The Rise Of Ultra Long Haul Travel

When was the last time you flew? How long was the flight? One hour? Five Hours? Eight, twelve? Or have you been flying across the globe recently? Well, odds are that you haven’t flown a flight of over twelve hours more than once or twice, but this soon might change as aircraft are designed to be more efficient and fly further than ever before.

Image by The Times

We recently posted an article about Qantas’ Project Sunrise, which is perhaps the most well-known Ultra-Long-Haul program out there. This is natural considering that Qantas is an Australian airline. However, they aren’t the only airline currently flying, or planning to fly, flights of above 12 hours, as, at the time of writing, there are over 30 flights that last longer than 15 hours, with Singapore Airline’s Singapore-Newark route being so long that it doesn’t really matter whether they go over the Pacific or the Atlantic in order to get to their destination.

If we take a look at the top 30 longest routes as of today, we can see that the airplanes used on them don’t vary that much, with the Boeing 787, A350, A380 and Boeing 777 being widely used to fly these Ultra-Long-Haul flights, with the 787 and A350 taking on the majority of them. There is however, one exception on this list, which is the Johannesburg-JFK route that is still flown by the aging A340-600s owned by South African Airways.

Computer rendering of the Singapore Airlines A350ULR - Photo by Airbus

The major reason for the use of these modern and efficient jets on these routes is the fuel consumption, see while an A340 consumes a tremendous amount of fuel, that makes flying further incredibly expensive for airlines, flying the same route with a Dreamliner would mean a reduce in fuel consumption of around 15% to 20%, making it feasible for the route to be flown.

Another curious fact we can see when looking at this list, most of the longer routes were first opened last year or in late 2017. Proving that this trend has been growing in recent years and once again, highlighting once again the importance that the improved avionics of both the Dreamliner and the A350 have had in this section of the market. From here onwards, as airlines welcome on board more and more of the ultra-efficient aircraft, it is highly likely that we begin to see more of these 15+ hour flights pop up.

The Boeing 777X - Photo by Boeing

So, what does this all mean for the average flyer? Well, to begin with, these flights open up more opportunities for us to go from point A to point B without the hassle of connection flights and long layovers. The question we have to ask ourselves, however, is do we fly two 8-hour flights and spend 2 hours at Dubai International or another Middle Eastern Hub? Or do we take a direct flight from New York to Singapore and never even think twice about leaving the plane?

Personally, I don’t think I would enjoy a 20 hour flight in Economy Class, but if I had the chance of travelling 15, 16, 17 or even 18 hours in a comfortable seat, I would definitely take that over a 2 or 3 hour layover at any airport.

Although it might still be a while until we see Ultra-Long-Haul travel become the standard for aviation, truth of the matter is that this market section is growing and will only continue to grow with the introduction of planes such as the 777X.

What do you think? Would you rather fly a direct 20-hour flight? Or take a detour and spend a few hours at the airport to stretch and relax?

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