Virgin Australia has been all over the news this week, as it suspended trading on the Australian stock market and considers voluntary administration. But, while much of the media was distracted by other events, Virgin Australia has achieved something quite remarkable this week.
Last Tuesday morning, a Virgin Australia Boeing 777-300ER departed from Paris and flew non-stop to Brisbane, arriving on Wednesday afternoon. The total flight time was 19 hours and 45 minutes, which is 26 minutes longer than Qantas’ record-breaking London-Sydney flight in November 2019.
The aircraft, VH-VPD (named Avalon Beach) departed Paris on Tuesday, 14 April 2020 at 9.52am, local time. (The flight was supposed to leave on Monday, but was delayed by a day.) It then flew for almost 20 hours without a refuelling stop, landing in Brisbane on Wednesday 15 April at 1.37pm, local time.
The great-circle distance from Paris to Brisbane is 10,273 miles or 16,532km. But according to Flight Aware, the actual distance flown was 18,209km.
If the aircraft was fully-loaded, such a non-stop flight would not have been possible. But the Virgin Australia aircraft was being ferried back from France without passengers after operating an Auckland-Hong Kong-Paris repatriation flight on behalf of the French government.
Although this is a remarkable achievement, it’s not quite a world record. Qantas has twice flown from London to Sydney without stopping – once in 1989, and again in 2019. The distance from London to Sydney is 300 miles further than from Paris to Brisbane. And, although Virgin Australia’s Paris-Brisbane flight time was 26 minutes longer than last year’s London-Sydney jaunt, Qantas’ record was for the world’s longest passenger flight. The Virgin Australia flight did not carry any passengers.
The Qantas Project Sunrise marketing research flights from last year weren’t exactly commercial flights either, as there were no paying customers on board. But Qantas did invite around 50 passengers – mostly journalists, which guaranteed Qantas got a lot more free publicity at the time than Virgin Australia received this week.
On this, one Australian Frequent Flyer member commented:
Is it even legal to do a flight this long without scientific researchers, film crews and pull-up banners?
Join the discussion on the Australian Frequent Flyer forum: Are virgin about to break a world record for longest flight time on a commercial airline?