How far do you go when you need to buy some groceries? Chances are that if you flew by plane, it still would not be the shortest scheduled flight in the world. Airplanes are convenient transport, but are usually used to cover long distances, because trains, cars and buses are better suited for short trips. So why the shortest scheduled passenger flight in the world exists? How short is it exactly?

The longest flight in the world, Doha-Auckland by Qatar Airways, covers more than 14.5 thousand kilometers and takes at least 16 hours to complete. It is not as insane as it sounds. For people, who do need to get to New Zealand or to come back from it, it is much more convenient than transferring one or two times on the way. However, it still sounds a little painful to sit in a plane for so long. Good thing most flights are shorter.

Pilatus Britten-Norman BN2B-26 Islander is perfectly suited for the task. (Mark Longair, Wikimedia(CC BY-SA 2.0)

What was the shortest flight you have ever taken? Less than an hour? Maybe half an hour? Sounds like ages compared to the actual shortest scheduled passenger flight in the world. Before telling you about it, we have to define what makes a flight qualify for this record.

First of all, it has to be somewhat needed for people – it cannot be just for entertainment. It also has to be regular and conducted by some airlines. However, it does not have to be international or extremely popular.

Speaking of which, the shortest international flight for some time has been Friedrichshafen-St. Gallen over Lake Constance, but now it’s been canceled. Why? Well, it was never meant to be very popular. From the very beginning environmentalists were criticizing the flight for bringing unnecessary noise to a rather beautiful area and polluting atmosphere for no reason. A train would take 2 hours to go from one city to another, while car ride is possible too. However, a flight, covering only about 20 kilometers and taking 8 minutes was established anyway, thinking it will bring around 40 thousand passengers a year.

That, of course, didn’t happen, so this April the route was cancelled. There really cannot be any profit in these ultra-short flights. However, the shortest scheduled passenger flight in the world has no problem with money.

Westray to Papa Westray flight, carried out by Loganair is the current record holder. The route is partially funded as a subsidized public service obligation. Why? Westray are Papa Westray are a couple of small islands in Orkney Islands in Scotland, United Kingdom. Westray has a population of almost 600, while less than a hundred people live in Pappa Westray. It means that you really should not think about a bridge – it is simple not viable.

This is how the shortest scheduled passenger flight in the world looks like

Ferry, of course, is an option and it is being used for cargo and, sometimes, people. But both islands have rocky beaches, which do not make job easy. The flight helps bringing students and scientists to archeological sites and is crucial for the wellbeing of people in Papa Westray – that is how doctors come to see them. The flights between the two islands occur daily, but on weekends 8-seater plane flies only one way.

There are many shorts flights in the world, usually between some islands. However, it is unlikely that something is going to beat this record anytime soon. Officially it takes 2 minutes to fly from Westray to Papa Westray, but usually flight only lasts for about a minute or even less. Could it be a tourist attraction? Maybe, but a nice flight over many islands is probably more exciting.


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