Q: What is the longest scheduled nonstop flight in the world?
It depends if you’re talking time or mileage. Attempts to answer this question are bound to be met with bickering over a few kilometers or minutes, so I’ll take the easy way out: The longest flights have included Chicago-Hong Kong (United), Newark-Hong Kong (Continental) and JFK-Johannesburg (South African Airways). The Boeing 747, 777, and Airbus A340 are all common equipment on ultra-long range routings.
I have experienced the JFK-Johannesburg route myself, as a passenger on South African’s flight “Springbok” (to borrow their radio call-sign) 202, and can attest to the 14 hours and 46 minute ride being less uncomfortable than you’d expect. Annoyingly, a digital timer bolted to the bulkhead and triggered by retraction of the landing gear gave a minute-by-minute rundown of our flight time. Watching the hours tick by seemed a tortuous proposition, until a certain passenger was bold enough to tape a piece of paper over the clock.
This Q&A is part of a collection that originally appeared on Salon.com. Patrick Smith, 38, is an erstwhile airline pilot, retired punk rocker and air travel columnist. His book, Ask the Pilot (Riverhead) was voted “Best Travel Book of 2004” by Amazon.com. Patrick has traveled to more than 55 countries and always asks for a window seat. He lives near Boston.