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Cathay Pacific to operate world’s longest flight — with a catch

March 29, 2022
3 min read
Cathay Pacific to operate world’s longest flight — with a catch
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Thanks to geopolitical tensions surrounding Russia's war in Ukraine, there will soon be a new world's longest flight — sort of.

Cathay Pacific's service from New York's John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK) to Hong Kong International Airport (HKG) will soon take considerably longer as the airline avoids Russian airspace, according to Bloomberg News.

Instead of taking a conventional great circle routing that brings departures out of Kennedy over Greenland, Russia, Mongolia and China, the new flight path will bring Cathay's flights on a more southerly route over the North Atlantic Ocean, Great Britain, continental Europe, the Black Sea and Turkey.

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The new routing will add about 2,254 miles to the trip, which is normally 8,071 miles long, but thanks to seasonal tailwinds, will only add one to two hours, according to Bloomberg. Cathay will operate the route with the Airbus A350-1000.

Cathay's adjustment to its New York-Hong Kong service comes amid severe disruptions to the carrier's operation as Hong Kong grapples with stringent COVID-related travel restrictions.

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While restrictions there have eased slightly in recent days, travel rules remain strict and it's unlikely many people will fly the route as a result. In the fallout, Cathay in recent months has operated only a small fraction of the service it did prior to the pandemic. The carrier's January passenger capacity, for example, dropped to just 2% of what it was prior to the COVID-19 crisis.

Those pandemic-related capacity cuts are also reflected on Cathay's JFK service. The airline will operate the JFK-HKG flight only four times during entire month of April, Cirium schedules data shows. Prior to the pandemic, Cathay operated the route as many as three times a day. There also was a fourth frequency — a fifth-freedom routing that stopped at Vancouver International Airport (YVR) before continuing on to Hong Kong — though the carrier announce plans to discontinue that service in September 2019.

Singapore Airlines uses an A350-900ULR, similar to the A350-900 pictured here, to operate the world's longest flight by great circle distance. (Photo by Fasttailwind/Shutterstock)

The world's longest flight by great circle distance continues to be Singapore Airlines' nonstop flight between Singapore's Changi Airport (SIN) and Kennedy, at 9,527 miles, according to OAG. That flight operates daily, while a similar service between Singapore and Newark Liberty International Airport (EWR) that is two miles shorter and operates five times a week. Those flights use the Airbus A350-900ULR, an ultra-long-range version of the A350.

More: How Russia’s airspace disruption affects European, Western airlines

Cathay is just the latest airline to see its routings disrupted due to the war in Ukraine and the subsequent avoidance of Russian airspace. Japan Airlines’ flight from Tokyo to London now takes as much as 4 1/2 hours longer than before and transits American airspace near Alaska before taking a polar route to Great Britain. One estimate puts JAL on the hook for about $20,000 more per flight in fuel costs with the longer distance.

Featured image by NurPhoto via Getty Images
Editorial disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airline or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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The Capital One Venture X card is one of the best all-round travel credit cards ever launched. Not only is it offering a tremendous welcome bonus, but cardholders can earn tons of miles on everyday spending and receive a 10,000-mile anniversary bonus to boot. Its annual fee is $395, but cardholders can count on up to $300 in statement credits toward travel booked through Capital One Travel each year and other valuable benefits like access to Priority Pass lounges and Capital One’s own growing family of airport lounges.

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  • The $395 annual fee might be expensive for some, but this card’s benefits provide much more value than that.
  • If you don’t travel frequently, this might not be the best card for you.
  • Earn 75,000 bonus miles when you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening, equal to $750 in travel
  • Receive up to $300 back annually as statement credits for bookings through Capital One Travel, where you'll get Capital One's best prices on thousands of options
  • Get 10,000 bonus miles (equal to $100 towards travel) every year, starting on your first anniversary
  • Earn unlimited 10X miles on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel and 5X miles on flights booked through Capital One Travel
  • Earn unlimited 2X miles on all other purchases
  • Unlimited complimentary access for you and two guests to 1,400+ lounges, including Capital One Lounges and our Partner Lounge Network
  • Receive up to a $100 credit for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck®
  • Use your Venture X miles to easily cover travel expenses, including flights, hotels, rental cars and more—you can even transfer your miles to your choice of 15+ travel loyalty programs
  • Named editors' choice for "Best New Credit Card of 2021" by The Points Guy
  • Earn 10 miles per dollar when you book on Turo, the world's largest car sharing marketplace, through May 16, 2023