Qatar Airways inaugurated the longest air route in the world on Sunday. The Middle Eastern carrier inaugurated Doha to Auckland flights when one of its fleet of Boeing 777-200LRs took off from Hamad International Airport.
Yesterday morning, and after flying through 10 different time zones, Flight QR920 touched down at Auckland International Airport on New Zealand’s North Island. The flight was 14,535kms long, took 16 hours 23 minutes and landed five minutes earlier than the scheduled arrival time.
Qatar released a tweet confirming the arrival of the marathon flight at 07:25. Auckland Airport’s rescue service crews have a custom of greeting maiden flights by spraying them with waterguns when they arrive and QR920 was treated to the same honour.
The return flight landed back in Doha late yesterday evening. With a scheduled flight time of 17 hours 30 minutes, this takes longer than the outbound journey. The lengths of the flights mean that Qatar has to have four pilots aboard to comply with international regulations.
Akbar Al Baker, Qatar’s CEO, was on board for the record-breaking flight. He told assembled media representatives the new route to New Zealand was an integral cog in the carrier’s worldwide expansion goals.
Noting that the new route was not just another option for business and leisure travellers, New Zealand’s trade-minister said it would increase trade between the two locations. Todd McClay said estimations had shown the service could well increase cargo capacity to the tune of NZ$50 million (£30 million) a year.