Planes take direct route through empty skies cutting 30 miles off journeys

Sam Meadows
·2-min read
A senior figure at NATS said planes have been able to travel as the crow flies due to the lack of flights - Roslan Rahman/AFP
A senior figure at NATS said planes have been able to travel as the crow flies due to the lack of flights - Roslan Rahman/AFP
Coronavirus Article Bar with counter
Coronavirus Article Bar with counter

Passenger planes are taking more direct routes “as the crow flies” as the empty skies have shaved 30 miles off the average journey, it has emerged.

Jon Proudlove, a senior figure at the air traffic control firm NATS, said that flights which usually have to take a longer route because of congestion in the air can now fly straight to their destination, meaning they arrive quicker.

The Sunday Times reported that this has reduced the average length of flights in Britain and Europe by 30 miles - savings which add up to about 30,000 miles a day.

Travel expert Paul Charles said this would be welcomed by consumers who prize airlines whose flights take off on time and do not arrive delayed.

Research by his firm, the PC Agency, and AudienceNet, found that more than 80 per cent of frequent flyers said that punctuality or length of flight was the most important factor when choosing an airline.

Mr Charles said: “The upside of this for consumers is they will get better punctuality. We know that a plane that takes off on time and arrives on time is important to travellers.

“It has knock on implications, for example if you have a car hire or something booked you don’t want to arrive late for that.”

He added: “It could mean the end of families having to wait for you at the airport - whether you are visiting family abroad or they are waiting for you to come home to pick you up.

“Overall, it can only be a good thing [for travellers].”

The Sunday Times reported that analysis by NATS had shown that flights from Edinburgh to Gatwick were now 34.5 miles shorter than before the pandemic while those between Brussels and Dublin had been shortened by between 70 and 80 miles. 

This has resulted in a reduction in the amount of fuel planes are using, which has been welcomed by environmental campaigners.

Mr Proudlove told the Sunday Times that the shorter flight times had mitigated any disruption caused by the extra safety precautions airlines have implemented because of Covid-19.

The Government’s guidance for carriers requires them to enforce social distancing and regular cleaning of planes wherever possible.

And while these additional measures might have been expected to cause delays, Mr Proudlove said: “We've seen absolutely no impact. They're all arriving early, because they're all flying direct."

Have recent flights you've been on arrived early after taking a more direct route? Tell us in the comments section below