Subtitles section Play video Print subtitles This is the airport on Papa Westray, one of the smallest of the Orkney Islands, off the tip of Scotland. It is just a windsock, and a hut, and a gravel runway. I didn't pick a great day to travel to this tiny little island. The rain is going to return in just a few minutes, but it's still been a nice little trip out to visit the world's oldest still standing house. -It's raining sideways. And also watch some seabirds from quite a distance. That's a bird. That's a bird. That is also a bird. But leaving here, I'm taking the world's shortest commercial flight from this airport to the next island, a mile away, which sounded like a great video. But as I started to write the script, I found some problems. It's a commercial flight and it's August 2021 as I record this, so masks are required, which won't look great. And the planes in use on this route are incredibly loud and rattly. You wouldn't hear a thing. And I'm not going to be the jackass who's vlogging on a tiny little plane with other passengers on it, loudly talking and bothering people and accidentally poking a selfie stick in someone's face. I'm just going to swap this GoPro out for a 360-camera, and just record voiceover afterwards. But a video about commercial aviation logistics, using voiceover? Well, that doesn't sound like me. That sounds like something that the Wendover Productions channel would do. So, Sam? Hey there, Tom! I'm going to leave this up to you. I'm going to go catch my flight. Spanning a distance of 1.7 miles or 2.7 km over some 80-or-so seconds, the flight Tom's about to take might seem an affront to logic, economics, environmentalism and more. But the world's shortest flight has a very real purpose for very real people. You see, the Orkney Islands are a sparsely-populated archipelago. The vast majority of their 22,000-strong population lives on what's known, despite its island status, as the "mainland," leaving only about 4,000 on the outer islands. These outer islanders need ways of getting to the mainland, of course, but bridges are expensive, especially over some of the longer inter-island spans in the Orkneys. And while ferries do operate throughout the archipelago, they're slow and lack a direct connection to onward travel. Therefore, the answer is airplanes. Of course, flying is expensive. And in the world of commercial aviation, it's typically the case that the lower the demand, the more expensive it is for an airline to operate a route on a per passenger basis. That's because smaller destinations lack the economies of scale afforded by operating larger airplanes more frequently at larger airports. So air service to places with 600 or 90 residents, like Westray and Papa Westray, is essentially impossible on a free market basis. The fares would be enormous per passenger, meaning people wouldn't choose to fly, meaning there wouldn't be enough passengers to fill a plane. Therefore, flights to Westray and Papa Westray are subsidized through the UK's public service obligation scheme, meaning only a small portion of Loganir's revenue is earned through selling the flight's £17 or £18 tickets. Still, filling a nine-passenger plane to Papa Westray, in particular, with its 90-person population would be difficult. Even at rock bottom prices, price elasticity only goes so far. Therefore, Loganair uses a network design referred to as a "milk run." Essentially, it means operating a plane like a bus or train. In this case, the BN-2 Islander aircraft leaves Kirkwall, the largest town in the Orkneys, with passengers destined for Papa Westray and Westray. Then it lands in Papa Westray, drops off any passengers destined for that island, and picks up any passengers traveling to Westray and Kirkwall. Next, it flies those 80 or so seconds to Westray, drops off its passengers, and picks up any final travelers headed for Kirkwall. This way, it aggregates the cumulative demand of two islands onto one flight, allowing for operations to each more regularly than if they both had dedicated flights. Altogether, this means the only people that might take the flight exclusively between Papa Westray and Westray are aviation enthusiasts and tourists who make the pilgrimage to fly on the world's shortest commercial flight. Tom, however, is returning to Kirkwall. Sam, thank you so much. There's a link to Sam's channel, Wendover Productions, in the description and on screen. And sure enough, the plane spent two minutes on the ground while one passenger disembarked and the pilot filled out some paperwork, and then we were off in the air again.