World's longest flight routes: Non-stop flights from Australia to London move closer

Aircraft are stretching their legs. Lighter materials, new engines and ever more efficient designs mean the new generation aircraft that are about to enter our skies will fly further than ever before. Which raises the question for Australian travellers, would it be possible to fly non-stop from our east coast to Europe?

Late in 2015, Emirates announced that it would operate a non-stop flight from Dubai to Panama City. At 13,821 kilometres, this would have been the world's longest flight, outstripping the current title-holder – Qantas' Sydney-Dallas flight – by 17 kilometres. Scheduled to begin on 1 February, the flight, the airline's first to Central America, has been pushed back to 31 March as it awaits regulatory codeshare approvals, according to an Emirates spokesperson.

In the meantime, Emirates has trumped itself with a daily Dubai-Auckland service scheduled to begin on 2 March. The distance between the two cities, 14,201 kilometres according to Great Circle Mapper, means this new service will shove the Dubai-Panama City flight into second place in the world's-longest-flight stakes before it even gets off the ground. The non-stop kiwi flight is probably an Emirates counter move designed to cut the wings off Middle East rival Qatar Airways, which has been hinting at plans for a non-stop flight between Auckland and its Doha base.

As lengthy as it is, the Dubai-Auckland service is still short of the world's longest ever scheduled commercial flight, a daily Singapore-Newark (near New York) service operated by Singapore Airlines. The 15,344km all-business class service ceased in 2013, most likely due to viability issues with the airline's ageing Airbus A340-500 aircraft according to airline analysts.

The aircraft Emirates will be using for both its new long-haul flights is the twin-engine Boeing 777-200LR. This is also the plane that holds the record for the world's longest commercial airline flight flying east from Hong Kong to London, a distance of 21,601 kilometres, although that was achieved with minimum passenger load.

There is now the promise of a game-changing family of aircraft waiting in the wings that could mark the beginning of a new era in long-distance air travel. Boeing is currently developing its ultra long-range 777-8X, scheduled to enter service in 2018 with a range of 17,600km.

In the same year Airbus will begin delivery of an ultra long range variant of its A350-900 aircraft to Singapore Airlines, which has indicated renewed interest in a Singapore-New York service, comfortably within the 16,100km range of the long-legged Airbus.

What do these new aircraft mean for Australian travellers? Perth to London is 14,470kms, just a shade longer than Emirates' new Dubai-Auckland service, and well short of Singapore Airlines' proposed Singapore-New York flights. This is also within the range of the new Boeing 777-8X and the Airbus A350-900, yet no airline showed any enthusiasm for operating a non-stop Peth-London service using either of their predecessors, the Boeing 777-200LR and the Airbus A340-500, both in service for more than a decade.

However, a non-stop service from Australia's east coast cities to Europe is far more likely to spark interest. Melbourne to London is 16,900kms while Sydney-London is slightly further. That's probably a shade too far to be a realistic possibility for even the marathon running Boeing 777-8X allowing for a comfortable safety margin, but Boeing and Airbus have shown themselves willing to re-engineer their aircraft in response to airline demands for longer range.

For both Qantas and British Airways, an airliner that could fly non-stop between London and east coast Australia must be a tantalising prospect. Cutting out one stop along the way would deliver lower costs for the airline, and the possibility of cheaper prices for flyers. In a few years from now you could hop on a plane in Sydney or Melbourne at 10pm and hop off in London at 9:30 the next morning, although you'd probably need some re-engineering yourself at the end of it.

See: Airline review: Qantas A380 on the world's longest flight

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