Longest, shortest, most northerly and southerly flights in the world...
You may be surprised to learn that the world's shortest scheduled flight is over in less time than it takes to boil an egg; that the most southerly flight serves a town in Tierra del Fuego named after a Bristolean; that the longest nonstop slog is 4 1/2 times longer than Gone with the Wind; or that if you head north past the Arctic Circle on the most northerly flight you'll quite likely be sitting next to a coalminer.
Here is a look at the longest, shortest, most northerly and most southerly flights on the planet.
Most northerly scheduled flight
Route: Tromso to Longyearbyen
Flight time: 90-minutes
Cost: from £110 return
Tromso is a handsome town in the far north of Norway, a two hour flight north of Oslo and 350 kilometres above the Arctic Circle. Yet despite it being perched on the north Norwegian coast, its actually at southern end of the world's most northlerly flight.
Point a plane due north from Tromso and after ninety minutes flying bewtween the Norwegian and Barents Seas, you'll get to Longyear Airport on Norway's Svalbard Island, which sitting at 78°14′46″N 015°27′56″E is the northernmost airport handling scheduled flights.
The dramatic setting of Longyearbyen, Svlabard. Photo Visit Svalbard
There is something other-wordly about arriving on Svalbard, thanks to its remoteness, bleak landscapes, and knowing that a place the size or Ireland is home to just 2,600 people. There are more polar bears here than there are people, and tourists head here to see them on organised safaris, to try dog sledding and to see walrusses and wales.
I arrived on a staff travel ticket as I used to work for an airline. I was on a tight budget and with only enough time to explore the main settlement. There were snow flurries, even in mid August, and I remember an ominous message from the governor hanging over the baggage area, informing arriving passengers that if they should stray beyond the little capital of Longyearbyen, they need to take a rented firearm with which to repel polar bears.
Aerial view of Longyear Airport on Svalbard.
I flew in with SAS from Tromso, but there are also flights from Oslo with SAS and Norwegian Air Shuttle. My flight was full I sat next to a burley young Norwegian student who was flying up to Svalbard to work in the coal mines. He told me that the work is hard, but that he earns good money ready for his next term at university. Although it was once the main reason for countries to jostle in and around Svalbard, the industry is now being wound down by Norway.
The departure lounge at Longyear Airport. Photo alvaroprieto/Flickr
To do the archepelago justice, you'll need time and money, but for an intrepid weekend break Longyearbyen makes for a thrilling travel experience. Head for the excellent Svalbard Museum, the North Pole Expedition Museum, and the bijou Svalbard Brewery runs tours. For more information , see Visit Svalbard
Most southerly scheduled flight
Route: Purto Williams to Punta Arenas
Flight time: 40 minutes
Cost: from £197 return
For the most southerly flight in the world you need to head to Tierra del Fuego; the fabled 'land of fire' that's split between Argentina and Chile. Despite its remote location, the Argentinaian city of Ushuaia is well known these days as an adrenaline sport hotsopt and cruise port, but twinkling away some 53 kilometres southeast across the Beagle Channel are the weak streetlights of the decidedly ramshackle Chilean town of Puerto Williams.
Photo My Bathroom Wall
The settlement lies at 54°56′S 67°37′W and is the southernmost city in the world. It was founded in 1953 and soon afeter became known as Puerto Williams - after the British-Chilean sailor and politician - and is now the capital of the Chilean Antactic Province with a polulation of 2,900.
I was there at the end of a local cruise through the arcepelago, and rather warmed to the frontier feel of the place.
Street scene in Puerto Williams. Photo My Bathroom Wall
Relatively few tourists make it to Puerto Williams, though there is fine hiking nearby and it makes a great base for exploring Chilean Tierra del Fuego and learning of its unique landscapes and former inhabitants. Known as the Yaghan people, the indigenous race have lived in the area for over 10,00 years, reportedly swimming and fishing naked smeared in seal fat.
Their tragic story is told at the Martin Gusinde Anthropological Museum. Cristina Calderon is the last living full-blooded Yaghan. She was born in 1928 and lives in a small bungalow just outside of Puerto Williams, and when she dies her race, language and culture die with her.
The departure lounge at Puerto Williams Airport. Photo My Bathroom Wall
The Guardia Marina Zañartu Airport is run by the Chilean Navy is on Chile's Navarino Island. The only flights from the airport are operated by Aerovías DAP to the regional capital of Punta Arenas., 301 kilometres to the northwest. But it's a facinatingly frontier town that really does feel a very long way from normal Chilean or city life.
Aerovías DAP ARJ on the ground at Puerto Williams. Photo My Bathroom Wall
For more information on the region see Visit Chile
Shortest flight in the world
Route: Papa Westray to Westray
Flight time: around a minute
Cost: from £15 return
There are a few contenders bandied about for this spot - perhaps a domestic mountain hop in Papua, or maybe an island hop in Micronesia? But officially the shortest flight in the world is closer to home that I'd thought - as Loganair fly from Westray to Papa Westray in the Orkney Islands, which is a distance of just 2.8 kilometres. Looking at that another way, the flight distance is shorter than one of Heathrow Airport's runways - the shortest one of which is 3.6 kilometres.
The 'terminal building' at Westray. Photo Treesiepopsicles/Flickr
There is an Orkney Ferries service that crosses the Papa Sound from the south of both islands, but that takes 40 minutes. For anyone in a greater hurry, the usual flight times across the sound are around a minute, with the shortest flight time recorded so far at just 53 seconds.
Incidentally, Westray has one of the shortest runways in the world too, at only 234m, and a picturesque 'terminal building'.
A Logainair Britten Norman Islander, as used for the Westray flights. Photo Loganair
Longest flight in the world
Route: Doha to Auckland
Flight time: up to 18hrs 20mins
Cost: from £1,760 return
It wasn't so long ago that flights from London to Japan would have to refuel in Anchorage, Alaska, and flights to Los Angeles in Bangor, Maine. Then advances in technology allowed for longer range airliners and enabled planes to schlepp from Heathrow to the west coast of the US or east to Hong Kong in one bound, which at the time felt about as long as it was sensible to fly without a break.
The Qantas 787 that consertina'd the Kangarooo route to a single bound. Photo Qantas
Since then aircraft ranges have kept improving, and Qantas have just used Boeing's new 787-9 Dreamliner to begin a totemic scheduled service from Perth to London, nonstop. The flights take around 17 hours and over-fly the brightly lit airports of the Gulf, where the majority of passengers between the two countries currently break their journeys.
The lengthiest scheduled flight in the world changes with each new season's timetables. Up there as contenders have been Air India's flights from Delhi to San Francisco, and Cathay Pacific's from Hong Kong to New York .
The inaugural Qatar Airways flight from Doha arriving at Auckland. Photo Qatar Airways
So the current longest is Qatar Airways and its flights QR921 and QR920 that operate between Doha, Qatar, and Auckland, New Zealand. It's a distance of 14,535 kilometres, or more than a third of the equator's circumference. The flights use a Boeing 777-200LR, with the Auckland to Doha leg as the longest of the two - thanks to more of the flight facing into the prevailing winds. It comes in at a whopping 18 hours and 20 minutes.
The Qatar Airways Boeing 777-200LR taxiing at Auckland Airport. Photo Qatar Airways