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If you’re a frequent air traveler, you've probably spent some time wishing your flight was shorter. Whether it’s a rowdy passenger, an uncomfortable seating arrangement, a baby crying nearby, or nauseating turbulence, sometimes the less time spent in the air, the better. If you're looking for the briefest regularly scheduled passenger flight, you'll have to head to the Orkney Islands, located off the northern coast of mainland Scotland. With a flight time of less than two minutes (less than one minute with favorable winds), the world’s shortest scheduled airline service connects the islands of Westray and Papa Westray.
The Loganair flight can hold just eight passengers aboard a Britten-Norman BN-2 Islander arliner. There are no in-flight facilities, but in the time it takes most passenger aircraft to reach cruising altitude, the trip is over. You can literally see where you’re going to land before the plane even takes off. On weekdays, the 1.7-mile (2.7-km) route is flown in both directions, with a single pilot at the helm. Remarkably, the flight distance is shorter than the total length of Edinburgh Airport's two runways in the Scottish capital. A one-way ticket is priced at around £17 pounds, or $22 USD.
As Papa Westray has just 90 residents (Westray has closer to 600 and is the link to the Orkney mainland), the passengers tend to be tourists or school groups headed for Papa Westray's archaeological sites, most notably the Knap of Howar farmstead, the oldest preserved stone houses in northern Europe.
Now approaching cruising altitude ... oh wait, we're there:
- Flights between Westray and Papa Westray began in 1967, establishing the record for the world’s shortest scheduled flight. There is also a passenger ferry between the two islands with multiple daily departures (the trip lasts 25 minutes), and a twice-weekly car ferry. Although the possibility of building a bridge has long been discussed, it has not yet been happened.
- In the continental United States, the shortest flight is between San Francisco and Santa Rosa. It takes approximately 16 minutes with United Airlines. By contrast, as we recently discussed, the world’s longest flight is currently from New York to Singapore, a route that takes nearly 18 hours.
- Before his 2013 retirement, pilot Stuart Linklater flew between Westray and Papa Westray more than 12,000 times. He still holds the record for the fastest flight between the islands, at just 53 seconds.