Flickr/Global Jet

What’s the most productive flight in the world? This week we take a break from AI to cover an important topic: working on airplanes.

A little bit about myself

I enjoy flying very much. Well, just the flying part. Not the leaving for the airport, waiting in security, waiting to board, waiting in line, being delayed, being bumped, saving miles for years to fly from Brooklyn to Staten Island, etc, etc. I enjoy the act of sitting in an airplane as its flying through the air. It’s one of the only times where you can find pure, concentrated time, with minimal distractions. WIFI on planes has somewhat messed with this productivity, but when the WIFI fails, there is nothing like it.

This past week I was traveling to Dallas for work. On this particular flight, the WIFI wasn’t working, thus putting me in productivity heaven. The flight from New York to Dallas is a solid one, coming in at about 3 hours and 30 minutes. On the flight to Dallas I wrote a Cloudy, then wrote another one…and then decided to start writing about productivity flying.

What’s the ideal productivity flight?

The ideal productivity flight would be one that leaves at a reasonable hour, is nonstop, has minimal time changes and is very, very long. Yes, red eye flights are long, but you really can’t get any work done because you are very tired.

Finding these flights is harder than you think. Yea, you could just say, “Well fly to Dubai or Tokyo”, and people do this. I was reading about an author who whenever he hit writers block (here is a link to a similar story), he would fly to Japan and work on the plane, as that was his most focused time. The 13 hour Tokyo to New York flight certainly gives you time to work, but the problem is once you get there, you are quite jet lagged. The flight is not good for sustained productivity, but rather gives you a single chunk of time to work. Then you have to fly back, be jet lagged again, so its really not a good way to get things done.

The holy grail of productivity flights

My wife and I got married last year, and as she was doing the wedding planning, I was in put in charge of planning the honeymoon. We knew we wanted to go South America, but didn’t know exactly where we wanted to go. It was my task to figure out the itinerary and how we were going to get around. It was during this search that I found, quite possibly, the single greatest productivity flight of all.

Flight AA 999 – Miami to Buenos Aires

Flight AA 999 left Miami at 10:40am and arrived at Buenos Aires at 8:43pm. Nine hours of focused time, with only a one hour difference in time zone, and leaves at the perfect time in the morning. When I first saw this flight I was kind of stunned. How could it be this good? What would it be like? Would it just be a plane full of weirdos like my typing away at their computers, getting things done???

Now, I am not going to say we planned our entire honeymoon around experiencing this flight, but since my wife’s parents live in South Florida, a short drive from Miami, and one way tickets to Miami are so cheap, and I had IHG points for a free stay…

So, on Saturday, October 14th, we flew to Miami, spent some time at the Intercontinental pool, had dinner with my in-laws and went to bed early. On Sunday, October 15th, at 10:40am, we boarded flight AA 999. Needless, to say the flight was astounding. About half way through I think I was too productive, and had to watch a couple of episodes of the Office, and then got back to work. Even at the end, my wife said, “You know, that didn’t feel so long.”

I was hoping other weirdos like me would be on the plane recounting times where they flew JetBlue Flight A320 from JFK to Mexico City (10:00am departure, 5 hours, 27 mins, one time change) and got an entire presentation done, or WestJet Flight WS 2798 Toronto to Aruba (9:15am departure, 5 hours 17 minutes, no time change) and finished their book, but to my disappointment, there was none of that. But then again, this flight is for productivity, not talking.

Now, you can take this even further…

There are plenty of internet threads covering the longest nonstop flight that stays in the same time zone, but the problem is many of them are red eyes, not the best time for working. But I did a little research of my own…

Is there a greater productivity flight than AA 999?

British Airways flies direct from Johannesburg to London, leaves at 7:50am, and is 11 hours and 35 minutes long, with only one time change. There is slight technicality, as you have to fly during British Summer Time (March – October), because South Africa does not observe daylight savings time. When I first found out about this flight, I was a little sad that AA 999 was dethroned…


AA 999 gives you the option of flying back from Buenos Aires at 10:00am (which we did), while the earliest return British Airways flight is at 4:20pm. Unless you sleep in to 2:00pm London time, you are certainly not performing the entire flight at peak productivity.

Thus, AA 999, is the most productive, roundtrip flight, in the world.

Can’t wait to go back

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