What Is a Domestic Flight and What Are the Shortest and Longest Domestic Routes?

What Is a Domestic Flight and What Are the Shortest and Longest Domestic Routes?

Whether you are flying from Boston to New York, Frankfurt to Munich, or New York to Honolulu, you are flying on a domestic flight.

This article looks in detail at what domestic flights are, how they are different from international flights, and what some of the longest and shortest domestic routes are.

What Is a Domestic Flight?

A domestic flight (occasionally referred to as an internal flight) is a flight that lands at an airport in the same country in which it took off. As such, it can be anything ranging from a sightseeing flight that returns to the same airport it took off from all the way to a long-haul airline flight from New York to Honolulu.

Generally, though, the term “domestic flight” is used to refer to airline flights between two airports in one country such as the New York to Honolulu flight mentioned above or a Tokyo to Osaka flight.

And, that is what the rest of this article is about.

What Airlines Operate Domestic Flights and What Airports Do They Use?

There are several countries around the world such as Singapore and Luxembourg that are too small to have domestic flights. And, in other, bigger countries, many of the shorter domestic flights were completely or partially replaced by high-speed rail travel.

In the countries where one can take domestic flights the carrier operating them is generally an airline based in that country. The reason for that is that “cabotage” – transporting passengers within a country other than the airline’s own country – is generally forbidden.

Domestic Flights
Because of rules against cabotage, domestic flights are generally operated by an airline based in the country within which the flight operates.

That is also the reason why you may be denied boarding if you buy a “domestic ticket with international connection” such as New York – Toronto – Los Angeles. The exact rules about how long you have to stay in the other country for it not to be cabotage and so on are murky, though, and so I am not going to go deeper into that.

I will, though, mention one notable exception to the above – flights within a European Union country operated by another European Union country’s carrier. Which is the reason why, for example, Ireland-based Ryanair can operate domestic flights within Germany.

Ryanair Domestic Flights within EU Countries
Because of the European Union, Ryanair is able to operate domestic flights in countries other than Ireland where it’s based.

As for the airports used for domestic flights, in many instances they are the same ones as the ones used for international flights. That said, it is not unusual for domestic flights to operate from a separate terminal or at least from a separate secure area (with the United States and Canada being a notable exception).

Separately, there are also airports that are restricted to either international or domestic flights. One example of that are the two Tehran airports – Imam Khomeini and Mehrabad – with the first one only serving international flights at this point and the other one being exclusively domestic when it comes to scheduled passenger flights.

What Service Can You Expect on Domestic Flights?

The service you will receive on a domestic flight, of course, depends on the length of the flight, airline, and travel class.

From my experience, on domestic flights up to two or three hours long in Europe or the United States, economy class service will generally consist of soft drinks and perhaps a snack such as pretzels. On the other hand, in Iran, for example, you will receive a cold meal or, in some instances, even a hot meal.

On similar flights in business class (or first class in the US, Canada, Japan, etc.), you will likely receive a one-tray meal.

Domestic First Class Breakfast
First Class breakfast on a domestic flight from Miami to Detroit.

And, on low-cost airlines, you will have to pay for all drinks and food.

As far as longer flights are concerned, you might receive a hot meal even in economy class.

What Are the Shortest and Longest Domestic Flights?

Before wrapping up the article, let’s take a look at what the shortest domestic flight in the world is and what some of the longest ones are.

The world’s shortest domestic flight also happens to be the world’s shortest scheduled flight, and it’s the route between the Orkney Islands of Westray and Papa Westray in Scotland. It takes Loganair, the airline that operates the flight, about one minute of flight time to connect the two airports that are just 2.7 kilometers (1.7 miles) apart.

While one might guess that the world’s longest domestic flight would be in Russia or other country with a large footprint, that is not the case.

The world’s longest domestic flight is between Paris Charles de Gaulle airport and St. Denis in Reunion, a French island in the Indian Ocean. The flight is operated by Air Austral and covers a distance of 5,809 miles.

A very close runner-up is a flight connecting St. Denis with Orly, the other airport in Paris. Frenchbee, Corsair, and Air France operate on that route and the flight covers 5,802 miles.

World's Longest Domestic Flight
Air France is one of the carriers operating the world’s longest domestic flight between Paris and St. Denis on Reunion island.

Other domestic flights that take more than just a couple of hours include Hawaiian Air’s Honolulu – New York and flights between the European part and the far east of Russia such as Moscow – Vladivostok.

Summary

As mentioned in the beginning of this article, domestic flights are flights that depart and arrive in the same country. And, because of the fact that cabotage is generally prohibited, more often than not they are operated by airlines based in the country in which the flight is operating.

While in many cases, they are fairly short hops, there are some domestic flights that can be classified as long haul. The longest one of those is a flight between Paris and St. Denis which takes as much as 11 hours.

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