October 15, 2015

Horse 2008 - The Longest Domestic Flight... In The World

Australia's national airline Qantas, has recently started a regularly scheduled service between Sydney and Dallas. This means that at 13,756 km, QF7 outbound and QF8 inbound are the longest scheduled flights in the world.
On a forum which I visit, we decided to ask the question of "what is the longest domestic flight in the world?" The answer which I claimed, is significantly further than what anyone else did but it does bring into question of what the nature of a domestic flight is in the first place.

In a lot of people's minds the United States is made up of New York, New England and the east coast and Los Angeles, California and the west coast. The vast interior which presumably is made up of nothingness and amber waves of grain, even has the nickname of "the flyover states" because this is how a lot of people view them. America because of its bigness is the first candidate for finding the longest domestic flight but you can only really go from Los Angeles to New York in one hop. Alaskan Airlines doesn't fly to the east coast and neither does Hawaiian. Los Angeles to New York is a distance of 3,943 km.
The next obvious candidate for the world's longest domestic flight is in Canada, which also shares the North American continent. Air Canada (amongst others) flies from Vancouver to Quebec which is only 3,628 km but if you were to turn the globe, there is one even more obvious candidate.

Stretching across eight time zones (maybe?) is the mostly frozen and empty land of Russia. Some time after the breakup and collapse of the Mongol Empire, the Rus and the Tatars reasserted their control over an even vaster nothingness than America.
There is a pair of daily flights from Moscow in the west to Uelkel, which is way way over in the east and getting towards the Bering Straight. At 6,307 km, this is a truly monumental haul; which is made all the more impressive when you consider that it's probably being done with aging Ilyushin aircraft of dubious quality.
I tried to find a flight from Kaliningrad which is in the eponymous Kaliningrad Oblast in the west and surrounded by Lithuania and Poland but that all became academic as an even longer flight suddenly appeared in the competition.

Air France flies from Charles due Gaulle in Paris to the island of Réunion in the Indian Ocean; which is a distance of 9,375 km. Réunion is a very curious case because being one of the last vestiges of empire, a unique solution was found for it.
The British Empire was one on which the sun did not set because God could not trust the British in the dark. Having learnt the hard way from their experience in America, the British solution of how to administer an empire was to appoint governors and client rulers over foreign territories. This meant that places like Hong Kong which was a Crown Colony because of the Letters Patent of 1843, Canada, the six colonies in Australia, India and the colonies in the Caribbean, were never officially part of the United Kingdom and always remained separate; this was also confirmed as a consequence of the Colonial Laws Validity Act 1865.
France however was far less organised and so the little island of Réunion unlike New Caledonia, was neither independent not separate. A flight from Paris to Réunion leaves France and then lands in France. This in principle is like a flight from Seattle to Anchorage in that the plane which takes off in one country, lands in the same country but flies over another one to get there. It's just that in the case of flying from Paris to Réunion, the plane flies over a whole bunch of countries.
Réunion sends members to both the Assemblée nationale and the Sénat French parliament and the people of Réunion vote in European Parliament elections.

This is where the story gets strange though.

The longest scheduled domestic flight that I could find in the world flies from Sydney to Sydney. Yes, that sounds idiotic but it flies from Sydney to Sydney via Antarctica and it travels a distance of 13,572 km. The crazy thing is that it only flies over Australian territory.
The Australian Antarctic Territory like the Keeling and Cocos Islands, Christmas Island is an Australian overseas territory but unlike those places which have permanent populations, the people living there vote in Federal elections, in the seats that they would otherwise have normally resided if they were living elsewhere in Australia.
Even though there aren't more than maybe half a dozen flights over the Australian Antarctic Territory and even though they exist purely for sight seeing purposes, they leave via the domestic terminal, arrive back at the domestic terminal, no passports are needed to fly and like any other flight they are designated a flight number.

I guess that the reason that this is problematic is that the departure and destination point are the same. Because the flights over Antarctica leave from the domestic terminal, they might even depart and arrive from the same gate; giving you a net distance travelled of nil. To me this is like making a round Australia journey in that you travel thousands of kilometres and end back up where you travel started but isn't that what people going on holiday from Paris to Réunion ultimately do anyway? If you go on a two week holiday, then you end up going home at the end of it. Going for a flight over Antarctica just means that you get home quicker and since this is about the longest domestic flight in the world rather than the destination, I think that this is technically correct; which is the best kind of correct.

For those people who want to travel on what I think is the longest domestic flight in the world, the next of departs on 7th Feb 2016. Flights do leave from Melbourne but that's a shorter flight.
Link: http://www.antarcticaflights.com.au/

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