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Revealed: The World’s Busiest Long-Haul Routes

Long-haul flights account for just 4% of the world’s services in September, based on covering 3,000 miles (4,828 km) or more. Only one in every 25 departures is flying that distance. Here are the world’s five most-served long-haul airport pairs based on flights in the week starting September 16th.

5 Two markets rank fifth

In joint fifth place globally are both Chicago O’Hare-London Heathrow and Newark-Heathrow. OAG shows that each has 63 weekly departing flights (double for both ways) – nine daily – to Europe’s second-busiest airport by flights. As previously discussed, Newark-Heathrow is United’s second most-served international route. Its six daily services join British Airways‘ triple-daily operation.

Air Belgium, Airbus A330neo, Livery

Photo: Air Belgium.

Looking at O’Hare-Heathrow, American has four daily flights (all by the Boeing 787-9), United is at triple daily (all by the premium-heavy 167-seat 767-300ER), and British Airways is double daily (one by the A380, the other by the A330neo). No, your eyes are not deceiving you. BA is wet leasing an Air Belgium A330-900 (presently 286-seat OO-ABG), which it exclusively uses on this 3,953-mile (6,361 km) route.

What I find particularly interesting is how, despite the six-hour time zone difference, O’Hare-Heathrow still has a daytime service to Europe. It is influenced the point-to-point demand and the early morning passenger arrivals at O’Hare. AA90 leaves at 08:30 and arrives at Heathrow at 22:10.

4 London Heathrow to Dubai

In fourth place is Dubai to Heathrow, but only just. It has 64 weekly flights and as many as 10 daily services. It has just one more weekly flight in the analyzed seven days than O’Hare and Newark to Heathrow.

Three carriers operate: Emirates (six daily; all A380, later rising to 47 weekly with an additional 777-300ER service); BA (19 weekly; A380, 777-200ER, 787-9, 787-10 – later to be double daily A380); and Royal Brunei three weekly (787-8). As this article examines the airport level, Emirates’ flights to Gatwick and Stansted are not included. Note that Virgin returns in October.

Royal Brunei B787

Royal Brunei was historically the cheapest non-stop operation between Heathrow and Dubai. After initially flying from Bandar via Abu Dhabi to the UK, it switched to Dubai in 2004 using the 767-300ER and later the 777-200ER and 787-8.

In winter 2018, Bandar-Heathrow became non-stop before returning via Dubai in late 2022. BI97 departs from Dubai at 01:45 and arrives at 06:25. After spending most of the day on the ground, BI98 leaves at 17:15 and arrives in the UAE at 03:45+1, before continuing to Southeast Asia.

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3 New York JFK to Paris CDG

In third place in the long-haul route race is New York JFK to Paris CDG. Covering 3,635 miles (5,849 km), there are 82 weekly flights – 11 to 12 daily, depending on the day. Departures have risen from 63 (+23%) in a comparable week in September 2022 and by a whopping 46% (!) from the 56 weekly it had in pre-pandemic 2019.

This was helped by the recent arrival of Norse Atlantic in March 2023 and then JetBlue in June, along with good growth by Air France and Delta. Compared to 2019, there are an additional 4,028 seats each week, each way – a considerable amount of fill, and it is before Orly and Newark are considered. CDG-JFK has risen from joint sixth worldwide in 2019 to third now.

Air France Boeing 777-300ER

Photo: Lukas Wunderlich I Shutterstock.

Naturally, Air France is the primary operator (40 weekly; 777-300ER, 777-200ER), followed by fellow SkyTeam carrier Delta (triple daily; A330-300, 767-400ER). With a daily service each, there is also American (777-200ER), JetBlue (A321LR), and Norse (787-9). Norwegian operated as recently as March 2020, and XL Airways France until June 2019.

2 Los Angeles to Heathrow

The world’s second most-served long-haul route is Los Angeles to Heathrow. The 5,456 miles (8,870 km) airport pair has 84 weekly flights or 12 daily in the examined period, so it is very marginally ahead of JFK-CDG.

Los Angeles-Heathrow has expanded enormously, with services up from 54 weekly last year (+56%) and 63 in 2019 (+33%). This does not consider Norse Atlantic from Gatwick.

This expansion meant that the airport pair jumped from number three globally to second. The image below shows all 12 flights airborne from Heathrow to Los Angeles. The latest addition is AA139, which began in April 2023 and leaves the UK at 18:50.

LHR-LAX 12 flights in the air

While somewhat unnecessary given the image, American has triple-daily flights (777-300ER, 777-200ER), the same frequency as transatlantic joint venture partner BA (777-300ER, A350-1000). Virgin is also three daily (787-9, A350-1000). United has a double daily operation (787-9), while Delta is daily (A330neo).

Delta rejoined the fray in March 2023, last serving the market non-stop in October 2015. In the past 20 years, only Air New Zealand had exited and not returned, operating Auckland-Los Angeles-Heathrow until 2020. The NZ1 and NZ2 flight numbers are now used between Auckland and JFK.

1 In first place is…

It should not be surprising that the world’s top long-haul market is New York JFK to Heathrow. With 157 weekly flights – 87% more than number two – there are 22 to 23 daily departures each way. (This does not consider Gatwick or Newark.) The biggest development is the launch of JetBlue in 2021, helping the market’s services to grow by 15% versus 2019.

Virgin Atlantic Airbus A350-1000 G-VLUX

Photo: Vincenzo Pace I Simple Flying.

Five carriers operate. There is British Airways with eight daily departures (777-300ER, 777-200ER), Virgin with 45 weekly (A350-1000, A330neo, A330-300, 787-9), American with four daily (777-300ER, 777-200ER), Delta with double daily (A330neo, 767-400ER) and JetBlue with double daily (A321LR). In March 2020, just as the world temporarily paused, the 747-400 was the market’s leading equipment.

Will you be flying any of these routes soon? If so, let us know in the comments.

Sources of information: Cirium, OAG,, Google Flights.


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