Alternative ideas you can use to start conversation or to add interest to speeches or presentations

Travel and Tourism

Travel Letters

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Armrest Battles

"If someone is battling you for the arm rest on an airplane cough into that arm then put it back. I fly a lot and have yet to see this fail."

Long Haul

What is the longest possible long-haul flight you could take? Or, in other words, which international airports are furthest apart?

• Ignoring the fact that Earth is very slightly oblate and taking its circumference to be 40,000 kilometres, the longest possible great semicircle - that is, a circle whose plane passes through Earth's centre - is 20,000 km. The two major international airports I can find that come closest to this separation are Bogota, Colombia, and Jakarta, Indonesia, which are 19,829 km apart via a great circle.

There is a website for checking this sort of thing. The Great Circle Mapper ( requires the International Air Transport Association codes for two or more airports and will plot the great circle routes and distances between them.

• Given that Wellington, New Zealand, is almost precisely the antipode of Madrid, Spain, and both cities have international airports, this must be a contender. The question then arises, given the slight asphericity of Earth, which great circle route would be the longest between the two.

• Presumably your correspondent wishes to know the longest scheduled flight. By private charter one can book planes to their maximum range, and with military in-flight refuelling this can be increased to 40,000 km - say, between the South African cities of Johannesburg and Pretoria via the poles. No civil aircraft has this capability, though.

The Boeing 777-200LR has a range of 17,445 km but with passengers and international regulations it is less. However, in a record-breaking publicity stunt in 2005, a specially prepared 777-200LR flight with passengers flew eastwards from Hong Kong to London - a distance of 21,601 km.

The longest scheduled flight is by Singapore airlines using an Airbus 340-500 from New York's Newark airport to Singapore. This covers 15,345 km in about 19 hours.

• Both Bermuda and Perth, Australia, have international airports and are nearly precisely antipodes, although I doubt any airline offers a non-stop service between them.