date, since “as the crow flies” is OAG’s preferred standard to measure.
Singapore Airlines may attempt to take this spot next year when it resumes its non-stop flights bound for New York, which could take 19 hours. It used to fly non-stop from Singapore to Newark and LA via the Airbus A340, but discontinued the flights in 2013 partly because of the aircraft’s high fuel consumption.
Potential Game Changer
Ultra long-haul flights could be far more common than present, but they face challenges in quality and deliverability for airlines. Major carriers, though, are likely to adopt this strategy soon.
“Because this is, I suppose, the way of the future as long as fuel prices don’t go up too high,” said Ashok Poduval, who heads Massey University Aviation School in NZ, also predicting the influx of European guests into the country since it’s a direct connection from Europe to Doha.
For Qatar Airways, the new service heralds the expansion of the airline both regionally and globally, said Al Baker in a statement.
In other airline news, United Airlines revealed last month that it will speed up the retirement of its Boeing 747 jumbo jets, moving the last flight from end of 2018 to the last quarter of this year. Once symbolizing state-of-the-art air travel, the 747 has suffered industry shifts to twin-engine wide-body planes (like the Boeing 777) and spare parts and special maintenance issues.