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
|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|
|Alaska Airlines||AS1||Washington DC||DCA||Seattle||SEA|
|American Airlines||AA1||New York||JFK||Los Angeles||LAX|
|Biman Bangladesh Airlines||BG1||Dhaka||DAC||London||LHR|
|British Airways||BA1||London||LCY||Shannon||SNN||New York||JFK|
|Delta Air Lines||DL1||London||LHR||New York||JFK|
|El Al||LY1||Tel Aviv||TLV||New York||JFK|
|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|
|LOT Polish Airlines||LO1||Warsaw||WAW||Chicago||ORD|
|Malaysia Airlines||MH1||London||LHR||Kuala Lumpur||KUL|
|Middle East Airlines||ME1||Beirut||BEY||Damman||DMM|
|Myanmar National Airlines||UB1||Yangon||RGN||Singapore||SIN|
|S7 Airlines||S71||Moscow||DME||Nizhniy Novgorod||GOJ|
|Singapore Airlines||SQ1||San Francisco||SFO||Hong Kong||HKG||Singapore||SIN|
|Southwest Airlines||WN1||Dallas||DAL||Houston||HOU||Corpus Christi||CRP|
|Turkish Airlines||TK1||Istanbul||IST||New York||JFK|
|United Airlines||UA1||San Francisco||SFO||Singapore||SIN|
|Virgin Atlantic||VS1||London||LHR||New York||EWR|
|Virgin Australia||VA1||Sydney||SYD||Los Angeles||LAX|
[Flights correct as of May 2018.]
Most Number 1 flights by city [Top 5]
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
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.
[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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
If you would like to use this on your site here is the embed code.
Ryan Biddulph says
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 🙂
Sophia Williams says
Nope, flight codes WW1 and WW2 would definitely not be a good idea! Lol
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.
James Clark says
Thanks Ann, I din’t know that!
Lord Dima says
Great stuff, James. Avgeek inside me is wondering how I have not gotten curious about it before.
James Clark says
Thank you, Lord Dima. You often share unusual stats about flight hacking that I never would have thought of, so glad to have shown you something.
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.
Also interesting is that airlines will also use the number 8 for flights to/from China. Apparently it’s an lucky number
its good and informational post you shared, thanks for the article.