The Craziest Flights in the World

Author: Thorsten Rienth

May 24, 2023

Countless flight connections exist all around the world, but some of them have that little something extra. This much can be said: Spectacular views and thrilling excitement often go hand in hand.

Passengers flying from the neighboring Scottish islands of Westray and Papa Westray do not have much time to enjoy the view. The regional airline Loganair takes them to their destination in one of its Britten-Norman BN-2 Islander turboprops in two minutes. At just under three kilometers, that is how long this route takes according to the flight schedule, making it the shortest scheduled flight in the world. Departure: 9:52 am. Arrival: 9:54 am. Incidentally, most of the passengers are researchers and students working at one of about 60 Neolithic sites on Papa Westray. Current fare per one-way flight: starting at 7.25 British pounds. Incidentally, Loganair has another highlight up its sleeve, or more aptly, in its flight plan. It flies a Twin Otter from Glasgow to the island of Barra. Since the plane always lands on the beach, the flight schedule depends on the tides.
The shortest international flight between two continents is currently the connection between Malaga in Spain and Tangier in Morocco. When the wind is right, the flight takes just under half an hour. The shortest international flight within Europe, flying from Vienna, Austria, to Bratislava, Slovakia, is no longer operated as a scheduled service. The flight lasted only about ten minutes.
On the other side of the spectrum, however, patience is called for: Anyone buying a ticket for what is currently the longest nonstop flight (Singapore to New York) will spend almost 18 hours traveling the 15,300 kilometers. But the days of the record-breaking route are numbered: Preparations are underway at Australian airline Qantas for a nonstop flight between Sydney and London. It will measure approximately 17,700 kilometers, which corresponds to a flight time of around 19 hours.
Not for the faint of heart: Lukla in Nepal and Courchevel in France
A top candidate for the world’s most dangerous airport, known especially to the mountaineering community, is the Tenzing-Hillary Airport in Lukla, Nepal. Its runway measures just 527 meters, has a gradient of around 15 percent – and ends at a 600-meter cliff. Lukla mainly uses STOL (Short Take-Off and Landing) aircraft of the de Havilland Canada DHC-6 and Dornier 228 types. Courchevel Airport in France is hardly more suitable for the faint of heart: Its runway measures 538 meters and has a gradient of over 18 percent in some places. For James Bond, of course, such extremes are no obstacle. The airport in the Rhône-Alpes has already been used as a “007” filming location twice.
Speaking of runway lengths: The longest civilian runway in the world measures 5,500 meters and belongs to Qamdo-Bamda Airport in the Tibetan Autonomous Region. The reasons for this length are the flight physics of common passenger aircraft as well as the 4,334 meters above sea level. Because of the low air density, the planes – for example coming from Chengdu or Xi’an – have to touch down at particularly high speed. There is an additional effect during takeoff: The thin air affects the engine power and reduces acceleration.
The runway at King George Island Teniente R. Marsh Airport also has a special feature: It is the only paved runway in Antarctica and the airport is the only one on the continent with an IATA code. During the austral summer, the private airline Aerovías DAP operates commercial flights from Punta Arenas, a city in the extreme south of Chile. Ticket prices start at around 5,500 euros. If you are lucky, a BaE 146 Avro with penguin paintwork will be on the flight schedule.
The flight to the island of Saint Helena in the South Atlantic, currently only possible from Walvis Bay Airport in Namibia, is likely to be spectacularly unspectacular. The Embraer E190AR aircraft of the South African regional airline Airlink takes a good three hours to fly – and practically the entire flight is across the water. The route is currently operated once a week.
Exactly the opposite can be said for flights between Seoul (GMP) and the South Korean island of Jeju-Do. The connection is considered the busiest flight in the world. According to the Flightradar24 tool, there are currently over 650 flights per week. One of the reasons is the wedding tourism to the island, which is therefore also called “Honeymoon Island”.
United Island Hopper – Seven Pacific Islands in 14 hours
With the United Island Hopper, on the other hand, the journey is the destination. As flight number UA154, United Airlines currently flies twice a week from Honolulu via Majuro, Kwajalein, Kosrae, Pohnpei, and Chuuk to Guam. There, the trip can be extended with a connecting flight via the islands of Yap and Palau to Manila in the Philippines. If you want to admire blue water, white beaches, and lush green palm trees on the landing approaches, it is best to fly in a westerly direction. The other way around, the last landings take place after sunset.
A similar concept is behind the “Milk Run” of Alaska Airlines. Under several flight numbers, the airline connects Seattle (Washington) and Anchorage (Alaska) with the airports or runways of Ketchikan, Wrangell, Petersburg, Sitka, Yakutat, and Cordova on the way – spectacular views of mountain peaks and glaciers included. Since the “Milk Run” is an important lifeline for the inhabitants of these small and remote towns, there is one restriction: Tickets must start or end at one of the small airports. Crafty flight enthusiasts therefore split the tour into two bookings.
There is a third “hopper” in Europe: The Norwegian regional airline Widerøe operates several connections with up to five layovers between Tromsø and Kirkenes in the far north of Norway. Depending on the time of day and season – think polar nights – the spectacular island formations might not always be visible. But in the winter months, the chance of seeing the northern lights through the airplane window increases.