Why are flights taking longer now than they did 40 years ago?

11th Jan 2017
Written by: Dave Owen


Hardly a week goes by without us posting a story about an incredible new plane that will revolutionise travel and slash journey times, when the reality is that flights are actually getting longer.

The MailOnline has conducted a report to discover the reason why.

It cites examples like a non-stop flight from New York to Houston, Texas taking around three hours and 50 minutes today, whereas in 1973 the same flight took only two hours and 37 minutes.

Other examples are less drastic, a flight between London and Edinburgh taking around 10 minutes longer today than it did in the mid-'90s.

The reason? Going slower saves money.

Emirates airline plane

It seems that airlines instruct pilots to maintain a lower average speed in order to save fuel, one of the most significant operating costs. It seems that even shaving a few miles per hour off average speeds can result in significant savings across the year.

For example, Northwest Airlines in the US claims to have saved 162 gallons of fuel on a 2008 Paris to Minneapolis flight by cutting its average speed from 542mph to 532mph. This saved the airline nearly £300, and added only eight minutes onto the journey.

Northwest reckons it has saved £300,000 on its LA to Hawaii route in one year, simply by slowing down a little.

Southwest, another US airline, estimates a saving of £21million after adding one-to-three minutes to every flight.

The report also cites congestion, both on the ground and in the sky, as a reason for journey times increasing, as the sheer number of flights operating at any one time leads to delays and fewer opportunities for improved flight paths.

It is also noted that although some individual flights may be getting lengthier, there are now far more options for non-stop flights than there were in the 1970s. Routes that may have taken days due to multiple stops, such as journeys to Southeast Asia, are now reachable with a single flight.

Have you noticed journey times getting longer?

Source: MailOnline


Bottlenose Dolphin Conservation

from £960.00

11 - 25 days

Play an important role in marine conservation by researching and observing bottlenose dolphins on the stunning northeast coast of the...

International Educator Program

from £7,700.00

90 days

Helping small communities revive ecological regions. Protecting native biodiversities. Helping to break the cycle of poverty. Travelling with a difference,...

Combined TEFL Course Ohio

from £935.00

5 days

Join our 5-day combined TEFL course in Columbus and become a TEFL/TESOL certified teacher of English as a foreign language.

Madagascar Healthcare

from £545.00

7 - 28 days

This exciting programme will challenge you and show you the reality of working as a medical professional in a developing...

Tourism Operations Internship in Ireland

from £924.00

14 days

Friendly Irish home-stay accommodation for interns provides affordable living and access to valuable personal and professional development opportunities within Dublin.

Teaching and Community Work in Goa

from £670.00

14 - 56 days

Volunteer in Goa to give back to a community in need! 

Gap Year in India

from £820.00

28 - 112 days

A rare opportunity to live and work in an ancient Indian culture.

London Internship Programme

from £3,950.00

42 - 84 days

We place students in exciting internships in their respective fields, and offer a wide range of social events and excursions...

Volunteer in Turtle Conservation in Costa Rica

from £570.00

14 - 168 days

Volunteer on the Turtle Conservation volunteer project in Costa Rica. Located in any one of four amazing coastal locations.

PR & Marketing in Hong Kong

from £3,600.00

42 - 180 days

Boost your career prospects by interning in the booming, international city of Hong Kong. Gain a head start in the...

Check out these awesome tours!


India Real Food Adventure

from £1,595.00


Spend two fabulous weeks discovering the sights, sounds and flavours of India. From Delhi to Goa and via the ethereal...

Salkantay Trek & Machu Picchu

from £619.00


Salkantay has been dubbed the most spectacular peak in the Peruvian Andes. On this trip, you’ll trek in the shadows...

Asia Family Holiday

from £2,825.00

Visit Thailand, Laos and Vietnam on this epic family adventure. Travel by overnight train to Chiang Mai and by boat...

Sunsets and Beaches

Say sawasdee kha! Enter paradise where it’s all about those beaches and sunset vibes in Thailand. Start the adventure by...

City to Surf

from £1,204.00

6 - 6 days


To the poor souls who leg it from Sydney to Surfers Paradise on a 1-hour flight, our thoughts are with...

Complete Galápagos – Estrella del Mar

from £4,729.00


This two-week-plus adventure is loaded with astounding experiences among the wildlife of the world-within-a-world of Galápagos Islands. Observe giant tortoises...

Cruising the Coast of Vietnam – South to North

from £4,150.00

Vietnam’s idyllic coastline is enjoyed mostly by local fisherman, with many travellers delving no deeper than the drawcards of Ha...

India’s Golden Triangle

from £484.00


Visit India and follow the famous Golden Triangle. Enjoy the perfect introduction to India's three most popular destinations - Delhi,...

Taj Mahal Extension

from £455.01


Journey to India’s famous Taj Mahal, a majestic monument to love. Built by a Mughal emperor as tribute to his...

Parades to Piazzas

from £1,089.00

Throw caution to the wind as you travel from London to Rome, stopping to experience the magic of some of...

More inspiration and advice

[contact-form-7 id="4" title="Contact form 1"]