By Lilit Marcus, CNN
Cathay Pacific may be about to operate the world’s longest commercial flight by redirecting its regular service from its hometown of Hong Kong to New York over the Atlantic — a route that would steer clear of Russian airspace — instead of taking its usual path over the Pacific.
Although it has yet to fully commit to the route, Cathay says its transatlantic flightpath would cover just under 9,000 nautical miles — equivalent to 10,357 standard miles or 16,668 kilometers. If confirmed, that would exceed the current world’s longest flight for distance, which is 9,534 standard miles between Singapore and New York.
While many airlines have avoided Russian airspace in the wake of the country’s invasion of Ukraine — many due to reciprocal air blockades — Cathay said its rerouting was down to favorable wind conditions.
“We are always running contingency routings for potential events or scenarios within the world of aviation,” a representative for the airline told CNN in a statement. “We compare flight routes daily, and will plan and fly what is the most efficient routing on the day,”
“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. We are monitoring the tailwinds situation on a daily basis as it is already tapering off.
“Our Airbus A350-1000 aircraft can comfortably accomplish this in 16 to 17 hours with similar fuel consumption to the transpacific flights.”
Cathay, unlike other airlines, has declined to clarify whether its planes will intentionally bypass Russia. China and Russia have remained on good diplomatic terms since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine began in February.
That’s not the only new contender for the world’s longest flight. As air travel around the world gets going again, 2022 has seen more and more long flights unveiled.
Just this week, two new announcements were made for new ultra-long-haul flights. Air New Zealand’s 17-hour-plus nonstop between Auckland and JFK will begin in September 2022, while Qantas’ Melbourne-to-Dallas direct will kick off in December.
Currently, the longest flight record holder is the Singapore Airlines direct flight between Changi Airport and JFK. CNN’s Richard Quest flew on the Airbus A350-900URL in October 2018, clocking more than 17 hours on board between the two cities.
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CNN’s Lizzy Yee contributed reporting.