I was impressed to read here that some passenger airline routes are even below 60 km in length.

Even assuming that the passengers are already in the airport past the security check, probably a good bus could depart from the same gate and arrive to the destination gate in a very comparable time, as the plane still needs to taxi before and after the flight.

Why these short haul flights are reasonable?

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    $\begingroup$ because they have to cross the sea to get to another island? $\endgroup$
    – kevin
    Commented Dec 28, 2015 at 8:41
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    $\begingroup$ Buses tend to slow down severely when they drive on the beach, let alone when they enter the sea. $\endgroup$
    – DeltaLima
    Commented Dec 28, 2015 at 10:03
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    $\begingroup$ Only half-related: I remember a coworker telling me, that under some circumstances it's faster to fly Zürich (CH) -> Stuttgart (DE) -> Genève (CH) instead of driving. Basically leaving the country to re-enter. $\endgroup$
    – user12816
    Commented Dec 29, 2015 at 10:25

5 Answers 5


Because air travel is the best option in those places.

The shortest commercial route in the world is between Westray and Papa Westray in the Orkney Islands, a distance of 1.7 miles.

If you see the list of short routes, almost all of them are between islands. That instantly rules out buses and the like unless a bridge is built, which in most cases is not commercially viable. One can use a boat or ferry, but in most cases, the sea may not be deep enough or calm enough.

  • $\begingroup$ Any clue how much that costs? $\endgroup$ Commented Dec 28, 2015 at 13:53
  • $\begingroup$ £21 return: telegraph.co.uk/travel/travelnews/9796008/… although that may be subsidised. $\endgroup$
    – pjc50
    Commented Dec 28, 2015 at 13:55
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    $\begingroup$ I recently flew from Puerto Rico to the VI - we spent more time in security/at the gate than we actually spent in the plane $\endgroup$ Commented Dec 28, 2015 at 14:38
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    $\begingroup$ @mikeTheLiar I recently flew from Paris to Amsterdam on a transfer and I spent more time in security than in the plane. There's a reason people like trains. $\endgroup$
    – Spork
    Commented Dec 29, 2015 at 15:22

Most very short distance flights are flown between Islands. If you have a look at the list of such flight you can see they are places which are not or highly unlikely to be connected by a bridge which may be uneconomical.

Also the flights that are used on these routes are not the average airliners. They are aircrafts like De Havilland Twin Otter and Cessna Caravan propeller planes which are very efficient at relatively slow speeds and low altitudes.

The ATR42 & ATR72 are examples of large propeller planes in service. They are meant for short trips with the 72 having a max range of 1500km. They are also able to land in very short distances. Ideal for these island destinations

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    $\begingroup$ Whether normal airliners or smaller ones will be used is, like most routes, a function of the traffic demand. For inter-island flights in Hawaii, for example, normal airliners are common. When I was last there back in the late 90s, they mostly used 737s and DC-9s. Flights to the less-frequented islands used smaller turboprops, though. $\endgroup$
    – reirab
    Commented Dec 28, 2015 at 15:58
  • $\begingroup$ @reirab Inter-island flights in Hawaii are not necessarily very short distance. Honolulu to Hilo is 210 miles, more than (for example) London to Manchester. $\endgroup$
    – Mike Scott
    Commented Dec 28, 2015 at 16:02
  • $\begingroup$ @MikeScott Ah, well, I come from the mainland U.S. where 200 miles is considered a relatively short distance. - haha - I was thinking more about HNL to OGG or LIH, though, both of which are only about 100 miles. IIRC, the flight time was about 15 minutes on those. $\endgroup$
    – reirab
    Commented Dec 28, 2015 at 16:18

Fjords are also a reason these short routes exist, e.g. the trip from KKN to VDS takes less than 10 minutes, vs. driving 165 km (2h 16min according to Google: https://goo.gl/ev5dya) enter image description here

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    $\begingroup$ As an American, I find European countries fascinating. Having just re-read The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy series, I really like fjords right now. :) $\endgroup$
    – FreeMan
    Commented Dec 29, 2015 at 17:58
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    $\begingroup$ Well, you know he got an award for Norway, so if you like fjords you'll love Norway ;-) $\endgroup$
    – thebjorn
    Commented Dec 29, 2015 at 20:21
  • $\begingroup$ @FreeMan Closer to home, Alaska has plenty of fjords, too. (Well, Labrador and Newfoundland is even closer if you're on the east coast.) $\endgroup$ Commented Dec 30, 2015 at 10:25
  • $\begingroup$ @DavidRicherby he., they look even colder than Norway (google "fjord Norway" vs "fjord Alaska"...) $\endgroup$
    – thebjorn
    Commented Dec 30, 2015 at 12:43
  • $\begingroup$ @thebjorn And indeed thy should be, with the Gulfstream running up the coast of Norway $\endgroup$ Commented Dec 10, 2020 at 9:26

One point not yet mentioned is that most of these short flights are not just between islands, but in archipelagoes. So an aircraft may be dearer to run than a ferry, but the aircraft can do six or seven journeys a day (e.g. Westray to Papa Westray and back, Westray to Mainland, Mainland to Hoy...) and save the costs of three or four ferries.


One other rational for unusually short overland flights is that the short hop is a layover to connect two small airports to a larger one. A few years ago it was possible to fly between Johnstown PA (JST) and Altoona PA (AOO); which are ~30 miles/60 minutes apart by road. It wasn't because the airline expected significant amount of traffic between the two towns. The main route was between Johnstown and Washington-Dulles Airport (IAD) which was flown 3(?) times a day; one of those flights stopped in Altoona with the primary intent of offering a connection from it to DC. This stop was cancelled in 2014, and only the direct flight is still offered.

Both airports are very small rural locations and commercial traffic is partially funded with Federal Subsidies, so simple economics aren't the only consideration in the route planning.


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