Here's why the shortest flight in the world is in Scotland

Scotland has more than 790 islands, and while just a fraction of those are inhabited, those who live away from the mainland face transport issues most don’t need to worry about.

While the majority of people in the country can hop on a train or bus to reach their destination, in the islands you often have to hop on a ferry over choppy waters to get where you need to go.

However in Orkney, islanders – or curious tourists – can hop on the world’s shortest flight and travel between Westray and Papa Westray. Covering just 1.7 miles between the Orkney islands the flight was first established in 1967, and is operated by Loganair.

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How long is the world’s shortest flight?

The flight between Westray and Papa Westray takes just 90 seconds or, as one pilot proved, just 53 seconds. Including taxiing it takes typically a total of two minutes, with the entire journey approximately the length of the runway at Edinburgh Airport.

On the other hand the longest commercial flight in the world is operated by Singapore Airlines between Singapore and New York.

What's the shortest flight in the world like?

Unlike most air travel, the shortest flight in the world acts more like a bus service. Passengers are flown in a Britten-Norman Islander, a plane which requires just one pilot and has a capacity of just eight passengers.

Loganair has used Britten-Norman Islanders for inter-Orkney flights since 1967. Picture: LoganairLoganair has used Britten-Norman Islanders for inter-Orkney flights since 1967. Picture: Loganair
Loganair has used Britten-Norman Islanders for inter-Orkney flights since 1967. Picture: Loganair

The route begins at Kirkwall Airport, stopping at Westray, then takes off for Papa Westray before heading back to Kirkwall. Essentially, if you’re flying between the islands you’re in an aircraft the size of a minibus, squished in with just a few other passengers who can hop off at the correct spot.

If you're flying from Westray to the smaller island and have luggage, simply arrive ten minutes before departure to check your luggage.

Many tourists on social media have documented their time on the journey, such as TikToker Noel Philips.

He said: "The planes that serve these islands are quite small, they're like getting onboard a minibus! You can't take any hand baggage onboard, it all has to go in the boot when you get onboard.”

Why does the flight between Westray and Papa Westray exist?

There have been criticisms of the flight due to the short distance it travels, but locals use the flight to connect with the more populated areas of the isles via Kirkwall. Westray has a population of just under 600 people, while Papa Westray - or Papay as it's also known to locals - has around 90 people who call the isle home.

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The flights are subsidised by the Scottish Government as Public Service Obligations (PSOs) for those living in island communities with the only alternative a 20 minute boat journey, which can often face disruption due to rough waters.

In the past there have been suggestions that the council could build a bridge between the two isles, however there have been no recent plans on the matter.

How much do inter-island flights cost?

Those who hold a permanent address in Colonsay, Orkney, Shetland, the Western Isles, Islay, Jura, Caithness and parts of Sutherland are entitled to 50% off of air travel.

For everyone else Loganair offers special fares through their inter-isle office such as senior citizen fares, sightseer fares and open returns with prices ranging from £17 to £45.

What is there to do for tourists in Westray and Papa Westray?

On Westray tourists can experience stunning wildlife at the RSPB reserve with other attractions including Noup Head lighthouse, the beach at Grobust and Castle o’Burrian which guests can spot puffins. There's also a few spots to eat and an art gallery.

Knap of Howar is on Papa Westray, Orkney. Image: AdobeKnap of Howar is on Papa Westray, Orkney. Image: Adobe
Knap of Howar is on Papa Westray, Orkney. Image: Adobe | Banu - stock.adobe.com

While on Papa Westray, which is only four miles long and a one mile wide, there's a community shop, hostel and historical sites such as Knap of Howar - the oldest stone houses in northern Europe - and St Boniface Kirk which is 12th century Norse church. In addition there's another RSPB reserve at North Hill.

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