Flight length

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"Long Haul" redirects here. For other uses, see The Long Haul.

In aviation, the flight length is defined as the distance of a flight.


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

Eurocontrol defines short-haul routes as shorter than 1,500 km (810 nmi), medium-haul between 1,500 and 4,000 km (810 and 2,160 nmi) and long-haul routes as longer than 4,000 km (2,200 nmi).[1] The Association of European Airlines defines Long-haul as flights to Americas, sub-Saharan Africa, Asia, Australasia and medium haul as flights to north Africa and Middle East.[2]

Lufthansa defines its fleet as long-haul for wide-body aircraft, medium-haul for narrow-body aircraft like the A320 and B737 families, and short-haul for regional jets like the Embraer E-Jets or the Bombardier CRJ-900.[3] Virgin Australia defines domestic flights as within Australia, Short Haul to South East Asia/Pacific and Long Haul to Abu Dhabi or Los Angeles.[4] Air Berlin defines Short and medium-haul as flights to Europe/northern Africa and Long-haul to the rest of the world.[5] Thomson Airways defines the Boeing 737 as a short and mid-haul airliner while the Boeing 767 and B787 as long haul.[6] Air France defines short haul as domestic, medium haul as within Europe/North Africa and long haul as the rest of the world.[7]

Short-haul flights[edit]

Thomas Cook Airlines defines a short-haul flight as taking less than three hours to complete.[8][verify] A short-haul flight for Cathay Pacific may be a flight between Hong Kong and Taipei or Manila.[9][dead link] For Etihad, a short-haul might include a flight from the UAE to India.[verification needed]

In the United Kingdom, Air Passenger Duty is levied on all flights by the UK Treasury according by distance bands of 3,200 kilometres (2,000 mi).

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

Medium-haul flights[edit]

Medium-haul airliners are constitued by the Airbus A320 family and the Boeing 737.

Long-haul flights[edit]

A long-haul flight is typically made with a wide-body aircraft such as the Airbus A330/A340, A350 and A380, or Boeing 747, B767, B777 and B787.

The ultra long-haul flights are done with long-range airliners such as the Boeing 777-200LR, Boeing 787-9, Airbus A340-500, Airbus A350-900, or the Airbus A380-800. The Longest is the Qatar Airways flight between Auckland and Doha, covering 14,535 km (7,848 nmi) with a Boeing 777-200LR.[10] The longest ever was Singapore Airlines Flight 21 from Newark to Singapore, covering 15,343 km (8,285 nmi) in 18.5 hours using an Airbus A340-500.[11]

Main article: ultra long-haul
See also: longest flights


Absolute 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 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[edit]

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,[12] 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.

The flight classification as long-, medium- or short-haul is classified according to the elapsed air time, not the scheduled time difference.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Study into the impact of the global economic crisis on airframe utilisation" (PDF). Eurocontrol. January 2011. p. 21. 
  2. ^ "The future of long-haul air services from europe". Association of European Airlines. 2004. p. 1. 
  3. ^ "Fleet". Lufthansa. 
  4. ^ "Flight Definition". Virgin Australia. 
  5. ^ "What are short-haul, medium-haul and long-haul flights?". Air Berlin. 
  6. ^ "Our Fleet". Thomson Airways. 
  7. ^ "Issuance fees". Air France. 
  8. ^ Eaves, Matthew (2008). How to Survive a Long Haul Flight. London: Mandival. ISBN 978-0-9559844-0-2. 
  9. ^ "Online Flight Booking - Airfare - Hong Kong - Cathay Pacific". Cathay Pacific. 
  10. ^ "Qatar Airways coming to NZ - confirmed". New Zealand Herald. 2016-03-10. ISSN 1170-0777. Retrieved 2016-03-10. 
  11. ^ "Singapore Air Wants to Bring Back Nonstop Flight to U.S.". bloomberg. 2015-07-17. 
  12. ^ 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."

External links[edit]