Airlines are vying for the title of the ‘world’s longest flight’ as Singapore’s national carrier reclaims the crown. But the absence of an economy class on its new 19-hour flight means you’ll probably never see inside.
The long-haul flight from Singapore to New York will take about 18 hours and 45 minutes and covers 16,700 kilometres, with the direct route aiming to save passengers time that would otherwise be spent waiting around at airports on stopovers.
This is significantly longer than the current longest flight – Doha (Qatar) to Auckland (New Zealand) – in which Qatar Airways covers 14,529 kilometres over 16 hours and 20 minutes.
This comes two months after Qantas launched its direct 17-hour Perth to London flight.
Singapore Airlines told The New Daily its new A350ULR (ultra-long range) flights, launching on October 11, would not offer economy class cabins – only business class and premium economy across 161 seats.
A Singapore Airlines spokesman said new non-stop flights were also planned from Singapore to Los Angeles with the A350-900ULR, with details to be “announced at a later date”.
“This service will offer our customers the fastest way to travel between Singapore and [New York],” he said.
“It will also offer our customers from Perth one of the fastest one-stop options when flying from Australia’s west coast to the east coast of the United States.”
Dr Chrystal Zhang, an aviation expert at Swinburne University, said it was not the first time Singapore Airlines had tested consumer reaction to this route.
“This is the route that Singapore Airlines first launched in 2004 using the A340-500s aircraft,” she said.
“The proposition failed to warrant its profitability, resulting in a pull from the market in 2013.”
Watch the Airbus A350-900ULR plane’s first test flight:
How much will flights cost?
When The New Daily asked how much tickets would cost, Singapore Airlines’ Karl Schubert said the airfares would be released “progressively over the coming fortnight”.
Prices for flights of a similar length may give us some indication.
A current Singapore Airlines premium economy airfare from Singapore to Los Angeles with one stopover (16 hours) costs from $2370, while business fares start at $5920 one way.
Airline Intelligence and Research CEO Tony Webber forecast that the premium economy flight would cost about $5000 return.
“But initially I would expect they would have a special offer – you’d probably be looking at something around $4000,” he said.
“These price points are just too expensive for someone earning say $60,000 or even $90,000 a year. This is marketed at the ultra-wealthy.”
Singapore Airlines was only the second commercial passenger aircraft to be non-economy, after the old Concorde, Mr Webber said.
The challenges of flying for 19 hours straight
There has been a recent trend in airlines offering long-haul non-stop flights, but how long is too long?
Mr Webber said the longer the flight, the greater the risk of a mid-air emergency.
“It’s really costly to divert a flight and let go of all that fuel before landing,” he said.
“These big planes are more difficult to land because it’s important they land at a suitable airport. The runway has to be quite long and the material of the runway has to be suitable to carry the weight of the aircraft.
“So there are a number of safety problems to consider.”