Exploring the evolution of the longest commercial flight routes originating in the United States.

Commercial flight, which began about a century ago, has become increasingly popular, efficient, and far-reaching with every decade since. Airlines and aircraft manufacturers have helped to create today’s smaller, more intimately connected world by pushing back relentlessly against the limits of their aircrafts’ speed, maximum load, and range. In the process they have reduced the stress and strain of global travel, vastly increasing the passenger population while continually breaking their own records for safety. What follows are a few of the most salient advances, a selected sample of air routes that illustrate what amounts to a revolution in commercial flight.

Five Notable Long-Distance Routes

Instructions

1
EACH COLOR-CODED FLIGHT
IS PROPORTIONAL TO THE
ACTUAL ROUTE

2
SCROLL TO SEE THE
INCREASING LENGTH
OF FLIGHTS OVER TIME

3
HOVER OVER EACH PLANE
FOR FLIGHT DETAILS

3
TAP EACH PLANE
FOR FLIGHT DETAILS

First Commercial Flight

In 1914, a one-passenger, 23-minute flight across Tampa Bay marked the first commercial flight in history, a sure sign of a coming paradigm shift to the way we travel.

Commercial Passengers in the United States

The total number of domestic and international passengers in the United States has increased 366% since 1970.

1958

New York to London

Operating on the first trans-Atlantic jet airline route, Pan Am and the Boeing 707 helped usher in a new wave of commercial avaiation

1979

Atlanta to Frankfurt

Four times per week, 218 passengers could fly non-stop to Germany

Filling the Skies

The distance traveled so far by the worldwide Boeing 747 fleet is equal to about 100,000 trips to the moon and back.

1987

Dallas to Tokyo

Once American Airlines’ only route between the United States and Asia, there are now over 200 flights available each week

2004

Atlanta to Johannesburg

The journey from the USA to South Africa meets the 12 hour flight time and 7,500 mile distance that classifies an “ultra long-haul” flight

Sky Population

The International Air Transport Association estimates that 3.8 billion people will fly on commercial flights in 2016.

2016

San Francisco to Singapore

Beginning service on June 1, 2016, the Boeing 787 Dreamliner will complete the longest scheduled flight by a U.S. carrier

Global demand for commercial flight will only grow in tandem with globalization, the rapid growth of an international middle class, and an aviation industry that promises continued advances to make commercial travel even faster, more comfortable, and more environmentally friendly. As for range, the next leap for commercial aviation might well be into outer space. Some wealthy citizens have already purchased tickets for the first passenger flights into space, and if the aerospace industry keeps up the pace of past innovation, the boarding pass to a space shuttle may someday be within the means of the rest of us as well.