Cathay Pacific’s flight from New York to Hong Kong will be world’s longest

Avoiding Russian airspace, the airline’s new routing will fly 16,618 kilometres across the Atlantic relying on seasonal tailwinds

Hong Kong airline Cathay Pacific could operate the world's farthest passenger flight by rerouting its New York to Hong Kong flights away from Russian airspace. Photo: AFP
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Cathay Pacific's New York to Hong Kong service will be the new farthest commercial passenger flight if it takes off as planned next month.

The Asian airline is planning to reroute flights between John F Kennedy International Airport and Hong Kong International Airport.

The new flight path will cover “just under 9,000 nautical miles” or 16,668 kilometres said Cathay Pacific shared with The National.

This would make the route the world's longest commercial passenger flight by distance.

Travellers flying on the service would be in the air for upwards of 17 hours and would fly over the Atlantic Ocean instead of the airline’s typical route which crosses the Pacific. From New York, the flight plan continues towards the UK then onward to southern Europe and central Asia.

Flying transatlantic with a little help from the elements

Cathy Pacific's new route would fly transatlantic and rely on seasonal tailwinds. AFP

Traditionally, Cathay Pacific’s Hong Kong to New York service has operated over the Arctic and then through the Russian airspace. The airline has not confirmed that avoiding Russia is the reason behind its change of flight path.

“We are always running contingency routines for potential events or scenarios within the world of aviation. We compare flight routes daily, and will plan and fly what is the most efficient routing on the day,” a representative of the airline said.

Many airlines have cancelled routes to Russian cities or are avoiding its airspace after the country’s invasion of neighbouring Ukraine.

Cathay Pacific's New York to Hong Kong flight is operated via an ultra-long haul A350 jet powered by Rolls-Royce engines and capable of flying up to 18,000 kilometres.

To make the route viable, the aircraft would rely on seasonal tailwinds allowing it to complete the journey in less than 17 hours. These are typically stronger over the Atlantic than the Pacific, but the airline said it is “monitoring the tailwinds situation on a daily basis as it is already tapering off” .

The airline's most recent flight between New York and Hong Kong stopped in Los Angeles before flying transpacific, avoiding Russian airspace. A transatlantic route would remove the need for a stopover.

While the airline is thought to be seeking permits to operate the route, it has already listed a New York-Hong Kong flight on its website starting April 3.

Updated: March 31, 2022, 4:13 AM