Top 7 longest flights in the world, as of February 1, 2016 Image Credit: wego

Airlines based in the UAE operate the largest number of ultra-long-haul flights in the world and Dubai will set a new record when Emirates airline begins flights to Panama City on February 1.

The UAE flag carrier will become the new record holder for longest flight duration with a flying time of 17 hours and 35 minutes. That’s 13,821km on a Boeing 777-200LR aircraft.

Singapore Airlines holds the current record for longest flight for its 100-passenger, all business class service from Singapore to Newark, a distance of 15,329km. The Asian airline cancelled the flight in 2013. The longest flight – until January 31 – travels between Sydney and Dallas/ Forth Worth, a distance of 13,804 km, and a duration of 16 hours, 55 minutes.

But the Middle East truly is the epicenter of ultra long-haul action – and looks set to dominate world aviation headlines this year. Of the top eleven longest flights in the world, eight are serviced by Middle Eastern carriers, including Emirates, Etihad, Qatar and Saudia. Five services are operated by Emirates and Etihad alone.

“The rapid pace in which Middle East carriers launch new routes and continue to grow, purchasing larger fleets of wide body aircraft in huge numbers, is establishing the region as the new world aviation superhub,” says Dean Wicks, Chief Flights Officer for travel search site Wego.

The region will grab headlines over the next few years for a number of other reasons, from aviation infrastructure to new players on the scene.

“The MENA region continues to display its commitment to the travel industry with impressive fleet additions, and new and renovated airport investments. Istanbul’s new airport, slated to open in 2018, potentially could launch 200 new routes to over 150 destinations,” he adds.

Dubai International became the world’s busiest airport by international traffic last year, overtaking London’s Heathrow. The number of passengers travelling through Dubai rose 10.9 per cent in the first 11 months of 2015 to 70.9 million, as compared to the same period in 2014.

While December data has not yet been released, Dubai Airports Chief Executive Paul Griffiths indicated that Christmas and New Year volumes would help the airport keep its crown as the busiest. “We are very pleased with the growth in passenger traffic at DXB in 2015 during which the airport registered an average monthly traffic of nearly 6.5 million customers. We are sure the seasonal peaks that we experienced in December will help round off the year with an impressive annual figure,” he said in a statement. With an average of about 6.5 million passengers each month, Dubai looks set to have crossed the 77 million mark in 2015.

Passengers travelling through Heathrow rose 2.2 per cent to 74.9 million in 2015.

Looking ahead, much of the regional action could come from Iran, following the lifting of sanctions this year. The country has ordered eight A380s to be delivered from 2019, Reuters reported, and hopes to place an order for 127 aircraft from Airbus, with another 100 from Boeing. The news agency quoted Transport Minister Abbas Akhoondi and deputy transport minister Asghar Fakhrieh Kashan.

“The aviation market potential in Iran is immense due to the pent up demand after decades of sanctions,” Peter Harbison, Executive Chairman of the CAPA Centre for Aviation said at the start of an aviation summit in Iran this week.

In total, 2016 is expected to see 1,100 new services scheduled from 170 airlines the world over, Wicks says, quoting Wego data.

“Competition in aviation has never been so fierce and the Middle East region is stepping up to be a leading contender,” he adds. “New aircraft, services and airports, coupled with intense competition and further drops in the oil costs, equates to greater choice and airfares for the traveller, no matter where they’re located or what destination they’re travelling to. 2016 is promising to be a big year in the aviation industry, and a great time to travel.”

The flights

As of February 1, the top 11 ultra long-haul flights are as follows (data from flightmapper.com):

1. Dubai-Panama City: 17h35m, 13,821km, Emirates

2. Dallas/Forth Worth-Sydney: 16h55m, 13,804km, Qantas

3. Los Angeles-Jeddah: 16h55m, 13,409km, Saudia

4. Johannesburg-Atlanta: 16h40m, 13,583km, Delta

5. Dubai-Los Angeles: 16h35m, 13,420km, Emirates

6. Abu Dhabi-Los Angeles: 16h30m, 13,502km, Etihad

7. Doha-Los Angeles: 16h25m, 13,340km, Qatar

8. Dubai-Houston: 16h20m, 13,144km, Emirates

9. Dallas/Forth Worth-Hong Kong: 16h20m, 13,072km, American Airlines

10. Abu Dhabi-San Francisco: 16h15m, 13,128km, Etihad

11. Dubai-San Francisco: 15h50m, 13,041, Emirates