I flew on the longest flight in the world that lasted nearly 18 hours and covered 10,000 miles - here's what it was like
- Singapore Airlines relaunched the longest flight in the world on Thursday connecting Newark Liberty International Airport with its home base at Changi Airport in Singapore.
- Singapore previously operated the route until 2013.
- The flight covers around 10,000 miles with a duration of up to 19 hours.
- Singapore's fleet of new Airbus A350-900ULR will be used to operate the route.
- The planes are equipped with only a business class and a premium economy cabin.
- Business Insider had the chance to fly on the launch flight of SQ21 from Newark to Singapore.
Singapore Airlines relaunched its non-stop service connecting Newark Liberty International Airport just outside of New York City with its home base at Changi Airport in Singapore on Thursday. At around 10,000 miles with a duration of up to 19 hours, it's the longest flight in the world.
Singapore Airlines Flight SQ22, a new Airbus A350-900ULR, took off from Changi Airport late Thursday evening local time. Nearly 18 hours later, the flight arrived in Newark at 5:30 am on Friday. Later that morning, Flight SQ21 would make the first non-stop return flight back to Singapore in half a decade.
Flight SQ22 marked the first non-stop flight between the Lion City and the Big Apple since 2013 when Singapore Airlines or SIA pulled the plug on the service. At the time, Singapore used Airbus A340-500s on the route. While possessing exceptional range and capability, the A340-500 was a relic of the 1990s and the thirst of its four-engines proved to be too uneconomical to sustain. Even a shift to an all business class interior layout couldn't generate enough income to save the route. So in 2013, the airline canceled the service and returned the A340-500 fleet to Airbus.
Fast forward half a decade and things are quite different. Singapore is the proud owner of a fleet of new Airbus A350-900 ULR jets. ULR stands for ultra long range. The carbon composite A350 represents the latest in commercial aviation. Its pair of massive Rolls-Royce Trent XWB turbofan engines team up with the plane's sleek wing design to deliver a 25% reduction in fuel consumption over the aircraft it replaced. In ULR spec, Airbus managed to fit an extra 6,300 gallons of fuel into the A350's tanks which pushed the range up to more than 11,000 miles.
Business Insider purchased a business class ticket on board the return flight from Newark to Singapore.
Here's how it went.
Singapore Airlines Flight SQ21 to Singapore operates out of Terminal B at Newark Airport. Since this was an inaugural flight, we arrived more than four hours before the 10:45 am departure time as there were some additional festivities involved.
As the media briefing, the photo shoots, and the press conference, it was time to get on the plane.
As we wait to board, we catch a glimpse at our chariot, the new Airbus A350-900ULR.
Singapore Airlines ordered seven A350-900ULRs. These are the only seven ULRs in the world at this time. SIA took the delivery of the first aircraft in September with all seven slated to enter the fleet by the end of the year. Interesting, the inaugural flights were actually conducted using the second ULR.
At around 10 am, we board the plane.
At the boarding door, we are greeted by Singapore Airlines cabin crew.
On board, I make my way through the business class cabin to my seat. Our plane had only 161 seats with 67 in business and...
... 94 seats in premium economy. That's about 90 seats fewer than on Singapore's standard A350-900s. My flight back from Singapore will be premium economy. So more on that later.
Here it is! My home for the next 18 to 19 hours. SIA's business class seat is rather impressive. It's 28 inches wide and can recline up to 132 degrees.
The seat is upholstered in soft leather with supportive padding.
Or the seat can be folded forward and reconfigured into a 78-inch long bed. While the seat is leather, the padded bed is cloth. This allows your body to better regulate temperature while sleeping. Also, the bed looks a lot nicer when flights attendants set it up for you.
Next to you is a storage nook where the complimentary eye mask, socks, and slippers are kept.
Next to you is a large retractable tray table.
In front of you is an 18-inch entertainment screen (more on this later),...
...Another storage compartment, ...
... A mirror, and...
... An ottoman where you can prop your feet up.
Even without the ottoman, there was more than enough legroom.
I'm settled in and ready to go!
For my pre-flight drink, I went healthy with a glass of pineapple juice.
As we made our way towards the runway, we passed an Emirates Boeing 777-300ER.
Next up, fire trucks commemorated the special occasion with a water cannon salute.
And it was a direct hit from the water cannon. Shortly thereafter, we taxied onto the runway and the pilots jammed turned loose the Rolls-Royce Trent turbofan engines.
Away we go! I'm always amazed at how quiet these new turbofan engines are. Even at take off.
Shortly after takeoff, the crew served a snack of mixed nuts.
I ordered a vodka tonic to go along with it. On this flight, Singapore served Absolut Vodka.
While most airlines provide prepackaged amenity kits, Singapore allows their passengers to create their own from a selection of items. I went with the hand sanitizer, lip balm, ear plugs, fabric wrinkle releaser, and the fabric freshener.
Back to the 18-inch screen. It's running Singapore KrisWorld in-flight entertainment system.
The system is controlled by this retractable controller that uses traditional buttons and a central touchscreen.
The system is very intuitive, responsive, and an absolute breeze to use.
KrisWorld normally offers more than 1,000 hours movies, TV shows, music, podcasts, and games. For this route, the airline added another 200 hours of content.
I decided to go with Grand Prix starring James Garner and Yves Montand. It's John Frankenheimer's greatest work and a cinematic masterpiece. Singapore Airlines also provides its business class passengers with a pair of over-ear active noise canceling headphones.
About two hours into the flight, the first meal service commenced. The multi-course meal opened with sauteed prawns on a quinoa salad with semi-dried tomato and snow pea tendrils. The appetizer was flavorful, crisp, and refreshing.
For my main course, I went with the deep fried pork in sweet vinegar sauce with sauteed vegetables and egg fried rice. This dish was spot on. The pork was some of the best I've had. The fried rice had good flavor, but it was a bit mushy for my liking. I have also been told by my colleagues on the flight that the sous-vide beef filet with wild mushroom cream sauce and the bake cheese herb crusted halibut were also delicious options.
After the main course, I had cherry ice cream with shaved chocolate for dessert followed by a cheese and fruit plate.
After lunch, I rested for a couple of hours and finished Grand Prix. I tried to do some work, but the plane's WiFi system did not cooperate. This was mainly due to a large number of bandwidth hogging journalists and vloggers on board. The WiFi system, for me, was the only discernable hiccup to in the otherwise smooth experience.
A few hours into the flight, it was time to get to work. We got the chance to speak with the flight's captain about the challenges of operating the longest flight in the world. We also spoke with Singapore Airlines's director of food and beverage, Chef Anthony McNeil.
We chatted about the intricacies of delivering fine dining at 40,000 feet. The chef also demonstrated the proper procedure for plating dishes.
As for the flight, the airline doesn't have a single path between Newark and Singapore. It has variations on three paths. One that flies over the North Pacific and another that flies over the Atlantic. Our flight took the third route which flies north over Canada and past the North Pole. Then we head south over Russia and China.
Here's a shot of us flying past the North Pole. Santa is nowhere to be seen.
Since we were scheduled to land at 5:30 pm and Singapore is 12 hours ahead of New York, I decided to start adjusting my body clock by not sleeping the night before. Six hours into the flight, I'm ready to sleep.
I tuck myself into bed and proceed to sleep through all of Deadpool 2. Apparently, gratuitous violence and Ryan Reynold's comedic timing is no match of exhaustion.
I woke up sometime around hour nine. Still doing well.
The sun is coming back out.
Short after waking up, it was time for the second meal service. This round opened with a selection of canapes. The smoked haddock, cucumber salad with cajun chicken, and roasted pumpkin with thyme mushroom where all delicious.
The appetizer was a fennel and orange cured salmon trout which proved to bit flavorless. It kind of tasted like nothing.
For my main course, I ordered the lobster macaroni and cheese. Epic fail. The lobster, while flavorful, was tough and chewy. The mac and cheese tasted like plain boiled pasta. I should have gone with the beef short ribs, the seared lamb or the Thai red curry.
However, the desert, cheese, and fruit cart more than made up for the main course.
I got some grapes, a chocolate truffle, and a selection of petite fours. The matcha one was my favorite.
After the second meal, I returned to my marathon of Marvel movies. However, slept through them as well. Once every hour or two I would get up and walk around the cabin just to keep the blood flowing.
Around hour 15, I decided to order one of the snack items available from hour three until hour 16 of the flight. These items range from soup noodles to Cuban sandwiches to greek yogurt. I ordered the la mian with braised pork and Chinese greens. It was honestly the best thing I had on the flight. The broth was rich and savory while the noodles had great texture. The well cooked pork belly also had the right balance between lean meat and fat.
As we approach Singapore, we fly over the armada of cargo ships waiting to enter its ports.
Touch down at Changi Airport! We actually arrived about 45 minutes ahead of schedule. Total flight time was actually just under 18 hours.
As we deplane, we get one final look at the A350 ULR.
And customs and baggage claim go smoothly at Changi Airport.
- A college is removing its vending machines after a student discovered they were using facial-recognition technology
- 11 states pay more in federal taxes than they get back - here's how every state fares
- Steve Jobs once said the best managers are 'individual contributors' who aren't interested in managing people
- Fuel your morning: Wholesome South Indian breakfast ideas for health
- Vodafone Idea shares tumble 14%, mcap erodes ₹10,806.7 cr
- National parties declare income of ₹3,077 cr in 2022-23; BJP has highest share
- Human trials may reveal efficacy of new Rs 100 cancer pill: Docs
- Multiplexes' revenue growth to dip to 15% in FY25 as OTTs crimp profit margins