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There aren’t many 16-hour flights in the world. In fact, the world’s current longest commercial route is Singapore Airline’s 18-hour nonstop route from New York to Singapore. But when COVID restrictions made landing airplanes in the U.S. difficult, Air Tahiti Nui regularly flew a 16 hour and 20 minute flight from Tahiti to Paris. At that point, it was the world’s longest nonstop flight of any kind. But because Tahiti is part of French Polynesia, it was also technically a domestic flight. Air Tahiti Nui used some interesting tricks to push the Boeing 787-9 more than 1,000 miles past its official range.

Air Tahiti Nui first ran flight TN64 nonstop on March 15th, 2020. It took off from Tahiti at 3:14 AM local time, flew for 11+ hours, then landed at Charles de Gaulle Airport in Paris at 6:00 AM. That is a recipe for some serious jet lag!

A Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner painted blew, flying above white clouds.
Boeing 787-9 | Tahiti Nui Air

The shortest distance between Tahiti and Paris is a 9,765 mile route over the North Pole. Though the specific route the pilots chose for each flight likely depended on the force of gulf stream winds. In certain weather, you would rather fly an even longer distance with the wind at your back. But here’s the kicker, the Boeing 787-9’s advertised range is just 8,786 miles.

Tahiti Nui Airlines obviously outfitted this jet with enough long-range tanks to carry more fuel than it needed–just in case. But even so, the airline never filled more than 150 seats on the 240+ seat plane. It appears that the airline later limited the flight to 130 seats. And it never carried additional cargo.

The ticket price for a 130-seat 9,000-mile flight must have been higher than a 787’s cruising altitude. But I imagine, at the beginning of the quarantine, there were many folks hanging out in French Polynesia who were eager to return to France–no mater the cost. This may be why Tahiti Nui Airlines ran this flight “regularly” from March 15th 2020 through April 19th 2020, then cancelled it.

Boeing jet airplane flying over clouds.
Boeing 787-9 | Tahiti Nui Air

Tahiti Nui Air still flies many people from French Polynesia to Paris, but they stop over in Los Angeles for fuel and a break. And having taking 13+ hour flights myself, I imagine every passenger is thrilled to stretch their legs.

The current longest domestic commercial flight is between Paris and Saint-Denis, Réunion, which is an island in the Indian Ocean that is also part of France. And that is also quite a flight. But you might be surprised to hear that flying nonstop from New York to Hawaii can take nearly as long–just a smidge over 11 hours.

The longest regularly-scheduled domestic flight in Russia is probably Moscow to Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky, a city which actually lies east of Japan. That flight covers a ground distance of 3,652 nautical miles in about nine hours. China’s longest domestic flight is closer to eight hours and it connects the northern city of Harbin to the city of Sanya on tropical Hainan island in the south.

Next, read more about the current longest commercial flight or take a tour of Air Tahiti Nui’s long-range Boeing 787 in the video below: