The Longest Flight in the World…Without a Free Meal!

Yesterday’s post about US Airways’ new flight from CLT (Charlotte Douglas)-HNL (Honolulu), which will only offer the choice to purchase meals, got me thinking: Could this flight, being 10 hr 28 min on the outbound, be the longest nonstop flight in the world without a free meal? After a lot of research, the answer is: almost.

I paid $1000 to fly to Hawaii, and all I got was this empty meal tray

I paid $1000 to fly to Hawaii, and all I got was this empty meal tray

I’ve put together a chart of the 20 longest nonstop flights in the world without a free meal. Of course, all of these flights offer Buy on Board (BOB) meals, or the option to pre-order a meal for a fee. Nevertheless, considering the length of these flights, is the airline industry going too far? The chart is ranked by flight time, according to each airline’s website, rather than miles flown. And since the flying time varies depending on the inbound or outbound flight, each flight is listed separately.

And voila, here it is!

Airline Meal Chart

As you can see, the new CLT-HNL flight on US Airways is only 7 minutes shy of the world’s actual longest flight without a free meal, HNL to SYD (Sydney) on JetStar Airways, with a flying time of a whopping 10 hours and 35 minutes!

JetStar dominates the top 20, with 12 separate flights from 7 hours and 30 minutes and longer without a free meal. JetStar, a low-cost Australian airline, operates   “a la carte ” flights to Asia and Hawaii, in which on board meals can be pre-ordered for a fee before the flight.

The rest of the 8, not surprisingly, are U.S. legacy carriers flying from beyond the West Coast to Hawaii. U.S. Airways takes two places with its new CLT-HNL route. American Airlines also takes two places in the top 20, and two “runner-up” awards, with its DFW (Dallas Fort-Worth)-HNL, and DFW-OGG (Kahului, Maui) flights. Finally, United Airlines makes up the rest with is ORD (Chicago O’Hare)-HNL flight, and its ORD-OGG and KOA(Kona, Big Island)-ORD nonstops.

US Airways, American, and United all offer the option to BOB, but on a 10 hour+ flight, what happens when meals to purchase run out? The legacy carriers never stock enough meals for all pax, but rather estimate based on past sales of how many meals will be purchased. Conversely, JetStar requires you to pre-order your meal, ensuring supplies will meet the demand.

These four airlines are not the only ones to ever be on this list. Flyglobespan, a British low-cost carrier, used to operate flights from the UK to the US without a free meal, offering instead the option to pre-order a meal. Currently, Flyglobespan flights to the US include a complimentary meal.

Nor will these four airlines be the only ones on the list in the future.  Ryanair, the infamous Irish low-cost carrier, plans to launch trans-atlantic service from Europe in the next few years, with promises of base fares as low as 6 British Pounds. Presumably, these flights would use a BOB option rather than complimentary meals. Those flights going beyond the East Coast would easily help Ryanair make it to the top of this list.

A last thought is whether American, United, and US Airways should rethink the current BOB scheme on flights to Hawaii from beyond the West Coast. Delta Airlines, which does not provide complimentary meals on domestic flights, makes an exception for flights from Atlanta to Hawaii and Alaska, most likely because of the long flying time. Moreover, unlike JetStar, these three airlines do not market themselves as low-cost carriers. Nevertheless, because BOB domestically appears to be here to stay, Hawaii will continue to be thrown into that domestic category, and pax heading for the islands better not come hungry!

Have you been on one of these top 20 “horror flights”? Is there a flight that would currently make the top 20 that I missed? Let me know.

Airline

Route

Flying Time

Miles

1.

JetStar Airways

HNL-SYD

10 hr 35 min

5070

2.

US Airways

CLT-HNL

10 hr 28 min

4670

3.

JetStar Airways

KIX-OOL

10 hr 5 min

4480

4.

JetStar Airways

SYD-HKT

9 hr 50 min

4510

5.

JetStar Airways

SYD-HNL

9 hr 45 min

5070

6.

JetStar Airways

MEL-BKK

9 hr 45 min

4570

7.

JetStar Airways

BKK-MEL

9 hr 15 min

4570

8.

JetStar Airways

OOL-KIX

9 hr 15 min

4480

9.

JetStar Airways

HKT-SYD

9 hr 00 min

4510

10.

United Airlines

ORD-HNL

8 hr 59 min

4243

US Airways

HNL-CLT

8 hr 52 min

4670

United Airlines

ORD-OGG

8 hr 50 min

4184

JetStar Airways

NRT-OOL

8 hr 45 min

4500

JetStar Airways

OOL-NRT

8 hr 45 min

4500

American Airlines

DFW-HNL

8 hr 10 min

3784

American Airlines

DFW-OGG

8 hr 5 min

3711

United Airlines

HNL-ORD

7 hr 58 min

4243

United Airlines

KOA-ORD

7 hr 54 min

4211

JetStar Airways

CNS-NRT

7 hr 40 min

3650

JetStar Airways

NRT-CNS

7 hr 30 min

3650

American Airlines

HNL-DFW

7 hr 30 min

3784

American Airlines

OGG-DFW

7 hr 5 min

3711

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4 responses to “The Longest Flight in the World…Without a Free Meal!

  1. Don’t forget that Delta started the “buy on board thing” in the early 2000’s. Nowadays they are focused improving their product offering (rather than paring it down), taking the best of NW (free booze in coach for int’l flights), and reducing the size of their premium cabin and updating Business Elite class on 777 and 767’s wth 180 degrees flat seat-suites…essentially a hybrid of First and Business class. Fortunately for other airlines, DL doesn’t seem to be taking a very quantitative approach to how the newly branded Delta will end up coming about. They are just upgrading and updating, keeping all that senior management on board in two different cities. But back to the subject of meals; you won’t be strapped for a “free” meal if you fly CO, or any carrier in a premium cabin. To be honest, the whole meals thing is a cost-avoidance issue for airlines. People expect a meal, but do not value it enough to pay a higher ticket price. There is an arguement to whether a meal is a valued or non-valued item. What airlines have done is compromised to become “ala carte” with only those who want a meal to pay for it. Believe it or not, according to a senior level manager for AA’s Onboard Services, airlines actually lose money on the meals/snacks they sell…they are just trying to meet customer expectations while buffering their cost. Back in the days of filet mignon in coach, you were also paying a “regulated” fare determined by the government (which in turn ensured airline profitability). Nobody would ever go back to 1980’s airfare pricing, even if it meant an empty seat next to you and 2 hot gourmet meals on a 5 hour flight.

  2. Pingback: rock and roll hootchie koo » What others have been saying about flyglobespan

  3. Youre andidiot

    Your list is inaccurate. There is a United nonstop from IAD and EWR both to HNL

    • This list was of the 20 longest flights that do not offer free meals. The EWR-HNL flight was formally flown by Continental, and always offered a free meal. It is now operated by United, and the free meal remains. The IAD-HNL flight is brand new, starting in June 2012, and will also offer a free meal. Coincodentally, within one year of this post being written, and of US Airways starting the CLT-HNL route, they cancelled it.

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