Which Airlines Fly the Greatest Average Distances.. and What That Says About Them

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.

  1. Virgin Atlantic
  2. Etihad
  3. Emirates
  4. AirAsia X
  5. Air Transat
  6. El Al
  7. Singapore Airlines
  8. Qatar Airways
  9. EVA Air
  10. 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.

  1. Azul
  2. Lion Air
  3. Gol
  4. Pegasus
  5. Interjet
  6. IndiGo
  7. Aegean
  8. SAS
  9. AirAsia
  10. easyJet

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.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community InsideFlyer.com, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. Your short-haul Wideroe should be included in your list.
    They have flights down to 19 minutes in scheduled arr-dep times, flying mostly on the Northern-coast of Norway (WF)-

  2. I think part of the problem with the customer experience is that it is a “different business” from the airline perspective, but not the passenger: If I fly a short connecting flight and a long-haul flight, I expect the same service and experience. Not every short flight should be an LCC experience! After a 12h premium intercontinental flight, I don’t want to be treated to cattle class for the last 2h!
    The only airline really addressing that is Lufthansa with the long-haul and hub-connections under the Lufthansa brand and everything else under Eurowings… now, if they’d just install proper seats in their inter-European LH “Business Class”!

  3. Rupert,

    I thought you were going a different direction with your comment- rather than having two brands, have the two experiences more similar. And I think SQ does a good job with that- hot towels on even the shortest flights, book the cook available, etc. On the other end, flying long haul on UA is very similar to short haul- same grumpy attendants, no drinks and only one bag allowance, etc.

  4. Gary, while Azul has a lot of regional flights, Gol doesn’t fly many “short hops”. The biggest impact is the number of Rio de Janeiro-São Paulo shuttle flights (which TAM also flies, but without the long-haul operation).

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