Cathay Pacific Airways plans to reroute its service between New York and Hong Kong to avoid Russian airspace, in what would be the world’s longest commercial passenger flight in terms of distance. The airline plans to take off from John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York to fly over the Atlantic Ocean, the United Kingdom, southern Europe and central Asia, according to a memo sent to Cathay’s flight staff.
“We are always running contingency routings for potential events or scenarios within the world of aviation,” Cathay Pacific 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 distance of 16,618 kilometers would surpass Singapore Airlines Ltd.’s New York service, which takes about 17.5 hours to cover 15,349 kilometers, FlightRadar24 data show. Cathay’s new flight will take about 17 hours. Thus, this would be the world’s longest commercial passenger flight in terms of distance.
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 Pacific
Cathay applied for overflight permits to operate the service, which it said is normal for a new route. Before the pandemic, which has drastically reduced its itineraries, the airline operated up to three daily round trips between Hong Kong and JFK.
Several airlines have altered their routes to avoid Russian skies, mainly between Asia and Europe. Japan Airlines Co Ltd rerouted its service from Tokyo’s Haneda airport to London’s Heathrow terminal to go through Alaska and Canada instead of flying over Siberia. That added four and a half hours to the 11-hour, 55-minute trip.
These flight modifications are likely to be only temporary given the costs faced by airlines due to high oil prices, as well as uncertainty about the accessibility of Russian airspace. A Cathay spokesperson said Airbus SE’s A350-1000 aircraft is capable of operating the route, which would normally fly over the Arctic and cross Russian airspace. Many Asian airlines are avoiding Russia due to the conflict in Ukraine.
The performance of the A350-1000s will be put to the test with these ultra-long flights. According to Cathay Pacific technicians these twin-engines can make the trip without refueling. However the route may change towards the summer, when the Atlantic winds are less powerful.
Cathay Pacific’s unexpected change of plans comes amid a flurry of ultra-long flight announcements. A few days ago Qantas announced it will connect Melbourne to Dallas on a 17-hour, 14,471 km direct flight; and a few weeks ago Air New Zealand scheduled a route between New York and Auckland that will involve flying 14,207 km.