Hard-pressed airlines have been handed the perfect Christmas present: permission to fly twin-jet aircraft over the North Pole, saving millions on fuel costs, opening up new destinations and reducing damage to the environment.
The easing of rules about how close twin-jets must keep to diversion airports means faster, cheaper and cleaner flights.
Until now, America’s aviation regulators have insisted that the nearest suitable place to land must be no more than three hours away. That has now been extended to five-and-a-half hours – so long as the airline meets a series of criteria, from additional equipment to special training.
As a result, Boeing 777 and 787 "Dreamliner" twin jets will be able to fly almost anywhere in the world. A patch of territory in Antarctica remains inaccessible. But "Santa’s short cut," as the route has been called, gives a green light to flights from Britain straight across the North Pole to Pacific islands that are currently off the route map.