Wheels Up for Papa Westray, Scotland: World’s Shortest Commercial Flight
Papa Westray is a small island tucked away in the Orkneys off the northern coast of Scotland. Only about a mild wide and home to at most 75 people, it’s a quiet escape for weary city dwellers and an occasional destination for archeologists exploring the ruins of Neolithic Orkney.
However, the island boasts what very few other venues with its population can muster — its own functioning airport (below). Twice a day, the shortest commercial flight in the world arrives and departs for its larger sister island, Westray via Papa Westray Airport.
Honoring a contract with the Orkney Islands Council, LoganAir (“Scotland’s Airline”) runs the 1.7 mile flight between the two islands. While the official scheduled flight time is two minutes, this reporter timed the entire run at 98 seconds, wheels up to touchdown (though the small prop job plane that made the run never actually lifted any landing gear).
While the Westray Airport is a small operation, the Papa Westray destination is little more than a garage with delusions of grandeur. There’s a few chairs and a unisex restroom inside, but that’s about it. tThe late model Isuzu fire truck has to be onsite before either of the day’s two flights arrive, and the fire suit-clad, two-man airport crew is always on standby when a plane is nearby.
Any passenger taking on the world’s shortest airline trip needs to be prepared for the unavoidable hack jokes I’m certain are uttered on every journey. I’m sure you can guess the kind of material we’re talking about here.
The shortest bit calls for summoning the non-existent flight attendant. Then, there’s the classic: “Is there a drink service on this flight?” Or, you might catch the evergreen: “They still managed to lose my luggage.” Anyone not joining in the hilarity is either aspiring for a higher level of humor or needlessly terrified because they’re used to jets and remain unaccustomed to flying over the ocean at low altitude.
The fair for the 90 seconds of airborne adventure generally runs around £40, roundtrip. There’s also a ferry that’ll run back and forth from Westray. But, what fun is that? Besides, anyone who completes the Papa Westray run ends up with a lovely A4 certificate of achievement, suitable for framing.