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19 thoughts for 19 hours on the world’s longest flight from New York to Singapore

September 3 2022
18 min read
inside Singapore Airlines Airbus
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There’s something thrilling about flying the world’s longest flight, even if it means sitting in a metal tube for 19 straight hours.

Ever since Singapore Airlines launched a new nonstop flight from New York to Singapore during the pandemic, I’ve been eager to fly it. That’s because the route from John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK) is now the world’s longest.

Previously, that title went to Singapore's nonstop from Newark Liberty International Airport (EWR). But, as the crow flies, the JFK flight is 2 miles longer, covering 9,527 miles in just under 19 hours.

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While the flag carrier of Singapore now operates both a JFK and Newark nonstop, I knew which one I wanted to fly on my first jaunt to Southeast Asia since before the pandemic began: the world’s new longest flight.

ZACH GRIFF/THE POINTS GUY

As I sat on the plane for 19 hours, I compiled some thoughts and musings about the experience, one for each hour I was “stuck” inside the metal tube.

Read on to see what the experience was like.

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A big (but temporary) lounge upgrade

Singapore Airlines departs from JFK’s Terminal 4, which is home to Delta’s operations along with a bunch of other independent international carriers.

While Terminal 4 might’ve been impressive when it opened in 2001, it’s definitely starting to show its age. From narrow hallways to short ceilings, I prefer sitting in the lounge to by the gate in this terminal.

ZACH GRIFF/THE POINTS GUY

Fortunately, when I flew on July 31, Singapore business-class passengers could access the above-average Virgin Atlantic Clubhouse before departure at JFK. Perhaps the most impressive part of the lounge was its cooked-to-order food offerings, which you could order from your table via a QR code. (I particularly enjoyed the Beyond burger in a pretzel bun.)

Though I liked the lounge’s stylish decor and dark hues, it was packed for the duration of my visit (largely due to the sheer number of eligible passengers across Singapore, Virgin Atlantic and other carriers).

Nevertheless, it was certainly better than the newly relocated Wingtips Lounge at JFK, which is where Singapore now sends its business-class passengers as of early August.

Olympic-style boarding

Singapore Flight 23 was scheduled to depart JFK at 10:30 p.m. For many passengers who frequently travel internationally, it may come as a surprise that boarding was only scheduled for 10 p.m., just 30 minutes before departure.

In fact, it didn’t even commence until 10:06 p.m. Yet, the entire plane was boarded and the doors were closed in just 23 minutes.

ZACH GRIFF/THE POINTS GUY

“How could Singapore manage to fill an Airbus A350 faster than a domestic airline can fill a small regional jet?” I wondered.

Well, Singapore deploys a unique wide-body jet on this route, the Airbus A350-900ULR. This “ultra-long-range” variant of the popular A350 has some modifications to boost its range, and there are fewer seats to help make the plane lighter.

ZACH GRIFF/THE POINTS GUY

In fact, this A350 features just 161 seats in a two-cabin configuration. That’s one less seat than JetBlue Airways offers on a much smaller, single-aisle Airbus A320 aircraft.

With 67 business-class pods, 94 premium economy recliners and two aisles, it was much easier to fill this wide-body than a smaller plane with a similar number of economy seats.

Celebrating a 10-year anniversary

As I settled into my business-class pod, I remembered that this product was about to celebrate its 10-year anniversary.

First launched back in 2013, this pod was quite impressive at the time. With 28 inches of width, direct aisle access and plenty of personal space, the seat was ahead of its time.

However, in the years since, the airline’s competitors have introduced more comfortable and private offerings in business class. With Qatar’s Qsuite, ANA’s The Room and British Airways’ Club Suite, this Singapore product now lags behind the competition.

While I’ve reviewed the seat in depth in the past, my biggest frustration with the product is the uncomfortable bed mode. The seat manually converts into a bed by pulling a lever at the back and flipping it over.

ZACH GRIFF/THE POINTS GUY

The bed surface is too firm for my liking and the angle at which you need to sleep isn’t especially comfortable.

Though the pods lack sliding doors, I found the privacy to be quite impressive, thanks to a staggered configuration between the window and center seats.

Aside from the side shelf next to the connectivity panel and a small container for the headphones, there isn’t much storage at each seat. This was especially noticeable during the world’s longest flight, as I had multiple gadgets, snacks and drinks sitting on my side armrest for much of the journey.

Where are the amenities?

On most long-haul, business-class flights, you’ll receive an amenity kit at some point during the boarding process. These kits usually include some inflight essentials such as a toothbrush, hand lotion and an eye mask.

Singapore does things differently.

For one, you won’t find an amenity kit waiting at your seat. In fact, you won’t even receive one unless you request it.

ZACH GRIFF/THE POINTS GUY

If you do ask for one, expect to be somewhat underwhelmed. The small Penholigan’s-branded pouch contained just three small bottles: hand lotion, facial mist and lip balm.

As for all the other amenities, you’ll find them either stocked in the lavatory or available upon request.

There are razors, shaving cream, toothbrushes and toothpaste stocked in the lavatory, while slippers, socks and eye masks are available upon request.

ZACH GRIFF/THE POINTS GUY

Unfortunately, Singapore doesn’t offer pajamas in business class — not even on the world’s longest flight. This was somewhat of a disappointment, especially considering that United Airlines offers pajamas on even shorter flights.

Menus are back

During the pandemic, most major airlines modified their food and beverage offerings as a safety precaution.

Singapore did too, and this included digitalizing the printed menu and posting it on the inflight Wi-Fi portal.

Well, I was pleased to see that there was a full, printed menu on thick cardstock waiting at my seat during boarding.

I find that printed menus are much easier to navigate during the flight, especially since the internet portal can sometimes be unreliable or my phone might not always be easily accessible.

From farm-to-tray table

Singapore is known for its extensive (and delicious) catering offerings, especially in premium cabins — and the world’s longest flight is no exception.

Your culinary experience with Singapore starts during the booking process, when you can begin choosing what you’d like to eat during the flight.

There are three categories from which to choose: the standard inflight menu, a special meal (based on religious or dietary restrictions) and "book the cook."

The book-the-cook program is essentially an additional menu of choices that wouldn’t otherwise be offered during the flight. Unfortunately, the selection for the JFK flight was quite limited compared to what I have experienced with Singapore in the past.

So, I opted to pre-order an Asian vegetarian special meal and decided to supplement my pick with items from the standard menu, pending availability.

Once the service carts rolled through the cabin about 90 minutes after departure, I was delighted with my special meal. It began with a delicious fig salad, with herbs that were grown just days before my flight near JFK at an Aerofarm urban farming facility.

I also enjoyed the trout salad from the main menu, along with my special meal entree of vegetable curry with fragrant basmati rice.

I didn’t partake in the Ben and Jerry’s Chunky Monkey ice cream dessert, and instead enjoyed a signature Singapore Sling as my aperitif.

Will the sun ever shine?

Depending on the jet stream and other environmental factors, the world’s longest flight can take two routings: one that departs New York and heads westbound over Canada and the Pacific Ocean or one that follows a traditional transatlantic crossing and continues over the Middle East and India before landing in Singapore.

Depending on which route you take (and the time of year), you’ll have a very different experience when you open the window.

ZACH GRIFF/THE POINTS GUY

In my case, our flight took the transpacific route, which actually marked my first time crossing the Pacific since my last trip to Asia in January 2020.

While I appreciated the novelty of the route, I didn’t originally realize that this would mean that we’d be traveling in darkness for the entire flight.

Aside from just a portion of the flight over northern Canada, it was pitch black outside for the remainder of the journey. Fortunately, I was awake for that period of light, and I even caught a glimpse of the northern lights, pictured below.

Internet improvements

One of the biggest disappointments from my flight from Newark to Singapore in November 2019 was the Wi-Fi connectivity.

At the time, Singapore charged based on usage ($15.99 for 200MB), which meant that I needed to ration my connectivity or else I’d face a steep bill by the end of the 18-hour flight. Even when I connected, I found the speeds and coverage to be spotty at best.

This time around, I was pleasantly surprised when I launched the KrisWorld Wi-Fi portal on the JFK flight. Singapore has ditched the usage-based pricing in favor of time-based packages, which are much more reasonable for a 19-hour trip.

SINGAPORE AIRLINES

At $15.99 for the entire flight, I found the pricing to be quite reasonable. (I recently traveled on American Airlines on a shorter flight from New York to Doha and paid $35 for a full-flight pass.)

Plus, the Panasonic connection was much more reliable and speedier than I ever recall. Download speeds hovered around 4 Mbps, while upload speeds came in at 3 Mbps throughout the flight.

'BYOH'

When I started exploring the connectivity panel, I found two unique connection options: an iPod video port and an HDMI port, along with three more traditional options: two USB-A ports and a universal AC outlet.

While the iPod port is now obsolete, you could theoretically connect your laptop with an HDMI cable to use the 18-inch inflight entertainment screen as a second monitor.

ZACH GRIFF/THE POINTS GUY

I asked the crew if there was a spare cable lying around, but I was told that it’s BYOH, or bring your own HDMI cable. One day, I’ll be sure to pack one of these cables to test out the feature.

ZACH GRIFF/THE POINTS GUY

Until then, I’ll continue to enjoy Singapore’s award-winning KrisWorld inflight entertainment system. It’s loaded with hundreds of movies and complete TV series, along with four channels of live TV (Sport24, BBC, CNN and CNBC) and a Voyager 3D flight map.

The big downsides are that the screen isn’t especially crisp and that you need to use the provided (and underwhelming) noise-isolating headphones to listen to your content.

Bulkhead or bust

Having flown Singapore’s business class before, I knew the “hack” to maximize my comfort — selecting a bulkhead seat.

Pods in the first row of Singapore business class offer an oversized ottoman and larger footwell area compared to the “standard” pods in which you need to angle your body to comfortably sleep at night.

Measuring 40 inches wide and 15 inches long, the ottoman can make the difference between a great or disappointing flight.

In addition to making the sleeping surface larger, the ottoman can be used to rest your feet when you recline your seat. (The seat’s leg rest doesn’t raise to a fully horizontal position.)

ZACH GRIFF/THE POINTS GUY

While I’d normally prefer sitting farther back in the cabin, I was happy to trade some galley noise for the perks of the bulkhead seat. In fact, I’d even choose a bulkhead seat in the center section when flying alone over a standard window seat.

Did we really still have 11 hours left?

After enjoying my dinner, I decided to go to sleep, since it was already past 1 a.m. in New York and I was quite tired.

When I woke up, I took a look at my watch and saw that I'd slept for about six hours. On most flights, I'd be happy with that much sleep.

ZACH GRIFF/THE POINTS GUY

But on this one, we still had 11 hours to go until Singapore. That's when it really hit me that this flight is long.

100K

At some point after my six-hour nap, I hit a personal milestone: 100,000 Instagram followers.

How fitting, I thought, given that I’m an aviation reporter crossing into six digits of followers while flying on the world’s longest flight.

ZACH GRIFF/THE POINTS GUY

Naturally, my wife and I celebrated with a glass of Charles Heidsieck Brut Reserve Champagne before trying to doze off again for a nap.

Let there be light

Other than a short period of sunshine while crossing over northern Canada, it was dark outside for the entire flight.

The crew only turned on the cabin lights during the three meal services: one after takeoff, one midway through the flight and one just before landing.

ZACH GRIFF/THE POINTS GUY

Fortunately, I found the seat to have plenty of lighting options to help me read my book and catch up on work.

In total, there were six lights: three built into the seat wall, one above the connectivity panel and two overhead lights. (I would’ve definitely preferred if Singapore had swapped one of the overhead lights for a personal air nozzle.)

ZACH GRIFF/THE POINTS GUY

There were even two brightness options for all of the lights, except for the overhead ones.

Compression socks are a must

While I’m already a pro at staying hydrated (with water, not alcohol) on long-haul flights, my wife convinced me to wear compression socks during the flight.

Though I’ve read many stories touting the importance of moving around and keeping your blood flowing during long flights, I had never invested in a pair of compression socks.

ZACH GRIFF/THE POINTS GUY

As we passed over northern Japan, I thanked my wife for nudging me to break my habit. My calves and legs didn’t feel as “bloated” as they have in the past during long flights, likely due in part to the compression socks.

I’ll definitely be packing them on future trips, I told myself with six hours left to Singapore.

Why’d I pack a charger?

I’ve recently been putting Apple’s new MacBook Air to the test.

While the thin-and-light form factor is a no-brainer for travelers, perhaps the biggest innovation is the impressive battery life.

ZACH GRIFF/THE POINTS GUY

My work computer is a 13-inch MacBook Pro that’s powered by an Intel processor (and a really loud fan). I can’t get it to last more than five or six hours on a single charge, and that’s even after reducing my brightness and killing all background apps.

Meanwhile, the new MacBook Air uses Apple’s latest M2 silicone chip that’s designed to maximize power efficiency while staying silent.

ZACH GRIFF/THE POINTS GUY

In fact, I used the new Air for half of the flight for a mix of light browsing, word processing and picture editing. I started in New York at 100% charge and landed in Singapore with 86% left.

Assuming that this performance continues over time, it’s clear that the Air will become one of the best travel laptops, and certainly the go-to Mac for travelers.

Spotless lavatories

On some long-haul flights, the lavatories might look like something you’d find in a public park in New York City or in a roadside gas station.

With 67 business-class seats, the four lavatories dedicated to the premium cabin got some pretty heavy use.

While none of the restrooms were oversized, I was impressed by how clean they were kept throughout the flight.

I woke up multiple times throughout the flight to use the lavatory, and each time the toilet paper had been reset, the paper towels were restocked and the amenities were always kept in an organized manner.

Everyone’s on their own schedule

I don’t profess to have a great strategy for handling the 19-hour flight and beating the 12-hour time difference, and neither did my fellow passengers.

While the Singapore crew followed a schedule for meal services, I found it interesting that most passengers appeared to keep to their own pacing throughout the flight.

ZACH GRIFF/THE POINTS GUY

Roughly a quarter of the business-class passengers went straight to bed after departure from New York, skipping the supper meal service entirely.

Of the remaining passengers who stayed up to eat, nearly everyone went to bed after the dessert cart rolled through the aisle. I counted just seven of 67 passengers who were visibly awake after the first meal service.

The “main” dinner service began midway through the flight, with the crew turning on the cabin lights and asking any passengers who didn’t have their do-not-disturb buttons illuminated if they wanted dinner.

Roughly half of the cabin partook in the meal and the other half continued sleeping. (The second meal is technically served on demand anytime before arrival.)

ZACH GRIFF/THE POINTS GUY

During the second half of the flight, many more passengers stayed awake watching TV, reading a book or catching up on work.

Could I manage in premium economy?

While I was fortunate enough to redeem Singapore KrisFlyer miles for a business-class award ticket, there were 94 passengers seated in the premium economy cabin.

As I walked through the cabin to stretch my legs, I wondered how I’d manage if I instead had booked premium economy. I certainly would’ve saved a bunch of miles (or dollars), but I wouldn’t have arrived nearly as well rested or well fed.

One thing, for certain, is that I would’ve splurged for an upgrade to one of the solo premium economy recliners.

Located in the last three rows of the plane, these solo seats feature direct aisle and window access without any neighbors. There's even a large storage cubby next to the seat.

These seats are usually available for an additional charge during the seat selection process — and for the right price, it could be well worth it for the additional privacy.

Kudos to the crew

Singapore Airlines is known for its impeccable onboard service, and this flight was no exception.

As we descended in Singapore, I felt ready to hit the ground running. I had eaten and slept well and was excited to tackle the day ahead.

While I was enjoying my time onboard, the 13 flight attendants really went above and beyond to make sure that everyone had a great flight.

ZACH GRIFF/THE POINTS GUY

I was always addressed by last name, my drinks were constantly refilled and the crew was never more than a 60-second wait away if I pressed the call button.

ZACH GRIFF/THE POINTS GUY

As an aviation enthusiast, taking the world’s longest flight is a thrill in and of itself. But, add on fantastic service throughout, and it’s a journey I’ll remember for a while to come — even if I couldn’t wait to get off the metal tube 19 hours after departing from JFK.

Featured photo by ZACH GRIFF/THE POINTS GUY
Editorial disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airline or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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The Marriott Bonvoy Business Amex is a stacked card with a rewards rate that will help you earn bonus points on everyday and business-related purchases. You'll earn 15 elite night credits each calendar year, and receive automatic Gold elite status. Finally, the free night award certificate with a redemption level of 35,000 points or less can get you hundreds of dollars in potential value each year.

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