The new aviation rules will allow carriers operating in the South Pacific to take a “shortcut” over the North Pole for the first time.
Under the new relief rules, British air passengers will be able to halve long-haul flights and fly faster to exotic destinations.
This can also mean cheaper and cleaner flights for holidaymakers.
While pilots from Australia who take passengers to South America will be able to drive more direct courses, saving a lot of time, fuel and emissions.
Until now, the Boeing 777 and the new 787 Dreamliner had to stay within three hours (180 minutes) of the nearest diversion airport for safety reasons.
Under the new rules, this is almost doubled to five and a half hours (330 minutes), taking into account improvements in aircraft and engine technology.
This means, for example, that planes from the UK will be able to take a non-stop flight – called a “Santa’s shortcut” – over the North Pole to destinations such as Hawaii, Alaska or French Polynesia.
It also means shorter trips, cheaper flights, less fuel and lower emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2), the so-called greenhouse gas that is blamed for global warming.
The “extended operations” rules specify the time during which the aircraft can be from the emergency landing site in the event of an engine failure and apply to twin-engine jets.
The new regulation follows a decision by the US Federal Aviation Administration to allow up to 330 minutes of “extended operations” for 777 Boeings fleets.
It allows airlines operating Boeing 777-300ER (extended range), 777-200LR (longer range), 777 Freighter and 777-200ER models equipped with General Electric engines to fly up to 330 minutes from a potential diversion airport .
Approval for the Boeing 777-200ER, equipped with British Rolls-Royce and American Pratt & Whitney engines, is expected to follow in the next few months.
The first airline to take advantage of the new longer option for “extended operations” is Air New Zealand, which flew earlier this month from Los Angeles to Auckland.
Last October, the European Aviation Safety Agency gave a 207-minute rating after receiving an application from Air France for a 777-300ER flight from Los Angeles to Papeete, Tahiti. The European agency is also expected to adopt the 330-minute rule.
Planes once flew over the North Pole during the Cold War in the 1950s to avoid the airspace of the communist bloc.