Who determined the definition of what a "long-haul" flight is?

By implication, this presupposes definitions of "short-haul" and possible "medium-haul"/"extra-long-haul" flights, as I've seen the terms used.

I understand the tag has a definition of

A long distance flight that lasts six hours or longer.

but I'm curious as to where this definition comes from, and if there's a common authority that different airlines/orgs use to talk about such categories?

For context, a lot of places I've been looking at recently refer to anything over 3 hours as "long haul" (which I see as mildly absurd, since most of my trips include a 12+hour leg).

  • $\begingroup$ I edited your opening sentence since you answered the first part of that question yourself in the 3rd paragraph. I've boiled it down to just the part you don't seem to know. Please edit again if I misunderstood something. $\endgroup$
    – FreeMan
    Commented Feb 19 at 18:08
  • $\begingroup$ Well not really - that tag has a definition, but other common definitions are 3, 8, 10, 12+ hours; I don't know, which is why I'm asking. We have been looking at kid-flight stuff and a lot of sites are saying 3+ hours is long haul; there's a long way between 3 and 17 hours! We'd never call our 4-5 hour flights long. $\endgroup$ Commented Feb 20 at 13:47
  • 4
    $\begingroup$ Are you asking about the tag definition at this site (if so, this question belongs on meta, not here), or asking about who in the industry determines what "long haul" is? $\endgroup$
    – FreeMan
    Commented Feb 20 at 14:00
  • $\begingroup$ Who in industry and what that definition is? Or a summary of the various quoted figures and who/why they are thus. $\endgroup$ Commented Feb 20 at 19:28
  • $\begingroup$ Don't tell me down here, edit the question to make this explicit so that everyone reading the question doesn't also have to try to read your mind. $\endgroup$
    – FreeMan
    Commented Feb 20 at 19:30

1 Answer 1


There is no single definition of what long-haul exactly means!

You are asking for a definition from a common authority. This would typically be ICAO (International Civil Aviation Organization). However, as far as I could find, ICAO does not define the terms "short-haul" or "long-haul". The Wikipedia article on Flight length claims that ICAO defines short-haul to mean anything below 8 hours of flight time1 and long-haul to mean 8-16 hours of flight time, but the linked sources on Fatigue Risk Management Systems do not support such a claim. The term "Ultra long range operations" is however defined in this context to mean more than 16 hours of flight time:

Ultra long range operations (ULR)

Augmented long range operations involving any sector between a specific city pair in which the planned flight time exceeds 16 hours, taking into account mean wind conditions and seasonal changes (as defined by the Ultra long range Crew Alertness Steering Committee, Flight Safety Foundation (2005). Flight Safety Digest 26.)

(FRMS Implementation Guide for Operators)

Another common authority is IATA (International Air Transport Association). They are more concerned with the passenger aspect of air travel. They use the following definitions for EDIFACT and XML messages for data exchange between airlines:

FHT Flight haul type

  1. Long-haul 6 hrs plus
  2. Medium-haul 3-6 hrs
  3. Short-haul up to 3 hrs


Other official authorities may define the term "long-haul" for specific documents. For example, EASA (European Aviation Safety Agency) once used the following definition in a Safety Directive:


Long haul flight: Any flight, or series of flights where passengers and their luggage are not fully disembarked, involving commercial air transport of passengers and lasting 6 hours or more, measured from the time the aircraft is scheduled to move from its parking position at the beginning of a (series of) flight, to the time the aircraft is scheduled to reach its parking position at the end of a (series of) flight.

(EASA SD 2020-04)

Other authorities also distinguish based on length of the route rather than flight time, e.g. Eurocontrol uses

short-haul routes (routes shorter than 1500 km) [...]
medium-haul routes (routes between 1500 and 4000 km) [...]
long-haul routes (routes longer than 4000 km)

(Eurocontrol: Study into the impact of the global economic crisis on airframe utilisation, archived)

All of these are official authorities in their respective area of responsibility, and even they cannot agree. If you then ask an airline, what their definitions are, you might get answers based on aircraft type:

Lufthansa classifies its fleet as: long-haul for wide-body aircraft [...]; medium-haul for narrow-body aircraft [...]; and short-haul for regional jets [...]

or based on geographic region:

Air France defines short-haul as domestic, medium-haul as within Europe/North Africa and long haul as the rest of the world.

The Wikipedia article on Flight length has many more such examples. There simply is no single definition!

1 Note that flight time is defined by ICAO to include the block-off time on ground:

"Flight time" : The total time from the moment an aeroplane first moves for the purpose of taking off until the moment it finally comes to rest at the end of the flight.

(ICAO ADREP 2000 taxonomy)

  • $\begingroup$ Thankyou, this is exactly what I was looking for! Apparently according to some sources, in my thousand or so hours in the air, I've taken maybe 1 short-haul flight?! $\endgroup$ Commented Feb 20 at 19:34

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