Looking around aviation news and history, I see that many commercial aircraft are touted to have this or that much time fly between New York and London. What caused the route between these two cities to be used in measuring the "speed" of the aircraft?

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    $\begingroup$ As most of the flight is over water, the Concord would be able to fly at supersonic speeds. May as well pick a benchmark that is good for your product. :) $\endgroup$
    – Golden Cuy
    Commented Mar 10, 2016 at 10:18
  • $\begingroup$ Partly because saving 1hr on the time may let someone do anther days work, due to time zone differences etc. $\endgroup$ Commented Mar 10, 2016 at 12:27
  • $\begingroup$ I'd say it's the same reason we still use "horsepower" as a means of power measurement of car engines. It has historical significance. $\endgroup$ Commented Mar 10, 2016 at 15:24

4 Answers 4


They are (and historically, were even more so) two of the biggest cities in the business world (ranked Alpha++). That specific route has some of the highest rates of business travel and is, therefore, a fairly prestigious, famous route which is popular with fairly wealthy, prestigious people.

They are also two of the most famous cities in the world, and most people know roughly where they are on a map. The fact they're separated by an ocean which is large but was just small enough to be possible to cross safely in the early days of aviation also helped, because it gives the impression of being further than it is.

For example it's a comparable distance to London-Dubai, but that doesn't "feel" as big due to being overland through Europe. Equally while many people know roughly where Dubai is nowadays, it wasn't anywhere near as famous 30-80 years ago.

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    $\begingroup$ Also the Atlantic crossing was used to compete in performance between ships since 1830, so that route has tradition long predating aviation (though for ships departure was usually from Liverpool rather than London). $\endgroup$
    – Jan Hudec
    Commented Mar 9, 2016 at 14:57
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    $\begingroup$ A very good point, Liverpool or Southampton to New York were both used in that way as far as I'm aware. $\endgroup$
    – Jon Story
    Commented Mar 9, 2016 at 14:58
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    $\begingroup$ It's also probably worth noting that, even now, it's one of the busiest long-haul routes in the world, if not the single busiest. Heathrow-JFK is the single busiest route with an endpoint in Europe by passenger volume and that's not even counting traffic between the other airports in NYC and London (i.e. Newark, LaGuardia, Gatwick, London City, etc.) London and NYC aren't really among the most heavily populated cities in the world, but they're both enormous business centers and also huge hubs for trans-Atlantic traffic. $\endgroup$
    – reirab
    Commented Mar 9, 2016 at 21:22

I suggest that the particular international air route is used because (1) both countries speak English and (2) English speakers read easily left to right.

I believe that commercial aircraft pilots and air traffic controllers around the world speak English at least as a second language.

The particular route is typically perceived to be longer than many other routes that are the same length yet nearer the equator. Perceptions can be misleading. For instance, on a Mercator projection map, Greenland appears about the same size as Africa, but actually Africa is 14 times the size of Greenland.

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    $\begingroup$ Welcome to Aviation.SE. Please consider supporting your assertions with facts, I suggest and I believe are usually not seen as a great way to answer. $\endgroup$
    – Federico
    Commented Mar 10, 2016 at 7:44

Once a benchmark is set up, it's usually preferable to add data to it and continue using it, than to create a new benchmark, because it permits a comparison between current and previous samples.

So even if the two cities are not the most logical choices now, they were in the past.


New York to London is a route which benefits from a strong tail wind - it takes 6 hours (British Airways, in a 777) in that direction, but 8 hours from London to New York.

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    $\begingroup$ Welcome to Aviation.SE this answer does not really answer my question because I am asking more of why these two cities (Both NY-London and London-NY) are used rather than the specific NY-London route. $\endgroup$ Commented Mar 10, 2016 at 13:30
  • $\begingroup$ Thank you ! (came here by clicking an interesting-looking question in the "Hot questions" column from a programming page). The jet stream tail wind flatters New York to London flights, in a way that other routes don't. If round-trip times were given rather than one-way, there'd be less of an incentive to choose those two cities. $\endgroup$
    – simon3270
    Commented Mar 10, 2016 at 14:40

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