World's shortest commercial flights: Qatar Airways flies 777 on nine minute, 38 km trip

Fans of superlatives pricked up their ears last week when news emerged of Qatar Airways, one of the world's most prestigious airlines, operating a nine-minute flight.

What is an airline more used to carrying passengers from one corner of the world to the other doing hopping a Boeing 777 38 kilometres from Maastricht to Liege, Netherlands to Belgium.

The answer is not tremendously exciting for a number of reasons. Firstly, it was the cargo arms of Qatar Airways, so there were no passengers on board, and secondly, the nine-minute flight was necessary, the airline said, for logistical reasons.

In short, the carrier was operating its usual service from Doha, to Liege, a key cargo hub, and onto Mexico City, only a new client wanted goods delivered to Maastricht, but then the runway was not long enough for a fully laden aircraft to take off on its way to Mexico, so Qatar repositioned its plane to Liege. All as expected.

Of more interest is the fact that though very short, the flight does not make it near the shortest airline routes in the world.

Where are the world's shortest flights?

Connemara to Inishmaan

16.7 kilometres

Dún Chonchúir, the oval stone fort built at one of the highest points on the island of Inishmaan, offers a panorama of small agricultural plots surrounded by stone walls in the south east of the island and on the cliffs of Moher on the horizon (Inishmaan, Aran islands, County Galway, Ireland). Getty image for Traveller. Single use only. World's shortest flights

The ruins of a stone fort on the island of Inishmaan. Photo: Getty Images

The service from Connemara on the Irish mainland to the island of Inishmaan takes six minutes, flying over a stretch of the Atlantic Ocean that laps at the west coast of Ireland. Operated by Aer Arann, fares start from €25 ($A40) one-way for adults, with the schedule varying according to the season. The airline also operates flights to Inishmaan's neighbours, Inis Mor and Inis Oirr.


Hoolehua to Kalaupapa

14.2 kilometres

A commercial passenger airplane landing on the peninsular of Kalaupapa on the island of Molokai in Hawaii. Kalaupapa was at one time a colony of leprosy in the United States. It is now a national Historical Park in Hawaii. iStock image for Traveller. Re-use permitted. World's shortest flights

Touching down on Kalaupapa. Photo: iStock

The hop between Hoolehua and Kalaupapa on the Hawaiian island of Molokai is flown by Mokulele Airlines. Kalaupapa is an unspoilt peninsula connected to the rest of island only by air, or a three-mile hike. Kalaupapa was the site of a designated leper colony before the end of such facilities in 1969.

Minami-Daito to Kitadaito

11.2 kilometres

The photo was taken from right window of commercial airplane, Tokyo Haneda (HND) to Singapore (SIN) in the daytime. Getty image for Traveller. Single use only. World's shortest flights

Kita-Daito from above. Photo: Getty Images

Ryukyu Air Commuter operates the shortest flight in Japan between the small islands of Minami-Daito and Kita-Daito, separated by just 11.2 kilometres. The flight takes just three minutes.

Westray to Papa Westray, Orkney, Scotland

2.7 kilometres

United Kingdom, Scotland, Orkney Islands, Isle of Papa Westray, fields and scattered farms on this very small island (about 9 km²) (aerial view) Getty image for Traveller. Single use only. World's shortest flights

Papa Westray. Photo: Getty Images

The shortest regular service is famed for its brevity.

Loganair's link between Westray and Papa Westray in Orkney can be travelled in as little as 53 seconds, depending on the direction of the wind, and covers just 2.7 kilometres. The service costs from £25 ($A47) one-way, however, making it perhaps the most expensive flight in the world in terms of cost per kilometre.

Loganair, the Scottish airline, has been running the route since 1967. It offers a lifeline to those on the islands and Orkney Mainland.

In 2013, Stuart Linklater retired after flying the route more than 12,000 times in 24 years. "Flying in some of the most challenging weather conditions in Scotland means I've had my fair share of turbulence over the years, but I've enjoyed every minute of it," he said.

Kegata to Apowo, Papua, Indonesia

2.1 kilometres

This technically does not take the title as it is not a regular service, but the flight between the two hilltop settlements in an isolated part of Indonesia is only 2.1 kilometres long.

Of use because of the densely-vegetated valley between the two villages, the route is operated by local pilots in small, turbo-prop planes.

Matt Dearden, a British pilot who flies the route, told CNN: "Both the air strips in question are short, about 350 metres for Kegata and 400 metres for Apowo, slippery wet grass and sloped towards the terrain. Like many air strips in Papua there are no go-arounds once you are committed to land."

What is the world's shortest international flight?

Sint Maarten (Dutch Caribbean) to Anguilla (British Overseas Territory)

19 kilometres

Maho Bay, St Maarten, Netherlands Antilles - November 15, 2013: People at Maho Beach watch a KLM Boeing 747 come in for a landing at Princess Juliana International Airport in St. Maarten. iStock image for Traveller. Re-use permitted. World's shortest flights

Sint Maarten is home to one of the world's most famous airports, for obvious reasons. Photo: iStock

Flown by Anguilla Air Services, this international flight also features one of the world's most famous airports. It is the arrival into Sint Maarten that is renowned for its approach low over the Caribbean Sea, with a final descent over the sunbathers at Maho Beach, right next to the runway. The 10-minute flight is only marginally shorter than another service from Sint Maarten, to the French former colony of St Barts.

It was in 2016 that the ranking of the shortest regular commercial flights welcomed an international service for the first time, thanks to a new 21-kilometre, eight-minute route between Switzerland and Germany.

The People's (previously the People's Viennaline) flight between Switzerland's St Gallen-Altenrhein Airport and Germany's Friedrichshafen Airport rivalled the Anguilla service when it completed its first scheduled appearance. It has, however, since been axed due to a lack of demand.

What is the world's longest flight?

The highly-regarded title currently resides with Singapore Airlines, for its service between Newark, New Jersey, and Singapore. But that could change with Qantas testing non-stop flights between Australia's east coast to New York and London.

The world's longest commercial flights

  1. Singapore-Newark, Singapore Airlines, 15,348 km
  2. Doha-Auckland, Qatar Airways, 14,535 km
  3. London-Perth, Qantas, 14,500 km
  4. Auckland-Dubai, Emirates, 14,199 km
  5. Los Angeles-Singapore, United Airlines, 14,114 km
  6. Houston-Sydney, United Airlines, 13,834 km
  7. Sydney-Dallas, Qantas, 13, 804 km
  8. New York-Manila, Philippine Airlines, 13,710 km
  9. San Francisco-Singapore, United Airlines & Singapore Airlines, 13,592 km
  10. Johannesburg-Atlanta, 13,581 km
  11. Abu Dhabi-Los Angeles, Etihad, 13,502 km
  12. Dubai-Los Angeles, Emirates, 13,420 km
  13. Jeddah-Los Angeles, Saudia, 13,409 km
  14. Doha-Los Angeles, Qatar Airways, 13,367 km
  15. Toronto-Manila, Philippine Airlines, 13,230 km

The Telegraph, London

See also: Hour by hour: My epic trip on board the world's longest flight

See also: Qantas unveils new '100th birthday' Dreamliner for non-stop London-Sydney test flight