Flying On The World’s Shortest Flight: Papa Westray To Westray – Less Than 2 Minutes

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Less than two minutes.

That’s all it takes to experience a world record. Well, the record for the world’s shortest scheduled flight anyway.

The flight runs between the islands of Papa Westray and Westray and is operated by Loganair – a Scottish airline. I took the flight as part of my journey on the 3 Cards, 3 Continents challenge.

What is 3 Cards, 3 Continents? Frequent Miler loves creating fun and competitive team challenges. This year Greg, Nick, and Stephen are competing to book the most amazing 3-continent dream-trip using 3 credit card welcome bonuses.

World's Shortest Scheduled Flight Papa Westray to Westray Less Than Two Minutes

The world’s shortest scheduled flight runs in both directions. I took the Papa Westray to Westray flight today and will be heading back to Kirkwall airport from Westray tomorrow via Papa Westray and so I’ll get to experience it in both directions.

What The World’s Shortest Scheduled Flight Is Like

The Papa Westray to Westray flight is unusual in a number of ways. Seeing as both islands are so small (they have ~90 residents and ~600 residents respectively), the flight is operated by a Britten-Norman BN2B-26 Islander airplane. This has a total of 10 seats, with eight of those reserved for passengers.

View from the third of four rows
View from the third of four rows

Check-in for the flight begins about 25 minutes before the flight departs. As you might expect for an airport which only has a few daily flights operating to three destinations – all of which are to other islands in the Orkney Islands – the airport’s building is small.

Seeing as there are so few flights throughout the day, the building doesn’t remain open outside of when flights arrive and depart. After exploring Papa Westray for a couple of hours, I arrived back at the airport at about 4:15pm and was there for about 10 minutes before the employee returned in time to check me in for the 4:52pm flight.

Checking in for the world’s shortest scheduled flight was the easiest, most painless experience ever. I didn’t have to show ID or my flight booking. Heck, I didn’t even have to provide my name! I’d love to think that’s because my reputation preceded me, but in reality I think it’s because the airport employee knew who the other three passengers were who’d be boarding the flight with me.

They also didn’t provide me with a boarding pass. As for seat assignment, where you’ll need to sit will vary depending on how many hold bags there are, how many passengers there are, etc. as the plane has to be properly balanced.

Papa Westray airport building
Papa Westray airport building

There was no security screening, so no removing laptops. No removing liquids. No removing belts, shoes or anything else. No waiting in line behind someone who takes ages to put their items in a tray, only for them to get beeped when walking through the scanner because they didn’t realize their cellphone couldn’t come through with them in their pocket.

Checking a bag was easy too. There’s limited space in the cabin, so anything larger than a small rucksack has to go in the hold. After weighing my bag, a small luggage tag was added and that was it. I wasn’t given a corresponding tag in case my bag got lost because on a two minute flight, where else is my bag going to go?!

Loganair luggage tag
Loganair luggage tag

When the plane arrived from what was presumably the island of North Ronaldsay (the northernmost of the Orkney Islands), it taxied to just outside the airport building and the four of us boarded. As you’d expect, there’s no jetway – just a small step to help you get up and in the plane.

Loganair plane for Papa Westray to Westray flight
Loganair plane for Papa Westray to Westray flight

I’d flown from Kirkwall to Papa Westray earlier that day which is when I got the photo earlier in this post from the third row back. I was pleased to avoid that row for the flight from Papa Westray to Westray because the view from the third row is somewhat blocked. Having said that, it’s not everyday that you can see your plane’s engine, landing gear and a propeller from a window seat.

Flying over the Orkney Islands
Flying over the Orkney Islands

For the Papa Westray to Westray flight I was in the first of the four rows of passenger seating. That not only gave me great views out of the right window…

View on the Papa Westray to Westray flight
View on the Papa Westray to Westray flight

…but also of the cockpit and out the front of the plane.

Aboard one of Loganair's Britten-Norman BN2B-26 Islander airplanes
Aboard one of Loganair’s Britten-Norman BN2B-26 Islander airplanes

Legroom on board wasn’t the greatest. It was a little cozy for me and I’m only 5’9″, so anyone 6’+ will definitely feel a little cramped. Then again, the flight is less than two minutes so it doesn’t really matter that you’re not flying in Qsuites.

Legroom (or lack of it) on Loganair flight
Legroom (or lack thereof) on Loganair flight

From taxi to takeoff to landing, the experience lasted less than 2.5 minutes, with the flight itself only lasting about 90 seconds in the air. The record for the shortest flight time on this route was 53 seconds which is almost Concorde-like given the circumstances.

If you’ve been curious what it’s like flying on the world’s shortest flight, here’s a video I took:

After landing, most of our bags had already made their way off the plane before we’d even had a chance to disembark. Delta’s 20 Minute Bag-To-Claim Guarantee has nothing on Loganair!

Westray airport baggage claim
Westray airport baggage claim

Getting to fly on the world’s shortest scheduled flight was fun, but the fun’s not over. As I mentioned earlier, I’m flying from Westray to Papa Westray tomorrow on my way back to Kirkwall before I continue south. While at Kirkwall airport I’ll be stopping by the Loganair desk to collect my flight certificates.

Yep – when you fly on the world’s shortest scheduled flight you can get a certificate commemorating the momentous occasion. I’d read about the certificates online and assumed I’d get one at Westray airport, but when asking about it at Papa Westray airport before boarding, it turns out you can get them at the Loganair desk in Kirkwall airport. Hopefully they’ll give me two certificates – one for each flight I’ll have taken by then – to help me remember the three minutes I spent experiencing a world record.

And if you’re wondering how expensive it is to experience this, it’s not very expensive at all. It might be that fares vary throughout the year, but both the Papa Westray-Westray and Westray-Papa Westray flights I booked cost £17 (~$20) one-way. It does require getting up to the Orkney Islands though which will add some cost to your budget.

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whocares

no qsuites. fa-geta-about it!

Chris

What a deal! I wonder what the cost per minute compared to longer flights?

Stevenson

Am surprised they fly such a short distance at all. Figured a boat is more economical.

LarryInNYC

Were you, yourself, weighed? When I flew Kirkwall to NRL years ago the passengers were weighed to determine seating. Also, they put a passenger (a kid) next to the pilot (this was pre-9/11; they’ve obviously beefed up the security since then).

At that time there were three flights a week between Kirkwall and North Ronaldsay (pop 80-something). In the photos you appear to be taking off from and landing on a paved runway. Back in the day you landed in a grassy field which, the other four days, was used for grazing livestock. There was a shed of some kind and a gate, which was a farm gate that swung open and closed.

The Orkneys, especially the outer islands, are fascinating. We met one gentleman who said he visited the mainland about one day each year. After speaking with him a while we realized that, by “mainland” he meant the principal Orkney Island, not Scotland.

TCCQuest

Flying Saipan to Tinian all passengers were weighed. That’s a 15 minute flight, an eternity compared to this service.

I started to think Stephen would do shortest and then longest. Looks like current longest in NY to Singapore. Doesn’t seem so close to his current location…so I’m curious to see what theme he ties together.

AlexL

This is so cool. You are almost like a co-pilot.

Sam

Great video! Read a trip report on this ages ago on FT & wanted to fly since. What was your max altitude?

Meh

1:12 you can you see a glimpse of the altimeter during your brief “cruise.” It shows you as leveled off at 300’ for a brief moment before you started back down.

Joe

Pretty nice little crosswind you had going on there.

Ed S.

Saw this on Half as Interesting and Tom Scott’s YouTube channels; one could put together a pretty awesome card challenge based on their content!

Larry K

Would not fly. No pre-departure beverage.

Seriously, I love this kind of stuff. Keep it up Stephen.

YoniPDX

Hmmph No business lounge, No lie flat/angled seats…. Oh the inhumanites.

Really cool I jave read about this flight previously bu the video is really cool – it looks like the flight deck has a camera (might be a spot light) over the co-pilot’s head.

John

Love what the frame rate on your camera did to the shape of the propeller blades during flight. Many an aero engineer wishes we had the technology to actually make blades deform that much in order to achieve maximum efficiency. 🙂

SamBam

I assume the Shetlands are next….

SamBam

Did they ask you if you wanted to walk on the wing….in flight???

rdover1

Very clever and original!!

Dan C

Love this one Stephen! Great post, fun idea!

Mist Soalar

You filmed the entire flight on your phone and the battery didn’t die.

Having checked the world’s shortest, I’m expecting you do the longest SIN-JFK route for 3&3 challenge?

TimR

I am thinking the same

Andrew

Oooooh, I hope so, that’d be sweet!

Lukas

Haha, so awesome, great experience and info, much appreciated! 😀