A surprising number of routes head to Australasia from Düsseldorf and the Rhine Ruhr region of Germany. Speed and direction of travel are two major deciding factors.
For those with a passion for flying, the fastest journeys to New Zealand or Australia can be achieved with just one stopover. Others who wish to break the journey can choose between vastly different cities for a layover.
For those heading west, options can be found via Santiago de Chile, Los Angeles or San Fransisco. More exotic places to connect flights are Fiji or Hawaii. Heading east reveals options such as Hong Kong, Bangkok, Tokyo and Singapore. Dubai and Doha offer other possibilities.
For a recent flight to New Zealand, your writer chose Emirates Airline who were offering the longest flight in the world.
In Spain at the time, it made sense to depart from Barcelona for a seven and a half hour flight to Dubai. Two hours free roaming at the airport would follow. The onward flight to Auckland would remain airborne for fifteen and a half hours.
I boarded my first Emirates flight and relaxed quickly into my spacious seat next to an enormous emergency exit that the kind agent at checkin had recommended. The aircraft was a version of Airbus three eighty, the 388 to be precise. Four powerful engines kept this bird in the air hour after long hour. My first experience of this plane in spite of the number of years it has been in service.
Crew members were in abundance due to the enormity of the cabin. They were polite and friendly. Looking at their faces and reading their names, it became obvious they were akin to a mini version of the United Nations. So too the passengers. It emerged during conversation that the friendly young chap next to me was from Pakistan.
We took off smoothly as is to be expected with such a heavy, powerful plane. Catering began soon after reaching the early stages of cruising altitude. I was flying economy. The Russian roulette of meals was not necessary for me since a full choice was available when cabin attendants asked me what I would like to eat. I chose lamb. It was surprisingly fresh and tasty. It seemed the catering was from Spain. I threw caution to the wind and drank a good glass of chilled wine.
The flight was smooth and surprisingly quick, so we landed in Dubai with me still feeling fresh. It was early in the morning on my inner clock. The transfer to a new gate brought the surprise of the necessity to pass through full security. Body checks and luggage scans were required in spite of having just entered from an inbound flight. Very reassuring.
A couple of hours wait and we boarded the next plane for the longest flight available in the world. That a plane can stay in the air is testimony to today’s technological advances. Many flights are way out over vast oceans and ours would be no exception. The flight plan foresaw flying to the west of Sri Lanka, Indonesia and Australia. We would see coastline again many, many hours later somewhere near Adelaide.
This plane was also a 388. It was fuller than my previous flight and I was allocated my requested aisle seat but next to the very large yet not fat, male half of a pleasant English couple. I later moved over to become one of three occupying on a row of four seats. We were more comfortable. All of us much less heavily built, one being a youngish woman, the other a young teenager.
The flight felt gruelling. Staff were as friendly as before, I ate Asian this time. It was also tasty and was, of course, lighter and more in tune with such a long period of being seated. A gin and tonic was chased by a glass of white wine again. I slept only a couple of short phases, totalling perhaps three hours. I worked a little, read for longer periods.
I also passed some of the time enthralled by new movies, one of which was a story from New Zealand. Otherwise I merely zoned out. The flight was on a few occasions slightly bumpy but mostly calm atmosphere reigned. I adore that sensation when I forget I am in the air, only to be reminded of the fact when the jet vibrates. We landed in Auckland smoothly fifteen and a half hours later.
Flying back to Europe reveals similar options to the outbound direction entailing a layover along the journey. Now there were two fast routes. Via Dubai or Doha..
The latest in a line of longest flights in the world has been introduced by Qatar Airways. Your writer placed his fate in their hands.
Qatar operated a Boeing twin engine triple seven long range version, the 77L on the route. Nonstop Auckland to Doha would incur spending seventeen and a half hours in the air to Doha. Again two hours were necessary at an international hub. I was rewarded for my patient interaction at checkin with a row of three seats in economy all to myself. Boarding the plane, i placed my derrière in the middle seat, my bag on my left at the window.
A linguistically proficient friend takes this concept further. He takes books published in either English, Spanish, Italian or French, whichever he thinks are less likely to appeal to other passengers on a particular route. Clever. I have done the same with German and French. I ignored the goings on around me. The doors were closed, robotic actions ensued, statements were made and, before I knew it, we were in the air, climbing through scattered clouds and headed out towards the sun. The power of mindfulness! The seats were comfortable, I had ample space for my average sized legs and, moreover, I had so much elbow space. Thank you.
The crew were professional. I was slightly surprised that they were not overly friendly. Some fifteen hours into the flight, I became involved in conversation with three female members of the crew at the rear galley. One young woman from Eastern Europe in particular was a joy to talk to. I find it such a shame that many people have made it their mission to treat a few nationalities as scapegoats for their own life challenges.
As we started to descend into Doha I mentally added the name of Qatar to a long list of countries I have visited. It may only be two hours in an airport but, hey, who’s rules are they, if not my own? The cabin became a hive of activity one final time with crew members returning to active efficiency. The plane set smoothly down on the tarmac after spending seventeen and a half hours in the air. The world’s longest flight had come to a safe conclusion.
We entered the terminal to again experience a security check that took place even though we had been scrutinised elsewhere in the world. The airport os vast, modern and filled to the brim with obligatory buying opportunities. I yearned for nothing. Instead, I wandered around aimlessly to stretch my legs, back and shoulders.
Having gathered an impression of yet another massive travel centre, I sat patiently until the two hours wait came to a end. The next aircraft I boarded was a twin engine Airbus three thirty, the 333 to be precise. This time I had be allocated an aisle seat. Once again the one next to me remained free.
I had only slept an hour on the previous flight so, after settling in, I closed my eyes. I surfaced from a few minutes deep sleep as the cockpit crew pushed the the plane down the runway. Outside it was dark. I reflected upon my many occasions I had been permitted to experience take-off on the jump seat in the cockpit. VR, V1, V2 reeled through my head as speed gathered, the nose lifted and the massive bird left the ground. Wonderful. I’m on my way.
An uneventful, pleasant and smooth flight took its course. Female crew gave friendly smiles, light food and took great care of passengers. I passed the seven hours in a daze, the previous power nap robbing me from any more sleep. Another smooth landing, this time in the early morning sun of Barcelona closed the penultimate chapter of my odyssey of travel.
It was fun to join the longest flight in the world a second time in the space of three months. Different ones. A unique experience.