Flight 1 – The most prestigious airline flight number

Flight 1 - The most prestigious airline flight number

Flight 1 is the most prestigious flight number assigned by airlines. It’s used to denote a historic route, or one that an airline regards as their flagship service. For example Qantas designate QF1 on the historic Kangaroo Route from Sydney to London. This service began in 1947, where it would hop (like a proverbial kangaroo) via six destinations on the way. Once the long-haul jet age arrived the flight could then be done with one stop, which was via Singapore.

When Qantas partnered with Emirates in 2013, QF1 was rerouted via Dubai. In March 2018 Qantas announced that it would be returning its QF1 service via Singapore.

While reading about this I got to thinking about what other Flight 1 services are operating. I did some research and made a list of all the flights. I’ve also made an infographic if you prefer to read these stats visually (see below).

Here are the flights and some of the stats that stand out from this list.

Number 1 Flights By Airline

Airline Flight # Departure IATA Stopover IATA Arrival IATA
Aeromexico AM1 Mexico City MEX Madrid MAD
Air Canada AC1 Toronto YYZ Tokyo HND
Air Macau NX1 Beijing PEK Macau MFM
Air New Zealand NZ1 London LHR Los Angeles LAX Auckland AKL
Air Niugini PX1 Port Moresby POM Sydney SYD
Air Tahiti Nui TN1 Los Angeles LAX Papeete PPT
AirAsiaX D71 Kuala Lumpur KUL Kansai KIX Honolulu HNL
Alaska Airlines AS1 Washington DC DCA Seattle SEA
American Airlines AA1 New York JFK Los Angeles LAX
ANA NH1 Washington DC IAD Tokyo HND
Biman Bangladesh Airlines BG1 Dhaka DAC London LHR
British Airways BA1 London LCY Shannon SNN New York JFK
China Airlines CI1 Honolulu HNL Taipei TPE
Delta Air Lines DL1 London LHR New York JFK
El Al LY1 Tel Aviv TLV New York JFK
Emirates EK1 Dubai DXB London LHR
Etihad Airways EY1 Abu Dhabi AUH Frankfurt FRA
Hawaiian Airlines HA1 Los Angeles LAX Honolulu HNL
Japan Airlines JL1 San Francisco SFO Tokyo HND
JetBlue Airways B61 New York JFK Fort Lauderdale FLL
Jetstar Airways JQ1 Melbourne MEL Honolulu HNL
Korean Air KE1 Incheon ICN Tokyo NRT Honolulu HNL
LOT Polish Airlines LO1 Warsaw WAW Chicago ORD
Lufthansa LH1 Hamburg HAM Frankfurt FRA
Malaysia Airlines MH1 London LHR Kuala Lumpur KUL
Middle East Airlines ME1 Beirut BEY Damman DMM
Myanmar National Airlines UB1 Yangon RGN Singapore SIN
Peach MM1 Kansai KIX Incheon ICN
Qantas QF1 Sydney SYD Singapore SIN London LHR
Qatar Airways QR1 Doha DOH London LHR
S7 Airlines S71 Moscow DME Nizhniy Novgorod GOJ
SAS SK1 Lulea LLA Stockholm ARN
Singapore Airlines SQ1 San Francisco SFO Hong Kong HKG Singapore SIN
Southwest Airlines WN1 Dallas DAL Houston HOU Corpus Christi CRP
SpiceJet SG1 Chennai MAA Colombo CMB
Turkish Airlines TK1 Istanbul IST New York JFK
United Airlines UA1 San Francisco SFO Singapore SIN
Ural Airlines U61 Yekaterinburg SVX Moscow SVO
Virgin Atlantic VS1 London LHR New York EWR
Virgin Australia VA1 Sydney SYD Los Angeles LAX
WestJet WS1 Calgary YYC London LGW

[Flights correct as of May 2018.]

Most Number 1 flights by city [Top 5]

New York
Los Angeles
San Francisco

After compiling this list it was no surprise to tally it up and find that London and New York has the most number 1 flights. London has three airports out of its five with a #1 flight, while New York has #1 flights at 2 out of 3 of its airports.

I expected Los Angeles to do will being the gateway to the west, but I was surprised to see how well Honolulu fared.

Most Number 1 flights by airport

London LHR
New York JFK

When it comes to Number 1 flights, London Heathrow is the world’s most prestigious airport.

While it has lost its ranking as the world’s busiest passenger airport, it still retains its flagship allure. Heathrow is certainly helped by having Commonwealth countries in the list, and it’s still a major European hub.

By comparison Atlanta (ATL) is the world’s busiest passenger airport yet it has no #1 flights. Beijing (PEK) is the second busiest and it has just one #1. Beijing’s passenger numbers are bolstered by domestic flights, but it’s unlikely that is will ever be an internationally prestigious hub airport.

Other prestigious numbers – #10 #100 #101 and #1000 flights

This list deals exclusively with #1 flights, even though there are #10, #100, #101 and #1000 flights which are the lowest assigned numbers by some airlines.

Air France assigns AF10 for Paris CDG to New York JFK. Kenya Airways starts at 100, with KQ100 flying from Nairobi NBO to London LHR. Another Heathrow 100 flight is Air Malta KM100 (MLA – LHR), and Oman Air operate WY101 from Muscat MCT to London LHR. KLM don’t get started until 1000, with KL1000 being assigned to the LHR – AMS route.

If I did tally up all these flights then London Heathrow would have been even further ahead in the rankings.

Flight of the Concorde

The most prestigious commercial #1 flight was BA1 on the Concorde from London Heathrow to New York JFK. The last British Airways flight was BA2 from JFK to LHR, on 24 October 2003.

BA Concorde at Heathrow
[The BA Concorde as viewed from a BA flight out of Heathrow.]

BA1 is now a business-class only flight on an A318 from London City (LCY) to New York (JFK), via Shannon (SNN) for refuelling and US immigration and customs pre-clearance.

Presidential flights

This list is only for commercial flights, though some airlines reserve their #1 for special government flights.

Philippine Airlines PR1 is reserved for when the president charters a flight. When I checked Flight Aware it showed the last PR1 flight was from HKG to DVO, and sure enough President Duterte had just returned from Hong Kong.

Philippine Airlines PR1

Indian Airlines (AI) is another airline that reserve #1 for government charter.

I was at Hanoi Airport when I saw VN1 on the departure board. The flight was to Vnukovo International Airport (VKO) in Moscow, though scheduled flights fly to Domodedovo (DME). This was just before Vietnam announced it had ordered Russian weapons, so this would have been a government flight.

Flight VN1

When not having a #1 flight is a good idea

One airline that thankfully hasn’t taken up the flight 1 option is WOW Air from Iceland. Their IATA code is WW, so flying on WW1 and returning on WW2 wouldn’t be the best look on the departure board.

Can airports lobby for #1 flights?

Sometimes airports offer incentives for airlines to start a service at that airport. I wonder if airports would also lobby to have #1 flights at their airport.

Singapore Airlines is due to recommence the world’s longest non-stop flight from Singapore to New York. JFK Airport would have a case for serving the #1 flight over the current SQ1 San Francisco-Hong Kong-Singapore route.

And maybe in China a member of the CPC is reading this humble blog and is incensed by my statement of Beijing Capital International Airport never being a prestigious airport. They could then mandate at the next National Congress that all Chinese airlines must designate Flight 1 to or from Beijing.

Flight notes

As we have seen with Qantas, flights numbers change over the years so the information here was correct at time of publishing. I’ll keep this list updated so let me know if there are any changes. I will record any changes here.

EVA Air had a #1 flight (BR1) from Los Angeles (LAX) to Taipei (TPE). This was last flown in 2016, and now the lowest flight is BR5 between the same cities. If this was still active than LAX would have been equal with JFK as the most amount of #1 flights in the US. Maybe LAX should lobby to have it returned and try and take the US title from JFK.

Tarom last operated RO1 from Timisoara (TSR) to New York (JFK) in 2003. This was probably a government flight given that Timisoara is a secondary city.

Tarom RO1

Vietnam Airlines have a VN1 service which is sometimes listed as Hanoi HAN – Paris CDG. At the time of my research the flight number was being used for government use, with different flights from SGN and HAN to SIN. This was around the time of an ASEAN conference being held in Singapore.

Flight 1 Infographic

Flight 1 Infographic

If you would like to use this on your site here is the embed code.

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  1. The Concorde feels like it was so cool James. What an experience. NYC to London in a few hours. Too bad it went out; even with a big price tag, a 1 of a kind experience, whizzing around the globe. I care less of champagne and glam nature of flights LOL.

    Thanks for sharing 🙂


  2. Nope, flight codes WW1 and WW2 would definitely not be a good idea! Lol

  3. Ann Wilkerson says

    Great synopsis of Fight 1’s! I’d like to mention that the late great Pan Am used Flight 1 got its Round the World westbound flight and Flight 2 for Round the World eastbound.

  4. Great stuff, James. Avgeek inside me is wondering how I have not gotten curious about it before.

  5. For several years America West had flight 1 from ORD – PHX on the 757. During it’s growth that was a prestige route for America West. There is a very strong Chicago influence in Phoenix.

  6. Also interesting is that airlines will also use the number 8 for flights to/from China. Apparently it’s an lucky number

  7. its good and informational post you shared, thanks for the article.

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