Long haul airlines often have the best reputations. We slog through hundreds of short domestic segments on US carriers, and don’t think much of them. Then we board airlines whose specialty is flying great distances and they do tend to do well on those sectors.
It’s not really surprising that the airlines with the longest average flights include the big Gulf airlines (Emirates, Etihad, and Qatar) or three of the best Asian carriers (Singapore, Cathay Pacific, and EVA Air).
Flying mostly long haul doesn’t make an airline great. No one puts El Al in the same class as Singapore Airlines. And low cost carrier Air Asia splits its branding up into short and long haul, with Air Asia X focused on long haul flying.
According to Airline Weekly, these 10 airlines fly have the longest average flights.
- Virgin Atlantic
- AirAsia X
- Air Transat
- El Al
- Singapore Airlines
- Qatar Airways
- EVA Air
- Cathay Pacific
It’s interesting that Virgin Atlantic doesn’t try to be anything other than a long haul carrier. They’ve also remained a niche player — with many US routes, a few Asian ones. There are other franchises of course in the Virgin airline pantheon. They’ve tried short haul, Little Red.
Some of their regional startups have worked better than others – Virgin Australia and Virgin America have had their bumps but survive, while there’s no longer a ‘Virgin Nigeria’.
In contrast these 10 airlines fly the shortest average flights.
- Lion Air
Azul and Gol fly plenty of short South America hops from Brazil. Lion Air has all of the many islands of Indonesia to traverse.
Aegean hops around the Greek Islands. They’re a Star Alliance member but with on average very short flights were long one of the easiest ways to make Star Alliance Gold (19,000 miles in the first year as a member used to qualify for lifetime Star Alliance Gold status.. lifetime of the benefit, anyway).
The big US and European carriers are in a unique and tough position, really operating more than one distinct business, flying both long haul and short haul because of their geographic locations and population concentrations nearby and and where their local customers want to fly.