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Originally posted by Zaphod58
Flights going to Asia from the US have been known to go "over the top" to get there. They head North and go up over the North Pole, then head down to their destination. It shaves a lot of time off the flight, and saves on fuel. But they only do it under certain conditions.
United, which the Tribune says flies more Asian routes than any other airline, first began heavily using the polar flights in earnest in 2000, when it flew 253 such flights. Why now? Commercial flights over the North Pole region became available in the 1990s, once Russia agreed to open up its air space to commercial airlines. And the trend has picked up in recent years, allowing airlines a shorter, faster option to connect North American and Asia. Weather, as you might expect, also plays a role. When winds are really strong, it's more advantageous to fly a polar route, where there's no wind," explains Mike Stills, manager of international operations flight dispatch at United.
The opening up of the last frontier in air space could mean significantly shorter international flight times for Canadian passengers. The trick lies in flying over the North Pole rather than going around the globe.
Trans-polar flights from North America to Asia could be done non-stop and could cut flying time by up to five hours. That means huge savings to airlines and less flight time for passengers on those long hauls.
Transport Canada officials estimate these time savings by going over the North Pole:
New York to Honk Kong would take five hours less than today's routes,
Toronto to Beijing would take four hours less
and a flight from Toronto to Delhi flying over the North Pole would cut two hours of flying time.