Flight length

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

In aviation, the flight length or flight distance refers to the distance of a flight. Aircraft do not necessarily follow the great-circle distance, but may opt for a longer route due to weather, traffic, to utilise a jet stream, or to refuel.

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.

The related term flight time is defined by ICAO (International Civil Aviation Organization) as "The total time from the moment an aeroplane first moves for the purpose of taking off until the moment it finally comes to rest at the end of the flight", and is referred to colloquially as "blocks to blocks" or "chocks to chocks" time.[1] In commercial aviation, this means the time from pushing back at the departure gate to arriving at the destination gate.[2] Flight time is measured in hours and minutes as it is independent of geographic distance travelled. Flight time can be affected by many things such as wind, traffic, taxiing time, and aircraft used.[3]

Short-haul and long-haul[edit]

A flight's length can also be described using the aviation term of "Flight Haul Type", such as "short-haul" or "long-haul". Flight haul types can be defined using either flight distance or flight time.[4]

Time-based definitions[edit]

Flight haul type definitions
Short-haul Medium-haul Long-haul Ultra-long-haul
ICAO[5][6] < 8 hours 8–16 hours > 16 hours
IATA[4][7][8][9] < 3 hours 3–6 hours 6–16 hours > 16 hours
CAPA [10] < 6 hours 6–16 hours > 16 hours

Distance-based definitions[edit]

Lufthansa considers the Embraer E-190 a short-haul airliner.
Lufthansa considers the Airbus A320 family a medium-haul airliner.
Lufthansa defines the Boeing 747-8 as a long-haul airliner.

David W. Wragg classifies air services as medium-haul being between 1,600–4,000 km; 900–2,200 nmi; short-haul asbeing shorter and long-haul as being longer.[11] David Crocker defines short-haul flights as shorter than 1,000 km (540 nmi),[12]: 208  and long-haul as the opposite.[12]: 140 

Asia & Australia[edit]

  • Hong Kong International 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.[13]
  • Japan Air Lines defines routes to Europe and North America as long-haul and all other flights as short-haul.[14]
  • Qatar Airways defines all flights from Qatar to the Americas, Australia, and New Zealand as Ultra-long-haul, and all other flights as medium or long-haul.[15]
  • 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.[16]


  • The European Union defines any passenger flight between city pairs separated by a great circle distance less between 1,500 and 3,500 km (800 and 1,900 nmi) to be medium-haul, below as short-haul, and above as long-haul routes.[17]
  • Eurocontrol defines "very short-haul" flights as being less than 500 km (270 nmi), short-haul flights being between 500 and 1,500 km, medium-haul flights being between 1,500 and 4,000 km (800 and 2,200 nmi), and long-haul flights as longer than that.[18]
  • 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.[19]
  • 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.[20]
  • Air France defines short-haul as domestic, medium-haul as within Europe/North Africa and long haul as the rest of the world.[21]

North America[edit]

  • 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.[22]
  • United Airlines defines short-haul flights as being less than 700 mi (600 nmi; 1,100 km)[23] and long-haul flights as being greater than 3,000 mi (2,600 nmi; 4,800 km).[24]

Aircraft-based definitions[edit]

Flight Haul Type terms are sometimes used when referring to commercial aircraft. Some commercial carriers choose to refer to their aircraft using flight haul type terms, for example:

While they are capable of flying further, long-haul capable wide-bodies are often used on shorter trips. In 2017 - 40% of A350 routes were shorter than 2,000 nmi (2,300 mi; 3,700 km), 50% of A380 flights fell within 2,000–4,000 nmi (2,300–4,600 mi; 3,700–7,400 km), 70% of 777-200ER routes were shorter than 4,000 nmi (4,600 mi; 7,400 km), 80% of 787-9s routes were shorter than 5,000 nmi (5,800 mi; 9,300 km), 70% of 777-200LRs flights were shorter than 6,000 nmi (6,900 mi; 11,000 km).[28]

Superlative flights[edit]

Shortest commercial flight[edit]

The Westray to Papa Westray flight in Orkney, operated by Loganair, is the shortest commercial flight in the world over 2.8 km (1.7 mi) in two minutes scheduled flight time including taxiing.

Longest commercial flight[edit]

The world's longest ever commercial flight was Air Tahiti Nui Flight TN64[29] 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 (9,765 mi; 8,485 nmi).[30][31] in a scheduled time of 16 hours and 20 minutes.[32][33] As of 2023 continues to hold the record for the longest ever scheduled commercial nonstop flight (by great circle distance) as well as the world's longest domestic flight.

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 and 40 minutes, operated by an Airbus A350-900ULR.[34]


Great-circle distance versus flight length[edit]

Airline routes between San Francisco and Tokyo following the most direct great circle (top) westward, and following a longer-distance jet stream route (bottom) when heading eastward

The shortest distance between two geographical points is the great-circle distance. 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 or fuel than the geographically shortest route.

Flight distance versus flight duration[edit]

Even for flights with the same origin and destination, a flight's duration can be affected by routing, wind, traffic, taxiing time, or aircraft used.

For example, on the Luxembourg to Bucharest route operated by Luxair, the scheduled flight length remains constant while the flight duration varies depending on aircraft used. On Thursday mornings, Luxair operates a DHC-8 turboprop with a scheduled duration of approximately 3 hours,[35][36] while on Saturday mornings, Luxair's use of an Embraer 190 jet reduces the scheduled duration of the flight down to approximately 2 hours 20 minutes.[35][37]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "ICAO ADREP 2000 Taxonomy" (PDF).{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  2. ^ "What is "Block Time" in Airline Schedules? Why Does it Matter?". Cirium. Retrieved 2021-07-15.
  3. ^ "Your Random Flight Arrival Time Isn't So Random After All". Condé Nast Traveler. 2017-08-18.
  4. ^ a b "FHT Flight haul type". guides.developer.iata.org. Retrieved 2023-04-25.
  5. ^ "Fatigue Management Guide for Airline Operators, Second Edition 2015" (PDF). ICAO.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  6. ^ "FRMS: Challengesand Lessons Learned" (PDF). ICAO.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  7. ^ "Air Transport & Travel Industry IATA Edifact Version 20.2" (PDF).{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  8. ^ "Fatigue Management Guide for General Aviation Operators of Large and Turbojet Aeroplanes. First Edition, 2016" (PDF). Flightsafety.org.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  9. ^ "IATA Cabin Waste Handbook. August 2019" (PDF). IATA.org. Archived (PDF) from the original on 14 Mar 2023.
  10. ^ "Aviation Industry Glossary". CAPA - Centre for Aviation. Informa Markets / Aviation Week Network. Retrieved 2021-07-15.
  11. ^ Wragg, David W. (1973). A Dictionary of Aviation (first ed.). Reading, Berkshire, UK: Osprey Publishing Ltd. p. 189. ISBN 9780850451634. [medium haul:] air services [...] of a range of between 1,000 and 2,500 miles{{cite book}}: CS1 maint: date and year (link)
  12. ^ a b David Crocker (2007). Dictionary of Aviation (2 ed.). A & C Black. ISBN 978-1-4081-0226-8.
  13. ^ "Airport Construction Fee Effective on 1 August 2016" (Press release). Airport Authority Hong Kong. 30 May 2016. Archived from the original on 2 March 2017. Retrieved 2 March 2017.
  14. ^ "JAL Applies for Revision of International Cargo Fuel Surcharge" (PDF) (Press release). Japan Air Lines. June 28, 2007. Archived (PDF) from the original on March 3, 2017. Retrieved March 2, 2017.
  15. ^ "Optional Services and Fees | Qatar Airways". Qatar Airways. Archived from the original on 15 December 2022.
  16. ^ "Flight Definition". Virgin Australia. Archived from the original on 2020-03-26. Retrieved 2017-02-20.
  17. ^ "Long-haul delays | UK Civil Aviation Authority". UK CAA. Archived from the original on 16 April 2019.
  18. ^ "Study into the impact of the global economic crisis on airframe utilisation" (PDF). Eurocontrol. January 2011. p. 21. Archived (PDF) from the original on 2015-06-06. Retrieved 2017-02-20.
  19. ^ "The future of long-haul air services from europe". Association of European Airlines. 2004. p. 1. Archived from the original on 2017-02-21. Retrieved 2017-02-20.
  20. ^ "What are short-haul, medium-haul and long-haul flights?". Air Berlin. Archived from the original on 2018-01-29. Retrieved 2017-02-20.
  21. ^ "Issuance fees". Air France. Archived from the original on 2017-02-21. Retrieved 2017-02-20.
  22. ^ "Your travel just got more rewarding". American Airlines. Archived from the original on 2018-11-12. Retrieved 2017-03-02.
  23. ^ "Sweet spots for redeeming United MileagePlus miles". USA Today. April 22, 2016. Archived from the original on January 8, 2019. Retrieved January 8, 2019.
  24. ^ "United Airlines Offers Bonus-Miles Promotion for Premium-Cabin Travelers" (Press release). United Airlines. January 9, 2015. Archived from the original on October 20, 2020. Retrieved May 22, 2022.
  25. ^ "Delta to Upgrade In-Flight Wi-Fi and Expand Coverage Areas for Customers" (Press release). Delta Air Lines. 5 March 2015. Archived from the original on 2 March 2017. Retrieved 2 March 2017.
  26. ^ "Fleet". Lufthansa. Archived from the original on 2017-02-21. Retrieved 2017-02-20.
  27. ^ "TUI Planes | Our Fleet". TUI. Retrieved 14 December 2022.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  28. ^ "INFOGRAPHIC: Asia-Pacific ultra-long-range flights". Flight Global. 2022-12-14. Archived from the original on 19 Oct 2021.
  29. ^ "TN64 Flight Status / Air Tahiti Nui THT64 / TN 64 Flight Tracker". airportinfo.live. Archived from the original on 2021-01-08. Retrieved 2021-01-05.
  30. ^ "Air Tahiti Nui Will Fly Another Nonstop Papeete To Paris Flight". Simple Flying. 2020-04-12. Archived from the original on 2021-12-26. Retrieved 2021-01-05.
  31. ^ "To All Passengers Bound For French Polynesia". Air Tahiti Nui. 2020-03-11. Archived from the original on 2021-03-05. Retrieved 2021-01-05.
  32. ^ "COVID-19: Decision of the US administration to prohibit travel from Europe to the US | Air Tahiti Nui". web.archive.org. 2020-11-28. Retrieved 2023-01-11.
  33. ^ "TN64 Flight Status / Air Tahiti Nui THT64 / TN 64 Flight Tracker". web.archive.org. 2023-01-11. Retrieved 2023-01-11.
  34. ^ "Singapore Airlines To Begin Non-Stop Services To New York's JFK International Airport". Archived from the original on February 2, 2021. Retrieved Jan 5, 2021.
  35. ^ a b "Luxair Flights from Luxembourg (LUX) to Bucharest (OTP)". FlightMapper.net. Retrieved 15 December 2022.
  36. ^ "LG8903 - 27. Oct 2022: Luxair (LGL8903) from Luxembourg to Bucharest". Flightera. 2022-12-15. Archived from the original on 15 December 2022. Retrieved 2022-12-15.
  37. ^ "LG8903 - 29. Oct 2022: Luxair (LGL8903) from Luxembourg to Bucharest". Flightera. 2022-12-15. Archived from the original on 15 December 2022. Retrieved 2022-12-15.

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