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I am trying to find a route from Helsinki, Finland to Washington, DC, USA so that the air time is minimized, as the person travelling is afraid of an air travel. Assume, visas are not a problem.

Basically, I am looking for a shortest non-stop transatlantic flight originating in Europe and landing somewhere, from where Washington, DC can be reached by land (with possible ferry).

It seems there are 2 possible routes:

  • land/ferry to Iceland, then Keflavik -> (Greenland, ferry) -> Canada -> Land to US
  • Land to London, then LHR -> Canada -> Land to US

Specific subquestions:

  1. What is the absolute shortest flight time from KEF to any point in Canada?
  2. What is the absolute shortest flight time from London to any point in Canada?
  3. I was not able to find any regular transportation between points in Greenland and points in Canada. Did I miss something?
  4. What are good points of embarkation in Canada? Halifax? St John's?

Any other possible routes I missed?

I am seeking a factual basis to decide between:

  • investing in air-travel phobia therapy and attempting regular HEL->JFK
  • travelling via cruise liner
  • travelling via freight vessel
  • attempting to minimize air travel time by covering some part by land.

However, this question's scope is limited to just minimizing air travel time.

TL;DR

  1. The shortest flight would be either KEF->YHZ (Halifax) 4:30, seasonal
  2. Second shortest (but much more easy accessible from Europe) is DUB->YYT (St John's) 4:55, seasonal

and thank everyone who contributed to the whole spectrum of the answers collected

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    Have you looked at repositioning cruises? In the fall, there are transits from European ports to the US . For example, Royal Caribbean: August 26, from Copenhagen to Boston, visiting Oslo, Kristiansand, Reykjavik, Akureyri, Halifax
    – Giorgio
    Feb 27, 2017 at 20:03
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    I assume going the long way around isn't an option? You could do a lot of it by train, iirc.
    – MadHatter
    Feb 27, 2017 at 20:39
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    Based on my experience with phobia, I will venture that the actual duration of the flight will be less significant than you think.
    – DTRT
    Feb 27, 2017 at 21:00
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    Besides cruises doesn't some container/freight companies allow a few passengers on their ships? Have no idea if it is cheaper or more expensive than cruises. I've heard the crew love passengers as nothing much at all happens on board and at least it is new people to talk to.
    – Bent
    Feb 27, 2017 at 21:14
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    There are no ferries between Greenland and anywhere, and no scheduled flights other than to Iceland and Denmark. Feb 27, 2017 at 21:43

5 Answers 5

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Reykjavik to Halifax (Nova Scotia) is showing as 18:05 to 19:40 according to Icelandair's summer timetable, page 23.

That isn't really 1h35 minutes of course, thanks to time zones. The timetable shows Reykjavik on GMT while Halifax is on GMT-3 thanks to Daylight Savings.

So, 4 hours 35 minutes from Reykjavik to Halifax.

Edit : when I'm calling the airport Reykjavik I'm quoting the Icelandair brochure "From REYKJAVÍK KEF" - indeed Reykjavik's main airport is a few miles away at Keflavik but if Icelandair are happy to call it Reykjavik that's good enough for me.

And indeed I didn't cover the means of getting to Reykjavik : the obvious route is the Smyril Line, who run a weekly service from Denmark via the Faeroe Islands.

I can't comment on the Icelandic bus network though one commenter points out it may be fragmentary, and may need a taxi to get some joined-up transport going.

And after several days crossing the North Atlantic even on such a large and modern ship as the Norrona, and several hundred km on Iceland's roads, the actual flight will probably come as a blissful relief.

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  • Thanks. This gives the ballpark idea. Can it be further reduced?
    – mzu
    Feb 27, 2017 at 21:59
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    I have also checked any reasonable airport, but this seems indeed to be the shortest flight. It is a seasonal route however, and only operated by Icelandair from June 3rd to October 15th (2017). Flights from London are in general 1,5 to 2 hours longer to any point in the area. Feb 27, 2017 at 22:10
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    Well you'll probably fly over Gander, in Newfoundland, but (a) pretty much nothing international lands there nowadays except for emergencies (which the whole point is to avoid) and (b) I suspect the only onward travel would be another flight. Feb 27, 2017 at 23:04
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    Too bad the concorde is not flying anymore. Would've been even shorter
    – Antzi
    Feb 28, 2017 at 7:24
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    Also, be aware that ferries Denmark-Iceland arrive at Seyðisfjörður which is poorly connected to the Icelandic bus network and more than 700 km from Keflavík; if you're lucky you can hitch-hike to Akureyi from where buses to Reykjavík are far more frequent, but you need to allow for at least two days to reach Keflavík from Seyðisfjörður.
    – gerrit
    Feb 28, 2017 at 11:40
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If flight time is truly of the highest consideration, then this blog details one person's travel around the world desiring the least possible flight time in doing so.

Three options are proposed, but I can't confirm whether they are still current:

  1. Fly from Vladivostok (or Khabarovsk) to Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky, then get a flight from Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky to Anchorage, Alaska, with Yakutia (www.yakutia.aero), a Russian airline. It’s about a 3 hour flight and goes every Saturday from 11th July to 29th August as it’s a seasonal flight.

  2. Travel from Vladivostok to Provideniya, the furthest airport towards the Bering Strait, from there, you can charter a plane from Bering Air, an Alaskan company.

  3. You can walk across the Bering Strait when it is frozen solid, however, it’s about 53 miles of ice, after 800 miles of no roads

Perhaps it may be worth corresponding with the author to further investigate these options. I'm envious of someone who tries option 3!

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    I love your answer but it's a misconception that the Bering Strait freezes completely; there are channels of open water which, on occasion, get clogged with chunks of ice. So you could jump from one to another, if not a bit of swimming. Russia won't allow Westerners in that area to attempt the crossing and the two who made from Alaska were arrested and deported.
    – Giorgio
    Feb 27, 2017 at 21:31
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    @Dorothy Perhaps you could count jumping from one ice floe to another to sum up to the amount of "air travel time" required :)
    – Berwyn
    Feb 27, 2017 at 21:38
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    @mzu The ~10000km trip fromo Helsinki to Vladivostok, and ~ 7000km from Anchorage to Washington DC might be a bit of a disadvantage there. Would make one hell of a trip, that's for sure, although I'm not certain I'd want to do it both ways.
    – Dan Mašek
    Feb 27, 2017 at 22:20
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    @mzu It's a three hour flight from Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky to Anchorage, but to get to Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky you're probably going to have to fly. There's no roads to it and I don't think there's any regular ferry service. Even if there is a ferry, it would be faster and probably cheaper to book a transatlantic cruise on the Queen Mary 2. Provideniya is even worse, also only accessible by air, and even more remote.
    – Ross Ridge
    Feb 28, 2017 at 7:24
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    Instead of flying from Helsinki to Vladivostok, you could travel there by train (Helsinki - Moscow, Moscow - Vladivostok). Traveling with the Transsiberian Railway is certainly an interesting experience, but keep in mind that you would spend about a week on a train.
    – user32525
    Feb 28, 2017 at 7:49
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St. John's seems like the best jumping-off point, as the easternmost major airport in North America. If having the shortest flight possible is really the goal, Air Canada has a flight from St. John's to London Heathrow, 5:05 eastbound, 5:50 westbound. In summer only, WestJet does St. John's to Dublin, 4:30 eastbound, 4:55 westbound. Here's information on the London flight and the Dublin flight. One can get from Dublin to mainland Europe by a combination of land and sea much more easily than one can get from Reykjavik to mainland Europe - see for example the seat61 guide to Ireland and to Iceland.

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  • I like this answer as much as KEF->YHZ (Halifax) answer above, if not better.
    – mzu
    Feb 28, 2017 at 0:50
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    Note that St. John's does not have scheduled rail service. Accessing the North American continent from there via ground transportation would require a 14-hour bus (coach) ride to Port-Aux-Basques, a 7-hour ferry crossing from Port-Aux-Basques to North Sydney, and a 4–5-hour bus ride from North Sydney to Truro. (Additional ferry connections exist during the summer, but do not shave off that much time.) The person in question would have to weigh the level of their phobia, but the trade-off here is basically 1–2 hours of additional flying time vs. two additional days of ground travel. Feb 28, 2017 at 1:36
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    @MichaelSeifert And, in particular, two additional days of ground travel which, on the return journey, will mostly be spent thinking, "Crap, I have to get on another plane." It's hard to believe that this absolute focus on minimizing time in the air is the right approach. Feb 28, 2017 at 1:38
  • @MichaelSeifert, in this case I will likely meet them there and drive them all the way to DC. Small adventure included
    – mzu
    Feb 28, 2017 at 2:08
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    @mzu: Then you are a good friend indeed. However, keep in mind that the driving time is substantial (17 hours to from DC to Halifax, and 38 hours to St. John's, according to Google Maps). Feb 28, 2017 at 13:11
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From summer 2024 (and previously between 2012 and 2014), there are seasonal flights between Greenland and Nunavut, which means you can cross the Atlantic with a series of flights not much longer than 3 hours:

  • Ottawa to Iqaluit (domestic flight Canada) is 3 hours 5 minutes.

  • Iqaluit (Canada) to Nuuk (Greenland). Most difficult bit. Although announced to restart in summer 2024, a previous attempt only lasted three seasons (2012-2014), so let's see how long it survives this time. The flight is announced to take two hours.

  • Nuuk (Greenland) to Keflavík (Iceland) direct, once weekly, is 3 hours 10 minutes.

Although the total adds up to more than the other alternatives, each segment is shorter than the 4½ hours for Keflavík – Halifax, and there's a lot to see on the way. It only works in summer. It's going to be expensive (>$5000). Keflavík — Halifax is far cheaper and probably a better option, but I'm just putting it here as an adventurous alternative.

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If you want to avoid flying entirely, you can. The Queen Mary 2 still sails between Southampton and New York or Fort Lauderdale about once a month. Prices start at about £1400 one way for a couple sharing a double cabin, which includes food. I would be surprised if you can find a cheaper way of crossing the Atlantic without flying. Getting from Helsinki to Southampton by train and boat is fairly straightforward. The only time I did it, I used the Turku–Stockholm ferry, and then travelled via Copenhagen, Cologne, Brussels and London. (I find Deutsche Bahn's website very useful for planning such journeys.) New York to Washington is one of few routes in the US that is well served by train, using the Acela, which is as close as it gets to high-speed rail in the North America.

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