Although Singapore Air’s 18-hour non-stop flight from Newark to Singapore was cancelled last year, there are still plenty of ultra-long flights to choose from. United Airlines’ non-stop from Newark to Hong Kong is one such journey.
It’s known as a “trans-polar route,” flying passengers close to the North Pole before descending back down south over Russian Siberia en route to its destination.
Commercial flights directly over the North Pole are a fairly new phenomenon. They weren’t really an option for Americans until the Soviet Union fell apart and the Russians stopped worrying so much that we were going to drop bombs on them. But since about 2000, the number of transpolar flights has increased considerably.
In terms of environmental impact, those developments may be a good thing because they shave significant amounts of flying time off trips from the US to Asia, saving hundreds of gallons of jet fuel and reducing the pollution produced by the jets. When Canadian officials were contemplating opening up the airways to more commercial jets over the North Pole in 2000, they estimated that the route would knock five hours off the usual flying time for a trip from New York to Hong Kong, for instance. That’s serious cash—and jet fuel.