The Qantas Dreamliner will launch on March 25 the first UK-Australia non-stop flight.
The traveller who sets off from London intent on flying around the world can do so in three hops – after a fashion, The Independent said.
In the late 1980s, upgraded engines allowed Jumbo jets to reach Tokyo non-stop from the UK. From the Japanese capital, trans-Pacific flights opened up to Vancouver, San Francisco and Los Angeles. From any of these, you could make a final leap back to Britain.
The catch, of course, is that it was a firmly northern hemisphere itinerary. And if you want to make a three-leg trip around the world, I cannot see any possible itinerary that crosses the equator. London-Singapore-Los Angeles-London gets tantalizingly close, but no cigar to celebrate reaching the southern hemisphere: Singapore is around 100 miles north of the equator.
Jakarta, 400 miles-plus south of the equator and currently the longest leap from Heathrow, would be a promising candidate if only it had a direct connection with the Americas.
On 25 March, Qantas begins the first UK-Australia scheduled non-stop service. It would be tempting to speculate that a “proper” three-hop round-the-world trip becomes feasible.
Just as the 1950s was the decade when the Arctic opened up to aviation, the 2020s could be the era when aircraft start criss-crossing the deep south.
The new flight goes from Heathrow to Perth, and Western Australia’s capital is short on the very long links that are necessary to reach the Americas.
While Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane have good connections with the US west coast, Perth has few Pacific links. Even neighboring New Zealand merits only one flight a day from Western Australia.
Yet in the same month as the Australian airline deploys a Boeing 787 on the Heathrow-Perth run, the prospect has emerged that the same plane type could connect Perth with Buenos Aires.
Norwegian Air Argentina, the South American offshoot of the Oslo-based carrier, has applied for traffic rights from Buenos Aires to Perth and onwards to Singapore. The mileage, 7,839, looks almost comfortable compared with the 9,000-plus from Heathrow to Perth.
There is, though, a catch, as our old friend Greater Circle Mapper shows. The direct track passes more or less directly over the South Pole. There is no technical impediment to a Boeing 787 at altitude at a latitude of 90 south. But Antarctica is the one part of the world where the diversion possibilities of the ultra long-haul aircraft become relevant.