The world’s longest commercial flight sets off on its maiden voyage from Singapore to New York today.
Singapore Airline’s record-breaking route will take off from Changi Airport at 11.35pm (4.35pm UK time), and is scheduled to arrive in Newark’s International Airport in New Jersey 18 hours 25 minutes later, having covered around 9,534 miles.
How much does it cost?
The airline is not offering any economy seats. A premium economy seat is from SGD 2240 return (around £1227).
A return business class ticket is from SGD 6940 (around £3802), which gets you a bed to sleep in, two meals served at at time of your choosing and refreshments in between.
Singapore Airlines said the business class seats on today’s flight had all been taken, but there were “a very limited number” of premium economy seats left.
Why are there no economy seats?
“The thinking behind that is that they are selling a premium product – it’s for the top end of town,” aviation expert Geoffrey Thomas told the BBC.
“This is a route between two massive financial hubs, and so they will fill this plane up with business people, or well-heeled travellers who want the convenience of a non stop flight. It’s also been proven that when carriers introduce a new non-stop route, the traffic on that route increases threefold.”
Mr Thomas will be on today’s inaugural flight and said there would be “a party atmosphere” on board.
Which route is it taking?
There are two possible routes, but Singapore Airlines has told passengers it’s taking the North Pacific route, flying over Japan and Canada.
The distance covered will be 9,524 miles, but distance flown and flight times can vary because of tailwinds, headwinds and diversions.
Is it a Boeing or an Airbus?
The aerospace giants battle it out for contracts, and Airbus won this one. It’s one of their long-range, twin-engine aircraft: an A350-900 ULR. They use between 20 and 30 per cent less fuel than Boeing 777s and have bigger windows, higher ceilings and lighting designed to reduce jetlag.
Several carriers already use them, but this one is a special ultra-long-range version with a modified fuel system that can carry 24,000 litres of oil, meaning it can fly for over 20 hours non-stop – further than any other aircraft in the world.
Who’s the current record-holder?
Until today Qatar held the record for its 17-hour-40-minute non-stop service between Auckland and Doha.
Qantas also launched a 17-hour-20-minute flight from London to Perth earlier this year, to great fanfare. Its also in talks with Airbus and Boeing over an aircraft capable of making a 20-hour flight between London and Sydney.
Singapore Airlines held the crown from 2004 to 2013 for this very route – Changi to Newark – but had to stop it because of rising oil prices. Its new aircraft uses less fuel, so won’t be as expensive to run.
Are ultra-long-haul routes the future of air travel?
Aviation expert Geoffrey Thomas thinks so, and points to the success of the Perth to London route.
“Qantas’ flight from Perth to London is seeing a load factor in economy of 92 per cent – and in premium it’s 94 per cent. So from an airline perspective, these routes are money-making,” he said.
“We really are entering a new era of travel.”
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