Cathay Pacific Airways Ltd. plans to reroute its service between New York and Hong Kong to avoid Russian airspace, in what would be the world’s longest commercial passenger flight in terms of distance.
The airline plans to take off from John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York to fly over the Atlantic Ocean, the U.K., southern Europe and Central Asia, according to a memo sent to Cathay flight staff to which Bloomberg News had access. The 16,618-kilometer distance would surpass Singapore Airlines Ltd.’s New York service, which takes about 17.5 hours to cover 15,349 kilometers, FlightRadar24 data show. Cathay’s new flight will take about 17 hours.
A Cathay spokeswoman said the Airbus SE A350-1000 aircraft is capable of operating the route, which would normally fly over the Arctic and cross Russian airspace. Many Asian airlines are avoiding Russia due to the conflict in Ukraine.
Cathay applied for overflight permits to operate the service, which it said is normal for a new route. Before the pandemic, which has drastically reduced its itineraries, the airline operated up to three daily round trips between Hong Kong and JFK.
Several airlines have altered their routes to avoid Russian skies, mainly between Asia and Europe. Japan Airlines Co Ltd rerouted its service from Tokyo’s Haneda airport to London’s Heathrow terminal to go through Alaska and Canada instead of flying over Siberia. That added four and a half hours to the 11-hour, 55-minute trip.
These flight modifications are likely to be only temporary given the costs faced by airlines due to high oil prices, as well as uncertainty about the accessibility of Russian airspace.