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Today marks the return of the world’s longest commercial flight. At 11:35am ET, or 12 hours later in Singapore, a Singapore Airlines A350-900ULR [Ultra-Long Range] will push back from Changi Airport, and it won’t arrive at a gate in Newark until 6:00am ET Friday. I will be seated in Premium Economy, while TPG editor-at-large Zach Honig will be flying business class on the return leg from EWR to SIN.
The journey will cover a 9,534-mile distance between the two airports, although the actual routing means that the flight will likely cover almost 10,000 miles during its scheduled time in the air of 17 hours, 37 minutes. A flight plan has appeared on Twitter, although we haven’t been able to officially confirm it with the airline yet.
Singapore Airlines operated this exact route using an Airbus A340-500 from 2004 to 2013, with the same flight numbers: SQ21 (from Newark) and SQ22 (from Singapore.) The aircraft was originally configured to have 64 business class seats and 117 premium economy seats, before being rearranged to carry only 100 business class seats. The A340’s four engines made the nonstop route uneconomical, and Singapore Airlines decided to suspend it — until the appearance of the ULR version of the twin-engined A350, which burns less fuel.
For the return of the nonstop route, Singapore Airlines has arranged its A350-900ULR aircraft with 67 business class seats (1-2-1 arrangement) and 94 premium economy seats (2-4-2 arrangement). You won’t be able to experience Singapore Suites, first class or economy on the world’s longest flight.
While the business class seat is the same as on Singapore Airlines’ other A350s, the airline redesigned its premium economy seat specifically for this flight. Back in June, I got a chance to see the seat come to life at Zodiac Aerospace’s manufacturing plant in Gainesville, Texas.
After the factory floor tour, I got a chance to see and try out the final product:
While 19-hours is going to be much easier in premium economy than it’d be in economy, these seats aren’t exactly spacious for a larger guy like me (at 5’11 tall and 220 pounds). It’ll be interesting to see on the flight how taller passengers are able to handle the long flight.
Not wanting to miss a moment of the festivities at the airport, I showed up almost nine hours before departure. The agents at the counter confirmed that I was the first passenger to check-in at the airport for the inaugural flight:
Two things haven’t changed since the last time I flew a ridiculously long inaugural flight. First, I’ll be covering the journey from the back cabin. Thankfully, on Singapore’s new A350-900ULR that means premium economy instead of economy — which is what I experienced for 17 hours on Qantas’ inaugural Perth, Australia to London Heathrow flight. Second, while several journalists are on the flight on an invitation from Singapore Airlines, we at TPG have a strict policy of always paying for our flights and hotels. Thanks to excellent award availability, we paid just 70,000 KrisFlyer miles plus US$51 in taxes/fees to book one-way from Singapore to Newark in premium economy.
This nonstop flight shaves more than two hours off the current fastest route between Singapore and New York City. That unofficial title is currently held by a one-stop Japan Airlines fight through Tokyo’s Haneda (HND) with a tight 50-minute connecting time, a routing that takes a total of 20:45 hours. The fastest Star Alliance option is currently just 10 minutes longer than that: a 20:55 hour 1-stop journey on EVA Air with a 1:25-hour layover in Taipei (TPE) before a 15-hour flight to New York Kennedy (JFK). Singapore Airlines also flies a daily Airbus A380 to JFK via Frankfurt.
Check out The Points Guy on Instagram for live updates from the ground here in Singapore and during the inaugural flight. Track the inaugural flight live using FlightRadar24 or FlightAware. And, stay tuned to TPG for a review of the premium economy flight, which we expect to post Friday afternoon.
Featured image courtesy of Airbus via Twitter.
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