United Airlines is about to resume its longest flight — for now
United's longest route is making a comeback in the new year.
The carrier's flight from San Francisco (SFO) to Singapore (SIN) is set to resume four times a week effective Jan. 5. The 8,500-mile journey will be operated using a Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner featuring the airline's latest Polaris business class seat and its premium economy product, Premium Plus.
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The westbound flight, United Flight 1, will depart SFO at 10:30 p.m. and arrive two days later in Singapore at 7:40 a.m., a 17-hour and 25-minute trip across the Pacific Ocean. The eastbound return flight, United Flight 2, departs Singapore at 10:10 a.m. and arrives in San Francisco at 8:50 a.m., a significantly faster 14 hours and 35 minutes — due to tailwinds.
The route debuted in 2016, and was included in an early wave of COVID-19-related route suspensions that United announced at the beginning of March 2020.
For now, it’ll take the spot as the longest in all of United’s network – taking back the title from the Houston-Sydney route that the carrier launched just in 2018. However, that route was pulled down at the beginning of the pandemic – and the prospects for its return are thought to be shaky, at best. But even that could be short-lived. United's planned San Francisco-Bangalore route will be even longer if it begins as currently planned on May 26. That route was originally slated to begin in the summer of 2021, but has been postponed because of the pandemic.
As for the relaunched Singapore service, these flights will operate in accordance with the Singapore government's Vaccinated Travel Lane (VTL) program, which allows travelers to avoid quarantine upon arrival. Before booking, know that these VTL requirements are quite stringent.
More: When will international travel return? A country-by-country guide to coronavirus recovery
Proof of vaccination is required, and not just a CDC vaccination record card. Americans must produce either a digital SMART Health Card linked to their vaccination record, a digital vaccination record retrieved through a state or local public health database or the physical vaccination records and a letter from the vaccination provider attesting to vaccination status. A series of PCR tests are also required: one taken with two days of departure, and another taken on arrival at Singapore. Finally, travelers must present proof of a health insurance policy that is valid for the duration of their stay in Singapore and covers a minimum of SGD $30,000.
Redeeming MileagePlus miles for a Polaris seat on this route will run you 180,000 miles and $5.60 in taxes and fees, round trip. TPG currently values MileagePlus miles at 1.3 cents/mile, and with the equivalent cash fares as high as $5,000, this represents an excellent redemption. A Polaris ticket also gains you access to the Polaris Lounge in San Francisco, which is set to reopen early in 2022.