A flight path (often abbreviated as FP) is the primary means of zone-to-zone travel on Azeroth and Outland. They are a transportation link between two fixed geographical points via fixed paths on faction-exclusive aerial mounts. The Alliance utilizes both the Gryphons of the Hinterlands and the Hippogryphs of Kalimdor for transportation, while the Horde uses Kalimdor's Wyverns, Lordaeron's massive Vampire bats, and Quel'Thalas's rare Dragonhawks.
See the side bar for links to listings of specific flight paths.
Identification and use
A flight point is manned by a single level 85 elite NPC, a flight master. A flight path must first be "discovered" by visiting an area's flight master, who will give you access to their flight point's route. If a flight master has a flight path to teach you, a green will appear above his or her head, the flight master will appear as a on your mini-map, and (only for new Cataclysm maps - Eastern Kingdoms and Kalimdor, and not quite all of them either) as a shoe-with-wing icon on the world map. Once you learn a flight path, it will be offered as a route by the flight master. If you've learned all the consecutive flight paths in between, you can choose a far-off destination in the flight map window and you'll automatically fly there -- the routes will be chained together.
Since Cataclysm, flight paths rides move at 433% of running speed, making them considerably faster than unbuffed Master Flying (310%). However, flight paths also often take unneeded turns to reach their destinations, making the effective difference smaller. It may be faster to use a flying mount instead of a flight path, especially pairing Master Flying with a flight speed buff – , etc. – to avoid the unnecessary sight-seeing that flight paths take.
If flight masters are attacked by members of the opposing faction, they will spawn a pair of level 85 elite adds to defend themselves ( or s for Horde flight masters, s or s for Alliance). Flight masters, while hostile to enemy players, have no aggro radius and will only attack enemy players if they attack them first. This is done so that neutral places like sLight's Hope Chapel, where both Alliance and Horde flight masters reside, allow players to remain there without causing unwanted PvP fights.
Logging out in flight
If you log out in flight, upon logging back on, you will continue your flight from the same spot where you logged out. However, in a flight of multiple legs, you will then land at the next waypoint of the journey. This behavior can be used to abort a flight, provided there are waypoints before the destination.
Interestingly, logging back in to an Alliance character using a flight path will change whichever steed (Hippogryph, Skeletal Gryphon, Dragonhawk) was being ridden before into a normal Gryphon, and Horde characters will log back in to find themselves riding a Wyvern.
Since Gilneas and Kezan/Lost Isles are no longer accessible after you leave them, goblins know the flight paths for Orgrimmar and Razor Hill, Durotar; while worgen know the flight path for Dolanaar, Teldrassil.
All Alliance characters know the Rut'theran Village, Teldrassil and Lor'danel, Darkshore flight points. This is because the boat to/from Teldrassil is gone following the Cataclysm.
All direct flights between capital cities and starting zone destinations are free since Cataclysm.
Death knights begin the game with access to all of their faction's flight paths in Kalimdor and the Eastern Kingdoms, with the following exceptions: the Isle of Quel'Danas, Zul'Aman in the Ghostlands, the Bulwark at the edge of Tirisfal Glades, the Thondroril River between the Western Plaguelands and Eastern Plaguelands, and most smaller quest hubs (specifically, those added in Patch 4.0.3a). All of those flight points were added after the death knight class was introduced.
Originally at each flight point you had to select the next flight point you wanted to go to and so on until you reached your destination. AFK characters were more prevalent than they are now at flight points when the introduction of linked flight paths in Patch 1.10.0 allowed you to pick a point across the map and fly all the way there, provided that you knew all the intermediate flight paths. For example, new players in Northrend sometimes quest in both Borean Tundra and the Howling Fjord, but are unable to fly between them because they are linked by several intermediate flight paths in much higher level zones.
Over time, additional flight points were added at various places.
Then, in Patch 4.0.3a, flight paths changed for the release of Cataclysm to reflect the revised world. Many zones received additional flight paths that make traveling within the zone faster and easier. And in some zones, flight paths disappeared or appeared due to changes in Alliance and Horde control. To remedy that some flight paths would be broken, characters would eventually learn all flight paths as they leveled up. This was fixed in patch 5.2.0.
The maps below are still pre-Cataclysm (as of Dec. 2010):