In aviation, the flight length is defined as the distance of a flight. Commercial flights are often categorized into long-, medium- or short-haul by commercial airlines based on flight length, although there is no international standard definition and many airlines use air time or geographic boundaries instead. Route category lengths tend to define short-haul routes as being shorter than 600–800 nmi (1,100–1,500 km), long-haul as being longer than 2,200–2,600 nmi (4,100–4,800 km), and medium-haul as being in-between.
Route category definitions
Asia & Australia
- Japan Air Lines defines routes to Europe and North America as long-haul and all other flights as short-haul.
- Virgin Australia defines domestic flights as within Australia, short-haul as those to South East Asia/Pacific and long-haul as those to Abu Dhabi or Los Angeles.
- The Hong Kong Airport considers destinations in North and South Americas, Europe, the Middle East, Africa, Southwest Pacific and the Indian Subcontinent long-haul and all others are short-haul.
- Eurocontrol defines medium-haul routes as being between 1,500 and 4,000 km (930 and 2,490 mi; 810 and 2,160 nmi), short-haul as shorter and long-haul routes as longer than that.
- The Association of European Airlines defined Long-haul as flights to Americas, sub-Saharan Africa, Asia, Australasia and medium-haul as flights to North Africa and Middle East. The now defunct airline Air Berlin defined short- and medium-haul as flights to Europe/North Africa and long-haul as those to the rest of the world.
- Air France defines short-haul as domestic, medium-haul as within Europe/North Africa and long haul as the rest of the world.
- American Airlines defines short-/medium-haul flights as being less than 3,000 mi (2,600 nmi; 4,800 km) and long-haul as either being more than 3,000 mi (2,600 nmi; 4,800 km) or being the New York–Los Angeles and New York–San Francisco routes.
- United Airlines defines short-haul flights as being less than 700 mi (610 nmi; 1,100 km) and long-haul flights as being greater than 3,000 mi (2,600 nmi; 4,800 km).
Aircraft category definitions
- Delta Air Lines defines its Boeing 717, MD-88 and MD-90 as short-haul domestic aircraft, Boeing 757, Boeing 737, Airbus A319 and A321 as long-haul domestic and Boeing 777, 767, 747, Airbus A330 and transoceanic Boeing 757 as long-haul.
- Lufthansa defines its fleet as long-haul for wide-body aircraft such as the Airbus A330/A340, A350 and A380, or Boeing 747, medium-haul for narrow-body aircraft like the A320 and 737 families, and short-haul for regional jets like the Embraer E-Jets or the Bombardier CRJ-900.
- Thomson Airways defines the Boeing 737 as a short and mid-haul airliner while the Boeing 767 and 787 as long haul.
While they are capable of flying further, long-haul widebodies are often used on shorter trips: 40% of A350 routes are shorter than 2,000 nmi (2,300 mi; 3,700 km), 50% of A380 flights fall within 2,000–4,000 nmi (2,300–4,600 mi; 3,700–7,400 km), 70% of 777-200ER routes are shorter than 4,000 nmi (4,600 mi; 7,400 km), 80% of 787-9s routes are shorter than 5,000 nmi (5,800 mi; 9,300 km), 70% of 777-200LRs flights are shorter than 6,000 nmi (6,900 mi; 11,000 km) and 777-300ERs flights are evenly distributed across its range.
Shortest commercial flight
Longest commercial flight
The world's longest ever commercial flight was Air Tahiti Nui Flight TN64 in early 2020. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the impossibility of transit in the USA through Los Angeles International Airport, Air Tahiti Nui scheduled and operated in March and April 2020 Flight TN64 as a non-stop flight between Papeete and Paris Charles de Gaulle, using a Boeing 787-9 and covering 15,715 km (8,485 nmi; 9,765 mi).
From November 9, 2020, Singapore Airlines SQ 23/24 is the world's longest active commercial flight between Singapore and JFK Airport New York City, USA. covering 15,349 km (9,537 mi; 8,288 nmi) in around 18 hours 40min and operated by an Airbus A350-900ULR.
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Absolute distance versus flight length
The absolute distance between two points is the great-circle distance, which is always the shortest geographical route. In the example (right), the aircraft travelling westward from North America to Japan is following a great-circle route extending northward towards the Arctic region. The apparent curve of the route is a result of distortion when plotted onto a conventional map projection and makes the route appear to be longer than it really is. Stretching a string between North America and Japan on a globe will demonstrate why this really is the shortest route despite appearances.
The actual flight length is the length of the track flown across the ground in practice, which is usually longer than the ideal great-circle and is influenced by a number of factors such as the need to avoid bad weather, wind direction and speed, fuel economy, navigational restrictions and other requirements. In the example, easterly flights from Japan to North America are shown taking a longer, more southerly, route than the shorter great-circle; this is to take advantage of the favourable jet stream, a fast, high-altitude tail-wind, that assists the aircraft along its ground track saving more time and fuel than the geographically shortest route.
Air time versus schedule times
Air time is the elapsed time that the aircraft is airborne, regardless of what time-zone the flight began and ended in.
Schedule time is the difference between the scheduled local time at the origin and the scheduled local time at the destination and usually differs from the actual time in the air as it is affected by the local time zones. Local clock time flying westward, or "chasing the sun", is slowed, while local clock time flying eastbound is sped up. However, flights over the International Date Line located at approximately 180o E in the Pacific will subtract 24 hours from the schedule time going eastwards and add 24 hours going westwards. For example, the eastward flight shown in the example from Japan to North America will have a scheduled time of arrival earlier than the departure time, while from North America to Japan the flight will take a whole day longer by local time; the actual flying time in both cases being the same or similar.
- Endurance (aeronautics)
- Flight distance record
- International flight
- List of regional airliners
- Non-stop flight
- Range (aeronautics)
- Short-haul flight ban
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- Dik A. Daso Doolittle: Aerospace Visionary 2003 - Page 116 "While flying west, a pilot actually lengthens her day by “chasing the sun.” Hence, there are effectively three hours more daylight than darkness on this east-to-west flight."