Singapore Airlines relaunches ‘world’s longest flight’
Asian airline company, Singapore Airlines, is relaunching its longest flight in the world: a direct flight from Singapore to New York (US) taking 18 hours and 45 minutes. For the flights the A350-900 ULR (Ultra Long Range) is used. The relaunch of such a long flight shows that airline companies have a regained interest in this niche market.
The first brand-new A350-900 ULR has taken off this Thursday at the airport of Changi with destination New York, where it has landed 18 hours and 45 minutes later. The 9.700 miles long flight is the longest in the world, exceeding Quantas’ flight from Perth (Australia) to London (UK) in 17 hours, and Qatar Airway’s flight between Doha (Qatar) and Auckland (New Zealand) in 16 hours and 50 minutes.
The record flight isn’t a first for Singapore Airlines, though. The company used to offer similar flight connections from Singapore to New York between 2004 and 2013, not with a twin-engined jet but with a four-engined plane, the A340-500, consuming much more kerosene because of the four engines.
More comfort aboard
For this flight Singapore Airlines foresees two pilots and two co-pilots and 13 cabin crew to ensure that everyone is able to take a legally required rest pause of at least four hours between shifts.
During the new ultra long flights Singapore Airlines focuses on extra comfort for passengers: there is no basic Economy class, only Business (67 seats) and Premium Economy (94 seats), or a total of 161 seats, compared to 253 in a traditional A350-900.
Passengers have the choice out of 1.200 hours of movies, the equivalent of seven weeks. To improve the experience of being in the air for so long, the cabin’s ceiling has been raised and special LED lighting is used playing with different colours to reduce the jet lag.
Special meals are served to “increase well-being”. “Studies show that hydrating and avoiding a gassy feeling are important on such long flights. It is also advised to avoid excessive alcohol drinking”, Rhenu Bhuller, health expert at Forst & Sullivan says.
Apparently also other companies are interested in record flights. Last year Australian Qantas has asked Airbus and Boeing to develop an airplane capable of flying more than 20 hours for connections between Australia and Europe or between Australia and the US. It is not clear yet whether the company can present a cost-effective proposition.
Stretch one’s legs
However, those ultra long flights still are a challenge, not only for the airline company but also for the passengers and crew. “People don’t like those long flights”, said president of the Emirates, Tim Clark, to some journalists last June in Sydney.
It is indeed hardly likely that all possible passengers will opt for a direct flight without any intermediate landing. People want to relax and stretch their legs, even after a comfortable flight in excellent conditions.
Exploiting those ultra long flights is not obvious either. There will be fewer but more comfortable seats. Fewer passengers on board means that flights will be more expensive and probably reserved for business travelers, for which their boss is paying their ticket. With 20 hour flights it will be more difficult to have them scheduled to fly at their maximum. Costs for crew and catering will increase too.
Last but not least, for safety reasons, this kind of airplanes will need additional certificates because controlling authorities will have to see evidence that all equipment will be able to operate perfectly over such a long distance.