In aviation, the flight length is defined as the time airborne during a flight.

Short-haul flight: <3 hours
Medium-haul flight: 3 to 6 hours
Long-haul flight: >6 hours
Ultra Long-haul flight: >12 hours


This definition is independent of absolute distance covered and whether the flight is domestic or international.

Domestic/international versus flight length

Domestic flights can vary greatly in distance covered since some countries are larger than others. A short-haul domestic flight is commonly categorized as being no longer than 500 mi (800 km) or taking under 1.5 hours to complete, meaning that all domestic flights within relatively small countries like the United Kingdom are short-haul. But in addition to this criterion, to be considered a domestic flight the destination airport must be in the same country as the departure airport.

Distance covered versus flight length

A flight is typically planned to follow a direct route wherever possible to minimise flight length. For long-haul flights, the most direct route follows a great circle along the diameter of the earth. For example, aircraft travelling westward between continents in the northern hemisphere often follow paths extending northward near or into the arctic region. When shown on a conventional projection of a world map, the resulting route appears longer than a direct route would be since it is shown curved. The great-circle distance between airports may therefore give a better approximation of flight length.

However, a flight route must also take into account weather conditions, air currents, and fuel economy. A transcontinental flight in an easterly direction often takes a more southerly route than a great circle route in order to take advantage of the jet stream.


Short-haul flights

Airline definitions differ on what is to be considered a short-haul. Thomas Cook Airlines defines it as a flight taking less than three hours to complete.[1]

A short-haul flight for Cathay Pacific may be a flight between Hong Kong and Tokyo or Korea, as well as between New York and Vancouver.[2] In the United Kingdom, Air Passenger Duty is levied on all flights by the UK Treasury according to banding by distance. It defines a short-haul flight as a flight distance under 2000 miles.

Medium-haul flights

A medium-haul flight lasts from three and six hours, for example between the United Kingdom and Egypt, which requires approximately five and a half hours to complete.

Long-haul flights

Long-haul flights are journeys typically made by wide-body aircraft, such as Boeing 767, Boeing 777, Airbus A340, Airbus A380 or Boeing 747. They involve long distances typically requiring over six and a half hours to cover[3] and are often non-stop flights.


See also


External links

  • The Great Circle Mapper Displays Great Circle flight routes on a Map And calculates distance and duration
  • Flight-time and -distance calculator
  • Flight duration calculator
  • Air Miles Calculator
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