On the Second Longest Flight in the World

Today we are flying on one of Qantas’ new 787 aircraft to London via Perth and then on to Reykjavik on British Alrways. The sector from Perth to London is currently the second longest in the world. It’s 14,496 km and takes around 17 hours. Qatar Airways operate the world’s current longest flight from Dohar to Auckland which is 14,529 km. In October, these will both be surpassed when Singapore Airlines starts a new A350 non stop flight of 15,322 km between Singapore and New York. That will take 19 hours.

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We left home on a cool but sunny day; picked up by our good friend Stuart who gave us a very comfortable ride to the airport in his Limo. We were checked in quickly and made our way to the First Class Lounge to which I am very grateful for having access with my Platinum Frequent Flyer Status. We had a nice lunch of fresh Barramundi and a glass of local Chardonnay. We then moved down to the lounge area to wait to be called to the flight.

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0h:00m (elapsed time) – I started the stopwatch on my phone when we began our push back at Melbourne. Let’s see how this long trip pans out. We left Melbourne exactly on time but there is a very strong northerly wind blowing today. I wonder whether we will be blown south to Antarctica instead of going west to Perth.

0h:20m We are now at 14,000 feet after a rather choppy climb through a sudden rain squall out of Melbourne. Above the cloud, it’s sunny again. The seat belt sign is now off and I have taken off my shoes to relax. Take off and landing are the most dangerous parts of flying and I always wear my shoes at those times. We have 3 hours and 38 minutes flying time to Perth. My seat is very comfortable and I guess that I will know it well after sitting in it for the total 20 of flying time on this trip to London.

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0h:40m We’ve leveled out at 40,000 feet. I have passed on the meal on this flight since I had such a nice lunch esrlier. I’ve taken up the offer of just a cheese platter and ice cream instead. Settling into my first movie – The Party.

1h:00m The meal service has begun. I have my nice cheese platter and glass of Chardonnay. I’m trying to make sense of this movie. It’s quite bizarre – two lesbians (one with child), another woman whose husband has terminal cancer and is having an affair with another woman, a bloke who continually snorts cocaine because of the stress and a couple of other of strange people. It seems compulsory these days for movies to include a lesbian element so I guess that a pregnant one adds some differentiation.

1h:42m The movie ended in a way that was beyond me. Perhaps I’m not intellectual enough to make sense of deep and meaningful stories with multiple sub plots. We are still at 40,000 feet and with two hours to go before arriving in Perth. This short flight is just a warm up for the real event comming later.

3h:40m On top of descent to Perth. I’m back to watching less intellectual movies – Back to the Future with Michael J Fox. The Cabin Manager has come to see me and is interested to find out where our final destination is. He could see on the passenger manifest that the airport code was KEF but he didn’t know where that was. I explained that it stood for Keflavik which was the name of the WW2 airfield that eventually became Iceland’s international airport. He also commented on my Frequent Flyer number (3159) telling me that the newer numbers are now up to 10 million or more. I told him that it was originally an Australians Airline Frequent Flyer number from back in the early 1980’s. Australian was taken over by Qantas some years later. I have the honour of being one of Qantas very oldest frequent flyers and one of just a few originals who still hold Platinum FF status.

4h:20m. We’ve landed in Perth for a one hour stop over and we made our way through a zig-zag passageway into the new terminal that has been built in the original domestic terminal just for this flight. The Qantas lounge here is on the small side and very busy with done of us in transit and others waiting to board the outbound flight. I don’t think that anyone will remember, but it is about as large as the original Australian Airlines Flight Deck Club in Melbourne. People keep coming around to serve food and wine but I think I have already had enough for the day.

5h:20m. Re-boarded and now for the very long Perth – London sector. I Checked the dinner menu – a choice between Hokkien Noodles, Chicken Breast or Beef Fillet. For dessert there is a cheese platter, Vanilla Custard or Icecream. They just announced that the flight time will be 16:45 so that will get us into London right on time. My strategy was to last out as long as I can before going to sleep but I’m feeling a bit tired already. I’ll just have to see how I go.

07h:21m. Drinks Trolley – another wine. Still awake and feeling ok.

08h:00m. I’m still wide awake. Dinner (Chicken Breast for me) being served. It’s a little dry and not very warm. I’m finding the cabin a little cool but i guess I’ll feel warmer once my bed is made up and I’m under a quilt.

9h:00m. I’m on to my fourth movie and wrestling a bit with the time. It’s now midnight at home and I’ve been awake now for eighteen hours. We still have nearly 14 hours until we reach London. I would really like to be able to stay awake for another couple of hours but I don’t think that I can do it. I’m ready to go to sleep as soon as the dinner service is cleared.

10h:03m. I’ve given up. I’m just about to take a sleeping pill. My seat is now flat and I’ve fitted the thin mattress on top, ready to sleep. Let’s see if It works.

16h:00m I’ve had six hours of good sleep. I do remember a few short rough patches while asleep though. Most others in the cabin are still sleeping. I’m feeling a little groggy. I’ll see if a little more dozing time, or some coffee, helps.

16h:50m. Currently flying over Kuwait – just under six hours run to London. I’ve decided to give up trying to get any extra sleep. Just lying flat and relaxing.

17h:40m Over Baghdad. I’m wide awake now and feeling quite chipper. I just took an opportunity to have a quick wash and a shave while the front toilet was free. I’m hoping the hostie will be able to bring me a cup of coffee soon. That will get me wide awake. This plane is pressurised to a higher altitude than others and I think that this reduces fatigue to some degree. Just started my fourth movie – Gurrumul.

19h:40m. A great movie – the story of Gurrumul Yunupingu, the blind aboriginal singer who played his guitar upside down because that was the way he picked it up and learned to play. Just had a glass of refreshing watermelon juice delivered. I missed the end of the movie because I kept nodding off. Three more hours to London – over the Black Sea at 40,000 feet. I’m trying to find some of Gurrumul’s music on the audio channels but no luck so far. I’ve settled for Cat Stevens.

20h:40m. Breakfast. Two hours out of London – arriving at 5:00 am local time Orange Juice, Fresh Fruit, Danish, Poached Eggs with Kale, Dukkha and Quinoa. One final movie – The Bookshop. Excellent.

22h:10m. We are at the top of descent into London and can see a nice sunrise in the sky. Arriving on time at 5:00 am with a temperature of 15C. I’ve replaced the Telstra Sim card in my phone with a local one that will operate throughout Iceland and Scandinavia. I was very careful not to drop the small Sim card that I was changing and risk losing it. I should be on the air once we land in London.

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22h:25m On descent. Overall, this had been a comfortable flight. Very little difficulty, although being up the front of the plane with a lie-flat bed seat makes a world of difference. Last May, we flew home from LAX and that flight was 15 1/2 hours so this was only marginally longer. Just crossing the English coast now near Dover.

22h:43m. Landed at Heathrow. Taxiing to Terminal 3

23h:46m. Fairly fast transfer to Terminal 5. A long walk through the terminal following the purple ‘transfer’ signs. Back through security once we reached Terminal 5 and then into the British Airways Lounge. This took less than 50 minutes. We now have 1 1/2 hours to wait before our flight to Reykjavik departs. It’s now 6:00 am and I’m having a beer because I’m thirsty.

24h:5m0 Boarded a British Airways A320 to Reykjavik. This plane is a lot less salubrious than the long haul Qantas aircraft but OK for the this short flight. Nearly 25 hours now since we first pushed back at Tullamarine. This flight left right on time at 07:25 London time.

26h:45m. We left the UK by departing Scotland over the Isle of Skye and the Hebrides. Heading north-west. Next landfall – Iceland

27h:5m. Top of descent. 123 miles to go to Reykjavík.

28h:15m Landed at Keflavik Airport. Trip over! 9C with rain showers.

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(29h.15m by the time we reached our hotel downtown)

While this has taken a long trip, it is not the longest one that I have done, either in terms of time or by distance. Last time I had a brief visit to Iceland I had to travel via a very circuitous route via Hong Kong, London, Oslo and then the Reykjavik. That took a total of 35 hours. My longest trip ever was coming home from Antarctica. From the time I disembarked the ship in Ushuaia to the time I walked in the front door at home, exactly 48 hours had elapsed..

3 thoughts on “On the Second Longest Flight in the World

  1. Oh my Gosh, I thought you were having a stopover in Perth to see the grandies. what an epic journey..

  2. Long hauls in the air are a real test as much on circadian rhythms as well as physiology etc. But you made it and in reasonable comfort. Happy land travel now.

  3. Exhausted already! How do you do it? Probably not as difficult as being an Icelandic Saga hero. Enjoy.

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