Seats are still available for the first departure of the world’s longest passenger flight. For £1,447, you can buy a return London-Auckland ticket, departing from Heathrow at 3.05pm on Saturday afternoon for a flight to Doha, where it touches down shortly after midnight.
Ahead of the departure of flight QR920, Air India may re-state its claim that its Delhi-San Francisco route is, in fact, the worlds longest because of the course was taken. But the only baseline on which rationally to compare extreme distances is the “Great Circle” route: the shortest distance between two points on the surface of the Earth. In the case of Doha to Auckland, that is 9,032 miles.
The most direct track for this particular flight is refreshingly clear of conflict zones. The Boeing 777 passes more or less directly over Dubai, then slices across northern Oman, before a long oceanic stretch to the southern tip of India. Those in the window seats will get the only chance to see anything much of interest during a 20-minute transit across Sri Lanka.
Few lights will decorate the vast expanse of Australia until the plane nears the eastern shore when the lights of Sydney should be visible. At this point, there is still around three hours to go. The descent finally begins around 16 hours into the journey touchdown on Monday morning as the Auckland rush hour begins.
The passengers boarding flight 921 at New Zealand’s largest airport for the return trip to the Gulf will endure perhaps the longest afternoon and evening in history, departing at 2.40pm and arriving at 10.10pm the same day in Doha. Shortly before touchdown, they will fly over Dubai — destination for the current longest flight in the world, again from Auckland.
Ultra-long-haul flights depend on relatively cheap oil for profitability. They burn much more fuel per mile than shorter hops, because so much is consumed carrying kerosene for later in the journey. They also demand heavy crew resources, with a minimum of four pilots.