New world's longest flight touches down
Qatar Airways has taken the title for the world's longest flight with its Doha-Auckland non-stop route. Watch as the airline's Boeing 777 touches down in Auckland for the first time.
Last week Qatar Airways became the latest airline to lay claim to the flying the world's longest route, launching its non-stop flights from Doha to Auckland, New Zealand.
Now, the Kiwi captain in charge of the Boeing 777-LR aircraft that made record-breaking trip has offered his advice for travellers thinking of taking extreme long-haul flights.
Qatar Airways captain Aaron Hubbard said it was just as important for passengers to prepare for long-distance travel as it was for crew.
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"Get plenty of rest before hand. Take a water bottle on the flight and drink plenty of fluids, keep hydrated, that's important. It's also important to try and exercise in your seat, if you can, move your muscles, your feet and arms.
"If you're on a lay-over, the best thing to do is to get outdoors and under the sun. It can be tempting to sleep in your hotel but you'll feel better and acclimatise to the time zone if you're active."
Hubbard and his crew would have spent about 52 hours in New Zealand before leaving Auckland airport at 2pm Wednesday to make the estimated 18-hour flight back to Doha.
Hubbard spent most of his time with his wife and children in Cambridge while other crew members had planned to hire a car to visit Hobbiton in Matamata.
Their arrival on Waitangi Day signalled the start of the Middle Eastern airline's direct route flights from Doha to Auckland, a route that would set new travel records.
Hubbard said while it took a little over 17 hours to make the first leg of the journey to Auckland, it would probably take 18 hours for the return, to cover 8000 nautical miles, or about 15,000 kms.
The crew, just like passengers, have to prepare for the long-haul flight.
"We have a strict flight and duty regime to ensure we are fit to fly. We acclimatise at our base three nights before undertaking the flight, and then spend minimum 48 hours at our destination, like Auckland, before making the return flight.
"After the flight, we have three days, minimum, off before undertaking another flight. That plus two days of travel, you need to roster a crew for nine days just to complete one flight."
Hubbard said the flight had a "full or heavy crew" which meant there were two captains and two first officers to share responsibility for the aircraft over a long distance.
"I am one of the captains, being the pilot in command and the other captain is from Canada. One of our first officers also has ties with New Zealand."
Hubbard said he was happy Qatar Airways had selected him to captain the inaugural direct flight to New Zealand. Crew had been aware of the new route for about a year and were looking forward to their visit to Aotearoa. It was a first for some.
"There's been a lot of questions about New Zealand from the crew, they want to know if the scenery is as spectacular as they've seen on Lord of the Rings and what's makes New Zealand different culturally."
Hubbard made the most of his short visit home in Cambridge and said he usually has a good soak in a spa with a few beers or wine to relax.
Working away from home was exciting but also difficult to be away from his family. But hopefully the direct flight option would now mean an easier track home.
"Under the old regime it could take three days of travel to get back home, via different routes and airlines. Now it's just going to be a direct flight, 18 hours."
Hubbard trained at the Waikato Aerodrome in 1994 and had stints working for Vanuatu Airlines and Air New Zealand.
The 44 year old said Qatar had 200 wide-body jets with more on order. It had around 3000 pilots, 10,000 cabin crew and looking to employ more Kiwis.
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