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

Mar 29, 2022

This post contains references to products from one or more of our advertisers. We may receive compensation when you click on links to those products. Terms apply to the offers listed on this page. For an explanation of our Advertising Policy, visit this page.

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.

Want more airline-specific news? Sign up for TPG’s free new biweekly Aviation newsletter.

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.

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 A350-900
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 photo by Marc Fernandes/NurPhoto via Getty Images.

Delta SkyMiles® Platinum American Express Card

Earn 90,000 bonus miles after you spend $3,000 in purchases on your new Card in your first 3 months. Offer ends 8/3/2022.

With Status Boost™, earn 10,000 Medallion Qualification Miles (MQMs) after you spend $25,000 in purchases on your Card in a calendar year, up to two times per year getting you closer to Medallion Status. Earn 3X Miles on Delta purchases and purchases made directly with hotels, 2X Miles at restaurants and at U.S. supermarkets and earn 1X Mile on all other eligible purchases. Terms Apply.

Apply Now
More Things to Know
  • Limited Time Offer: Earn 90,000 bonus miles after you spend $3,000 in purchases on your new Card in your first 3 months. Offer ends 8/3/2022.
  • Earn up to 20,000 Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs) with Status Boost® per year. After you spend $25,000 in purchases on your Card in a calendar year, you can earn 10,000 MQMs up to two times per year, getting you closer to Medallion® Status. MQMs are used to determine Medallion® Status and are different than miles you earn toward flights.
  • Earn 3X Miles on Delta purchases and purchases made directly with hotels.
  • Earn 2X Miles at restaurants worldwide including takeout and delivery in the U.S., and at U.S. supermarkets.
  • Earn 1X Miles on all other eligible purchases.
  • Receive a Domestic Main Cabin round-trip companion certificate each year upon renewal of your Card. Payment of the government imposed taxes and fees of no more than $80 for roundtrip domestic flights (for itineraries with up to four flight segments) is required. Baggage charges and other restrictions apply. See terms and conditions for details.
  • Enjoy your first checked bag free on Delta flights.
  • Fee Credit for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck® after you apply through any Authorized Enrollment Provider. If approved for Global Entry, at no additional charge, you will receive access to TSA PreCheck.
  • Enjoy an exclusive rate of $39 per person per visit to enter the Delta Sky Club® for you and up to two guests when traveling on a Delta flight.
  • No Foreign Transaction Fees.
  • $250 Annual Fee.
  • Terms Apply.
  • See Rates & Fees
Regular APR
17.24%-26.24% Variable
Annual Fee
Balance Transfer Fee
Recommended Credit
Terms and restrictions apply. See rates & fees.

Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

Disclaimer: The responses below are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser’s responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.