- 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 had operated the route – which covers about 10,000 miles and can last up to 19 hours – until 2013.
- Singapore’s fleet of new Airbus A350-900ULR jets will be used to operate the route.
- The planes are equipped with business-class and premium-economy cabins only.
- Business Insider had the chance to fly on the launch flight of SQ21 from Newark to Singapore.
Singapore Airlines on Thursday relaunched its nonstop service connecting Newark Liberty International Airport just outside New York City with its home base at Changi Airport in Singapore. At about 10,000 miles with a duration of up to 19 hours, the flight is the longest in the world.
Singapore Airlines Flight SQ22, with a new Airbus A350-900ULR, took off from Changi Airport late Thursday evening local time. Nearly 18 hours later, at 5:30 a.m. ET on Friday, the flight arrived in Newark. Later that morning, Flight SQ21 would make the first nonstop return flight back to Singapore in half a decade.
Flight SQ22 marked the first nonstop flight between the Lion City and the Big Apple since 2013, when Singapore Airlines pulled the plug on the service. At the time Singapore used Airbus A340-500s on the route.
While it has exceptional range and capability, the A340-500 was a relic of the 1990s, and the thirst of its four engines proved too uneconomical to sustain. Even a shift to an all-business-class 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 five years, and things are quite different. Singapore is the proud owner of a fleet of new Airbus A350-900ULR jets – ULR stands for ultra-long-range – representing the latest in commercial aviation.
The carbon-composite A350’s 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, the company says. In ULR specs, Airbus managed to fit an extra 6,300 gallons of fuel into the A350’s tanks, pushing the range up to more than 11,000 miles.
Business Insider purchased a business-class ticket aboard the flight from Newark to Singapore. Here’s how it went.
Singapore Airlines Flight SQ21 to Singapore operates out of Terminal B at Newark Liberty International Airport. Since this was an inaugural flight and there were some additional festivities involved, we arrived more than four hours before the 10:45 a.m. departure time.
After the media briefing, the photo shoots, and the press conference, it was time to get on the plane.
As we waited to board, we caught a glimpse of our chariot, the new Airbus A350-900ULR.
Singapore Airlines ordered seven A350-900ULRs — the only seven in the world at this time. The airline took delivery of the first aircraft in September, with all seven set to enter the fleet by the end of the year. Interestingly, the inaugural flights were actually conducted with the second ULR jet.
At about 10 a.m., we boarded the plane.
At the boarding door, we were greeted by Singapore Airlines cabin crew members.
On board, I made 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 fewer seats than on Singapore’s standard A350-900s. My flight back from Singapore will be premium economy (more on that later).
Here it is, my home for the next 18 to 19 hours! Singapore Airlines’ business-class seat is rather impressive — it’s 28 inches wide and can recline up to 132 degrees.
The seat’s upholstered in soft leather with supportive padding.
The seat can also be folded forward and reconfigured into a 78-inch-long bed. While the seat is leather, the padded bed is cloth, so your body can 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 with a complimentary eye mask, socks, and slippers.
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 to 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 toward the runway, we passed an Emirates Boeing 777-300ER.
Next, fire trucks commemorated the special occasion with a water-cannon salute.
It was a direct hit from the water cannon. Shortly after, we taxied onto the runway, and the pilots 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 takeoff.
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.
While most airlines provide prepackaged amenity kits, Singapore allows its passengers to create their own from a selection of items. I went with the hand sanitizer, lip balm, earplugs, fabric-wrinkle releaser, and fabric freshener.
Back to the 18-inch screen: It’s running Singapore’s KrisWorld in-flight entertainment system.
You use this retractable controller, which has traditional buttons and a central touchscreen.
The system is very intuitive and responsive — an absolute breeze to use.
KrisWorld offers more than 1,000 hours’ worth of 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 a pair of over-ear active-noise-cancelling headphones.
About two hours into the flight, the first meal service commenced. The multi-course meal opened with sautéed 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 sautéed 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 flavour, but it was a bit mushy for my liking. I was also been told by my colleagues on the flight that the sous-vide beef filet with wild mushroom cream sauce and the baked 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, mainly because of a large number of bandwidth-hogging journalists and vloggers on board. For me, the WiFi was the only discernable hiccup in an 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, as well as with Singapore Airlines’ director of food and beverage, chef Antony 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, but variations on three paths. One flies over the northern Pacific, another flies over the Atlantic, and the third route, the one our flight took, flies north over Canada and past the North Pole, then heads 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 p.m. and Singapore is 12 hours ahead of New York, I started adjusting my body clock by not sleeping the night before. Six hours into the flight, I was ready to sleep.
I tucked myself into bed and proceeded to sleep through all of “Deadpool 2.” Apparently, gratuitous violence and Ryan Reynolds’ comedic timing is no match for exhaustion.
I woke up sometime around Hour Nine. Still doing well.
The sun was coming back up.
Shortly after I woke 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 were all delicious.
The appetizer was a fennel and orange cured salmon trout, which was a bit flavourless.
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.
But 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 petit fours. The matcha one was my favourite.
After the second meal, I returned to my marathon of Marvel movies — but I slept through them as well. Once every hour or two, I would get up and walk around the cabin to keep the blood flowing.
Around Hour 15, I decided to order one of the snack items available from Hour Three to Hour 16 of the flight. These items range from noodle soups to Cuban sandwiches to Greek yogurt. I ordered the lamian with braised pork and Chinese greens. It was honestly the best thing I had on the flight. The broth was rich and savoury, while the noodles had a great texture. The well-cooked pork belly also had the right balance of lean meat and fat.
As we approached Singapore, we flew over the cargo ships waiting to enter its ports.
Touchdown at Changi Airport! We actually arrived about 45 minutes ahead of schedule. The total flight time was just under 18 hours.
As we deplaned, we got one final look at the A350-900ULR.
And customs and baggage claim went smoothly at Changi Airport.
All in all, the longest flight in the world was a breeze. The Singapore Airlines service was impeccable, the in-flight entertainment was good, the food was amazing, and the seat was simply lovely.
However, I recognise that the ease of the flight was helped along by being in business class. In a few days, I’ll be flying back to Newark on Flight SQ22 in premium economy. More to come …