We flew on the longest flight in the world in both business class and premium economy to see how they compare — here's what we discovered

Singapore AirlinesSingapore Airlines premium-economy seats.
  • Singapore Airlines recently relaunched its nonstop service between New York and Singapore.
  • The 10,000-mile flight can last as long as 19 hours; it’s the longest in the world.
  • Singapore Airlines is using a fleet of brand-new Airbus A350-900ULR airliners to make the flight.
  • The new fleet has 161 seats in business and premium-economy classes. There is no economy section.
  • Business Insider recently had the chance to experience the trip in both business class and premium economy to see how they compare.

In October, Singapore Airlines relaunched its nonstop service between New York and Singapore. The 10,000-mile journey can last as long as 19 hours, making it the longest scheduled passenger flight in the world.

Singapore Airlines operated the route from 2004 to 2013 using the Airbus A340-500. 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.

To operate the ultra-long-distance flight, the airline ordered a fleet of seven Airbus A350-900ULR – Ultra Long Range – aircraft.

The first flight marked the operational debut of the ULR variant, which one Singapore Airlines executive said was the only aircraft capable of making the flight in an economically viable fashion.

The biggest difference between the standard A350-900 and the ULR is its range. Airbus managed to cram an additional 6,300 gallons of fuel into the plane’s tanks, increasing its range to as much as 11,100 miles from 9,300 miles.

Each ULR aircraft has 161 seats in two classes, business and premium economy. It’s one of the few scheduled commercial airline flights without an economy-class cabin.

Singapore Airlines is also using its fleet of ULRs to launch nonstop flights between Singapore and Los Angeles, as well as Singapore and San Francisco.

Business Insider recently had the chance to experience the New York-Singapore flight in business class and the return flight in premium economy. Here’s how the two stack up.


The new Airbus A350-900ULR awaits.

Benjamin Zhang/Business Insider

Here’s a better view of the jet.

Singapore Airlines

Let’s get on the plane.

Benjamin Zhang/Business Insider

On each flight, we were greeted with a smile by Singapore’s cabin crew.

Benjamin Zhang/Business Insider

First up is the business-class cabin, which occupies the front two-thirds of the aircraft.

Benjamin Zhang/Business Insider

There are 67 business-class seats in a 1-2-1 configuration.

Benjamin Zhang/Business Insider

Each seat has aisle access.

Benjamin Zhang/Business Insider

Each leather-upholstered seat is 28 inches wide and can recline 132 degrees.

Benjamin Zhang/Business Insider

Each boasts 60 inches of pitch. So legroom is plentiful.

Benjamin Zhang/Business Insider

Source: SeatGuru


Each also folds down into a 78-inch-long bed.

Benjamin Zhang/Business Insider

Here’s how it looks when airline staff makes the bed.

Singapore Airlines

There’s an ottoman to prop up your feet when the seat is reclined.

Benjamin Zhang/Business Insider

It’s also where you put your feet when the seat is converted into a bed.

Benjamin Zhang/Business Insider

I found Singapore’s business-class seat and bed to be comfortable and spacious.

Benjamin Zhang/Business Insider

Each seat has USB and power plugs, along with an 18-inch screen with the airline’s KrisWorld in-flight entertainment system.

Benjamin Zhang/Business Insider

The screen is controlled using this wired remote.

Benjamin Zhang/Business Insider

Normally, 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.

Benjamin Zhang/Business Insider

While most airlines provide prepackaged amenity kits, Singapore allows its passengers to create their own from a selection of items including hand sanitizer, lip balm, earplugs, fabric-wrinkle releaser, and fabric freshener.

Benjamin Zhang/Business Insider

The airline also provides eye masks, socks, and slippers.

Benjamin Zhang/Business Insider

The spacious bathroom was stocked with toothbrushes and other toiletries.

Benjamin Zhang/Business Insider

Food and beverage service in business class was rather impressive.

Benjamin Zhang/Business Insider

Shortly after takeoff, we were served cocktails …

Benjamin Zhang/Business Insider

… and mixed nuts.

Benjamin Zhang/Business Insider

Meals were served in courses, beginning with appetizers, like this shrimp and quinoa salad.

Benjamin Zhang/Business Insider

The main course choices included Asian fare, like this sweet-and-sour pork with fried rice …

Benjamin Zhang/Business Insider

… and Western-style fare, like this lobster mac and cheese. In general, I found the Asian dishes superior to the Western dishes in terms of quality and execution.

Benjamin Zhang/Business Insider

After the main course, dessert was served. Here’s the cherry ice cream with chocolate shavings.

Benjamin Zhang/Business Insider

Flight attendants also came by each seat with a cart of cheeses, fruits, and desserts.

Benjamin Zhang/Business Insider

Between meal service, light snacks were available on demand, ranging from Greek yogurt to this delicious bowl of noodles with beef and vegetables.

Benjamin Zhang/Business Insider

The rear third of the aircraft is the premium-economy cabin. There are 94 seats organised in a 2-4-2 configuration.

Benjamin Zhang/Business Insider

Each seat is 19 inches wide …

Benjamin Zhang/Business Insider

… with 38 inches of pitch between each row.

Benjamin Zhang/Business Insider

Each seat has calf support and a footplate and can recline 8 inches.

Singapore Airlines

Each seat also gets its own set of armrests — a small but important detail.

Benjamin Zhang/Business Insider

Overall, I found the seat to be spacious and comfortable (though a stretch break once every few hours is advisable).

Benjamin Zhang/Business Insider

For premium-economy passengers, instead of an 18-inch screen, there’s a 13.3-inch high-definition touchscreen.

Benjamin Zhang/Business Insider

Each screen runs the KrisWorld system, with more than 1,200 hours of entertainment options.

Benjamin Zhang/Business Insider

This screen can also be controlled using a retractable, wired remote. It’s a far less fancy unit.

Benjamin Zhang/Business Insider

Both business and premium-economy passengers get noise-cancelling headphones.

Benjamin Zhang/Business Insider

All passengers are provided a pillow and blankets, along with socks and toiletries.

Benjamin Zhang/Business Insider

The premium-economy bathroom was noticeably smaller than its business-class counterpart.

Benjamin Zhang/Business Insider

But it was also stocked with additional toiletries.

Benjamin Zhang/Business Insider

Let’s talk about the food in premium economy.

Benjamin Zhang/Business Insider

Just as those in business class, passengers in premium economy were served drinks and mixed nuts shortly after takeoff. Here, the delivery was considerably less fancy.

Benjamin Zhang/Business Insider

Meal presentation was also decidedly less fancy. Meals were served in a single course on traditional aeroplane food trays — no fine china here. Again, meals included Western cuisine, like this baked fish filet …

Benjamin Zhang/Business Insider

… and Asian fare, such as egg noodles with Chinese barbecue pork and vegetables. Here too, the Asian cuisine was executed better than the Western dishes.

Benjamin Zhang/Business Insider

We were also served baked focaccia along with a mango mousse cake and agave lemonade as a mid-flight refreshment to tide us over between meals.

Benjamin Zhang/Business Insider

That was in addition to on-demand snacks, including this croissant with chickpea masala …

Benjamin Zhang/Business Insider

… and cheesy potato chips,

Benjamin Zhang/Business Insider

Here’s the verdict.

Benjamin Zhang/Business Insider

It’s always odd to compare the front of the plane with the back. The economics of these two cabins are so dissimilar that a straight-up comparison would be improper. After all, a business-class ticket costs several times as much as a premium-economy one. In this case, that amounts to several thousand dollars per flight.

After experiencing the same flight on the same aircraft in both cabin classes, I think it would be fair to ask: Is the price premium worth it?

But I have to preface this by saying that in both cabins, Singapore Airlines staff members delivered impeccable service. They were warm and inviting, never rude, and always attentive. (The airline isn’t paying me to say this; we paid the full price for the tickets, and I have the hefty credit-card bill to prove it.)

The biggest surprise for me was the premium-economy cabin. Premium economy is a somewhat recent development in the airline industry as carriers have increased product segmentation to maximise revenue.

I had never flown internationally in premium economy before – it’s usually either economy or business for me – so I didn’t really know what to expect. However, I found it to be much roomier and comfortable than my wildest expectations.

Back to the main question at hand.

Singapore Airlines’ business class has long been recognised as one of the best in the world. I can firmly attest that its reputation is very much intact. The personal service, gourmet dining, and roomy accommodations are absolutely worth it if restful travel is a must on such a lengthy flight.

If can get into business class, by all means, do it. But if you find yourself back in premium economy, don’t fret – you’ll be just fine. Sit back, relax, and have a Singapore Sling.

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