Yesterday, Austrian Airlines chartered the longest flight in the airline’s history, from Sydney to Vienna. The historic 16,000km journey was to repatriate Austrian citizens and took 16 hours and 55 minutes.
With the unprecedented global lockdowns to contain the spread of the novel coronavirus, many countries have closed their borders. This has meant that flights that previously made stopovers have had to imaginatively reroute. Hong Kong and Singapore are the most popular destinations for fuel and passenger loading stops on the route from Europe to Australia but both countries have closed borders and canceled all scheduled flights.
Therefore, Austrian airlines flew the 16,000 route direct on a light loaded Boeing 777. The airline has already ceased all regular operations but has flown repatriation flights to Mexico City, Masa Alam, Denpasar and Washington D.C.
There have also been some other new, albeit temporary, long haul routes created by border restrictions around the world.
I previously wrote about Air Tahiti Nui’s direct flight from Paris to Papeete in French Polynesia on March 15. This was the longest domestic flight in the world clocking in at over 15 hours. The route previously stopped in Los Angeles for fuel and passengers, but with the U.S. banning flights from the EU, the flight was forced to make the journey direct. Air Tahiti Nui operated the route on a Boeing 787 Dreamliner which was on the cusp of the aircraft’s range capability and the airline has now scheduled a fuel stop in Vancouver for the route.
We will likely never see such unusual routes or aircraft on certain routes again, but with extraordinary times, it seems as though each day provides more interesting flight routings.
Air Canada operated a Boeing 777 from Casablanca in Morocco to Montreal to repatriate 444 Canadian citizens last week. Morocco is another country that has restricted both inbound and outbound flights, but through special government arrangements, citizens are still being repatriated.
Similarly, Nolinor, a Canadian charter company operated a 37 year old Boeing 737 from Montreal to Casablanca last week with three stops due to a restriction in range on the aircraft type. The jet stopped in Goose Bay, Reykjavik and Shannon on the journey that could have been flown direct on most widebody aircraft.
The charter carrier Wamos operated a Boeing 747 from Honolulu to Madrid via Frankfurt and in another unusual repatriation route, Condor flew a Boeing 767 from Perth to Frankfurt with a fuel stop in Hong Kong yesterday.
Last week Qantas briefly created a brand new route linking Darwin to London Heathrow on the Airbus a380 superjumbo. Qantas’ “Kangaroo Route” that has historically linked Sydney and London had previously stopped through Singapore, but with borders closing on the island nation, Qantas routed the flight through Darwin in the Northern Territories for a fuel stop before continuing the near 17-hour journey to London to allow residents to return home.
Earlier this month the U.A.E carrier Etihad operated a one-off a380 flight to the original coronavirus epicentre of Wuhan in China to repatriate 211 citizens from 11 nations.
Over the coming weeks, we can expect to see more unusual flight routes, and as the world looks forward to aviation resuming operations, we will likely see significant initial downsizing of capacity on previous routes.