Look out of the airplane window on Lake Constance and St. Gallen-Altenrhein Airport

On the world’s shortest international flight

Almost as quickly as it carried passengers between Germany and Switzerland in a record eight minutes, the world’s shortest international scheduled flight has been grounded for good after five months of service. I was on board the final voyage across Lake Constance on April 14, 2017.

When it launched in November 2016, the eight-minute or 20-kilometer (12,5-mile) flight from the small St. Gallen-Altenrhein Airport in Switzerland to Friedrichshafen, Germany generated considerable international attention. “This is an exciting flight for the pilots,” Daniel Steffen, CEO of People’s Viennaline, said to the regional newspaper. “They apply for the land permit in Friedrichshafen before they have taken off in Altenrhein. In the air, checklists for departure and approach are processed in parallel.”

Flight history for People's Viennaline flight PE203 from Friedrichshafen to St. Gallen-Altenrhein on April 14, 2017
People’s Viennaline flight PE203 from Friedrichshafen to St. Gallen-Altenrhein on April 14, 2017 (flightradar24.com)

This overseas flight is actually an “overlake flight”: The service across beautiful Lake Constance (Bodensee) was meant to add additional passengers from Eastern Switzerland, Voralberg (Western Austria) and Liechtenstein to the basic potential in Southern Germany for a new scheduled flight connecting Friedrichshafen with Cologne-Bonn airport in Germany’s business region of Nordrhein-Westfalen. This 50-minute service was discontinued together with the 8-minute feeder flight on April 14, 2017. It turned out that the expectations could not be met. “There was indeed small, recognizable progress, but we don’t think that the targeted number of passengers could have been reached,” explained the airline owner. In the future, the regional airline will focus on their (up to) four daily flights between St. Gallen-Altenrhein and Vienna as well as on holiday flights to the Mediterranean Sea.

Besides the international attention, the mini-flight had also drawn criticism for the excessive amount of fuel consumed for the brief trip and for the amount of noise produced during take-off and landing. This is why I compensated the CO2 emission of my flight with a voluntary donation to a reforestation project in Nicaragua, which furthermore creates long-term income opportunities for farmers in this poor region. I also decided to compensate for the carbon footprint of all my air travels in the future.

St. Gallen-Altenrhein Airport
View on St. Gallen-Altenrhein Airport. Friedrichshafen, the destination city of the world’s shortest international scheduled flight, is already visible on the opposite shore of Lake Constance (photo: People’s Viennaline)

So how was the flight?

By the way: I was on this flight to visit Cologne (Köln) for the first time (read my blog post: Welcoming Cologne). The outbound and return flights in an Embraer 170 were… surprisingly unspectacular;-) Sure, the views on Lake Constance and into the Prealps were nice and the service of the People’s Viennaline aircraftt and ground staff was excellent. But the fact of having been on this “record flight” will certainly be stronger than the memory of the flight itself.


Date of travel: 13 – 14 April 2017
Featured image on top this blog post:
 Look out of the airplane window down on Lake Constance and St. Gallen-Altenrhein Airport (photo: People’s Viennaline)
I compensated the CO2 emission of my flight.

Read next: My top 6 places to visit in Israel & Palestine

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