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Which Airports Offer Nonstop Flights to All Six Inhabited Continents?

Which Airports Offer Nonstop Flights to All Six Inhabited Continents?

BY HADI AHMAD February 03, 2024 0 COMMENTS

Air travel has enhanced global connectivity over the past several decades. Journeys that would have once taken weeks or months to complete now only take hours. Not even a decade ago, very few airports offered nonstop flights to all six inhabited continents. Today, that number has increased thanks to advancements in aircraft technology.


Photo: Daniel Mena | AeroXplorer


London Heathrow Airport (LHR)


London's Heathrow Airport (LHR) is arguably one of the most well-known airports in the world. Any foreign carrier securing a slot at Heathrow treats this service as a flagship or a premium route. As of 2023, Heathrow offers the most international routes. However, that does not necessarily mean that Heathrow serves the most countries out of any airport. That distinction belongs to Istanbul (IST).


In 2022, Heathrow was the second-busiest international airport in the world, behind only Dubai. The airport serves airlines worldwide, with flights to all six inhabited continents: North America, South America, Europe, Asia, Africa, and Australia/Oceania.




North America, Europe, Asia, and Africa are widely served, with many airlines from these continents serving Heathrow. Some carriers even serve other London airports, the most popular one being Gatwick (LGW), the city's other main intercontinental airport. Avianca, British Airways, and LATAM Brasil operate services to South America.


London Heathrow Airport (LHR) | Photo: Airport Technology


Avianca serves Bogotá, Colombia (BOG) with the Boeing 787-8. This service takes anywhere from nine to ten hours each way. Hometown airline British Airways serves Rio de Janeiro (GIG) and São Paulo, Brazil (GRU), along with Buenos Aires, Argentina (EZE). São Paulo-Guarulhos is served on the Airbus A350-1000, and the flights to and from Heathrow take 10 to 11 hours.


Rio and Buenos Aires are operated on the same flight operated by a Boeing 777-200ER. The flight departs Heathrow for Rio de Janeiro and continues to Buenos Aires. The opposite route takes place on the way back to London. London to Rio is a roughly 11-hour flight, followed by another three hours to Argentina. Many airlines serving Buenos Aires opt for a stopover in Brazil. This way, they can serve both countries if the demand for one destination is insufficient.


British Airways and Emirates operate the GIG-EZE sector, while more airlines opt for GRU-EZE. Those include Air Canada, Turkish Airlines, Ethiopian, and SWISS. LATAM Brasil also serves the Heathrow-São Paulo route. The airline flies its Boeing 777-300ER daily between the two cities.


Photo: Dylan Campbell | AeroXplorer


Moving onto Oceania, Heathrow only offers nonstop service to Australia, with Qantas having a nonstop route to Perth (PER), one of the longest flights in the world. Heathrow to Perth is operated by the Boeing 787-9, an aircraft known for its incredible range. This flight takes 16-17 hours each way. 


The route originates and terminates in Melbourne (MEL), so technically, there is a "direct" service between London and Melbourne; it is not nonstop. The Melbourne extension is set to end in March 2024. Other routes between Heathrow and Oceania are not nonstop. 


British Airways offers service to Sydney, Australia (SYD) with the Boeing 777-300ER. However, the flight stops in Singapore (SIN) due to range limitations. Qantas also operates its flagship flights, QF1 and QF2, to Sydney, with a stopover in Singapore. This flight utilizes the Airbus A380-800.


Photo: Jacob Smith | AeroXplorer


Dubai International Airport (DXB)


Dubai International Airport (DXB) is the busiest international airport by international passengers and the fifth-busiest overall as of 2022. Dubai is the sole hub for world-renowned airline Emirates, one of the main reasons behind Dubai's vast connectivity. Emirates offers service to 150 cities across 80 countries. In addition to providing a wide range of flights to North America, Europe, Asia, and Africa, there are many flights to Oceania and South America too.




In Australia, Emirates serves Sydney (SYD), Melbourne (MEL), Brisbane (BNE), and Perth (PER). Emirates' New Zealand network comprises Auckland (AKL) and Christchurch (CHC). Impressively enough, all of these flights are served on the Airbus A380-800. Christchurch is served via Sydney both ways on flights EK412 and EK413. Emirates also has two other daily flights to Sydney from Dubai.


In South America, Emirates serves Buenos Aires, Argentina (EZE), along with São Paulo (GRU) and Rio de Janeiro (GIG) in Brazil. Dubai - Sāo Paulo is served on the Airbus A380-800, while Rio/Buenos Aires is combined into one flight served by the Boeing 777-200LR.


Dubai International Airport (DXB) | Photo: Getty Images


Hamad International Airport (DOH)


Middle Eastern airports like Dubai and Doha have been especially successful with international connectivity thanks to their global location. While Hamad International Airport (DOH) is not among the world's top ten busiest airports by overall traffic, it is the world's eighth-busiest international airport as of 2022.


Countries like the United Arab Emirates and Qatar are at the crossroads of multiple continents. Airlines from these countries and others in the region have been able to capitalize on their strategic location by allowing easy connectivity from one end of the world to the other. Qatar Airways' growth can partly be attributed to its home country's location. It serves over 170 destinations across the six inhabited continents.


A giant teddy bear inside Hamad International Airport (DOH) | Photo: George Mwangi | AeroXplorer


North America, Europe, Asia, and Africa have several routes from Doha. Oceania and South America are the more distant continents, so more focus has been given to these specific routes. Regarding South America, Qatar Airways only offers service to São Paulo, Brazil (GRU). The carrier operates two daily flights to Guarulhos Airport with its Boeing 777-300ER and 777-200LR.


Looking at Oceania, Qatar Airways serves Adelaide (ADL), Brisbane (BNE), Melbourne (MEL), Perth (PER), and Sydney (SYD) in Australia. The carrier served Canberra (CBR), Australia's capital city. However, this service was suspended. Qatar Airways also serves Auckland (AKL) in New Zealand.


Photo: Vikas Anand | AeroXplorer


O. R. Tambo International Airport (JNB)


Johannesburg's O.R. Tambo International Airport (JNB) is another airport connected to the six inhabited continents. It is worth mentioning that South Africa is the world's only country with nonstop flights to all seven continents. Special charter services have been running from Cape Town to Wolf's Fang (WFR). Sadly, no such routes exist from Johannesburg. If they did, it would become the world's only city with air links to all seven continents.




Still, Johannesburg has service to all six inhabited continents. Looking at North America, Delta Air Lines offers nonstop service to Atlanta (ATL) and United Airlines to Newark (EWR). South African Airways had its services to New York (JFK) and Washington Dulles (IAD), which no longer operate. South America sees two nonstop flights to São Paulo (GRU) in Brazil. LATAM Brasil and South African Airways operate these flights.


O. R. Tambo International Airport (JNB) | Photo: AECOM


The only country in Oceania served nonstop from Johannesburg is Australia. Qantas flies to Sydney (SYD) with seasonal service to Perth (PER). South African Airways will resume its route from Johannesburg to Perth starting April 28. Johannesburg also sees a wide variety of flights to Europe and Asia, along with the expected huge number of flights to African countries.


The Air China services to Shenzhen (SZX) and Beijing-Capital (PEK) in China are examples of routes between Asia and South Africa. Both cities are served on one flight operated by the Airbus A350-900. The aircraft originates and terminates in Beijing, flying PEK-SZX-JNB and the opposite route on the way back.


Photo: Daniel Mena | AeroXplorer


John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK)


Like Heathrow, New York's John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK) has always been iconic. As of 2022, JFK was the 11th-busiest airport in the world, the sixth-busiest in the United States, and remains the busiest international gateway into the US. JFK is served by over 90 airlines hailing from all six inhabited continents.


JFK has plenty of flights within North America. Europe and Asia also have significant routes from the airport. The airport offers the most flights to South America of the airports serving all six inhabited continents. Here is the full list of all nonstop routes from JFK to South American countries:


  • Bogotá, Colombia (BOG) - Avianca
  • Buenos Aires, Argentina (EZE) - Aerolineas Argentinas, American Airlines, Delta (seasonal)
  • Cali, Colombia (CLO) - Avianca (seasonal)
  • Cartagena, Colombia (CTG) - Avianca
  • Georgetown, Guyana (GEO) - American Airlines, Caribbean Airlines, JetBlue
  • Guayaquil, Ecuador (GYE) - Avianca Ecuador, JetBlue
  • Lima, Peru (LIM) - LATAM Perú
  • Medellín, Colombia (MDE) - Avianca
  • Pereira, Colombia (PEI) - Avianca (seasonal)
  • Quito, Ecuador (UIO) - Avianca Ecuador
  • Rio de Janeiro, Brazil (GIG) - American Airlines and Delta (both seasonal)
  • Santiago, Chile (SCL) - LATAM Chile
  • São Paulo, Brazil (GRU) - American Airlines, Delta, LATAM Brasil


Inside John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK) | Photo: Sebastian Colaizzi | AeroXplorer


JFK also has a sizable list of routes to Africa:


  • Abidjan, Ivory Coast (ABJ) - Ethiopian Airlines*
  • Accra, Ghana (ACC) - Delta
  • Addis Ababa, Ethiopia (ADD) - Ethiopian Airlines*
  • Cairo, Egypt (CAI) - Egyptair
  • Casablanca, Morocco (CMN) - Royal Air Maroc
  • Dakar, Senegal (DSS) - Air Senegal, Delta
  • Nairobi, Kenya (NBO) - Kenya Airways


*Ethiopian's service stops over in ABJ both ways, ADD-ABJ-JFK-ABJ-ADD.


JFK even has nonstop service to Oceania, namely Australia and New Zealand. Both of these are rather recent additions. Qantas has a nonstop flight to Auckland (AKL) with the Boeing 787-9. This flight continues to Sydney (SYD). The JFK-Auckland sector is about 15-17 hours each way. Air New Zealand also has a route from JFK to Auckland with the 787-9. This service operates under flight numbers NZ1 and NZ2.


Photo: Edwin Sims | AeroXplorer


O'Hare International Airport (ORD)


Chicago's O'Hare International Airport (ORD) was the world's ninth busiest airport in 2023. It was also the fourth-busiest in the United States. O'Hare is considered to be the world's most connected airport, primarily thanks to its regional network across the Midwest and also large short-haul network.




Most importantly, O'Hare also has nonstop service to all six inhabited continents. There are many flights to North America, EuropeAsia, Africa, South America, and Oceania. The entirety of Chicago's South America network consists of a daily flight to São Paulo, Brazil (GRU) operated by United Airlines.


Similarly, the entirety of Chicago's African network consists of a daily flight to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia (ADD) operated by Ethiopian Airlines. This flight stops at Rome-Fiumicino, Italy (FCO) for refueling but only on the way to Chicago. The refueling stopover is thanks to Addis Ababa's high elevation. Aircraft cannot be fully fueled in Addis Ababa for the full voyage to North America. Doing so would render the plane unable to lift off because of the low air density. 


O'Hare International Airport (ORD) | Photo: Skytrax


Therefore, Ethiopian's North American routes make a refueling stopover somewhere. In Chicago's case, Ethiopian does not have fifth-freedom rights to fly passengers solely between Rome and Chicago. This makes sense because the trip back to Addis Ababa is nonstop.


Moving on, Chicago has only one link to Oceania: Auckland, New Zealand (AKL) via Air New Zealand. This service began in 2019 with the Boeing 787-9. After being suspended due to the pandemic, it resumed in late 2022. Air New Zealand flies twice a week to Chicago, taking anywhere from 13 to 16 hours.


Qantas had initially planned to launch flights between Brisbane (BNE) and Chicago in 2020. This never materialized due to the COVID-19 pandemic. However, there are rumors that Qantas is reevaluating the Brisbane-Chicago route, and it could start sometime soon.


Photo: Griffin Hubner | AeroXplorer


Fiumicino International Airport (FCO)

Rome’s Fiumicino International Airport (FCO) is next on the list. Aside from multiple services to North America, Africa, Europe, and Asia, the airport has several routes to South America and Oceania.


ITA Airways, Italy’s new flag carrier that succeeded Alitalia, flies to Buenos Aires, Rio de Janeiro, and São Paulo. LATAM Brasil also operates to Fiumicino from São Paulo. Moving to Oceania, Qantas operates seasonal service to both Perth and Sydney. 

Photo: Andrew Leff | AeroXplorer


More Airports to Come?


With rapid advancements in aviation, newer planes can fly further for less cost, thanks to improved efficiency and range. These specifically include the Airbus A350-1000 and Boeing 787-9. As such, more airports could serve every inhabited continent. Many airports have nonstop flights to five of the six inhabited continents.


Paris’ Charles de Gaulle Airport (CDG) is Europe’s third-busiest airport and will soon be another addition to this list of airports. Given its location, CDG has plenty of European services in addition to services in Africa and North America. As far as South America goes, Air France flies nonstop to Buenos Aires, Argentina (EZE), Cayenne, French Guiana (CAY), Rio de Janeiro (GIG), and São Paulo, Brazil (GRU).


CDG will soon have nonstop service to Oceania. The airport has direct service but not nonstop flights, as both Air France and Air Tahiti Nui fly to Papeete, Tahiti (PPT) but via Los Angeles. Qantas will resume service to Perth and new service to Sydney, Australia, on April 12.


Photo: Michael Hai | AeroXplorer


The next most probable addition to this list could be Istanbul Airport in Türkiye (IST). The airport has nonstop flights to five of the six inhabited continents, only missing Oceania. However, Turkish Airlines will launch a service to Melbourne, Australia (MEL) in March of this year. The service will stop in Singapore for refueling.


It is worth noting that the Melbourne service will eventually become nonstop once Turkish takes delivery of the Airbus A350-1000. However, There is no specific time frame for this. Regardless, it does show hope that Istanbul will eventually be linked to all six inhabited continents.



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Hadi Ahmad
Lifelong aviation enthusiast raised in Central Illinois. 777 is the best plane BTW.

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