Passengers are checking in for the inaugural ‘world’s longest non-stop commercial flight’ – a marathon 19 hours in the air between Singapore and New York.
Four pilots, a special ‘wellness’ menu and more than seven weeks’ worth of film and television entertainment are expected to accompany travellers on the 10,400-mile journey to the Big Apple.
Singapore Airlines Flight SQ22 will use the long-range Airbus A350-900ULR, configured to carry 161 passengers – 67 in business class and 94 in premium economy.
Pier Messaggio, an Italian electronics designer, who will be one of the first passengers to experience the world’s longest commercial flight from Singapore to New York
Four pilots, a special ‘wellness’ menu and more than seven weeks’ worth of film and television entertainment are expected to accompany travellers on the 10,400-mile journey to the Big Apple
Ready for take-off: Messaggio (4th left) poses with other passengers of flight SQ22
For the flight crew – which also includes two first officers and a 13-strong cabin contingent – the work load will be broken up, the airline said, with every person getting a mandatory minimum four hours’ rest.
But for passengers, the challenge will be what to do with all that down time up in the air. And tickets for the service don’t come cheap. Premium economy fares start at £1,639 while business class starts from £3,689.
For those not packing a weighty novel (or two), there will be 1,200 hours of audio-visual entertainment to choose from.
Passenger Peggy Ang, 52, said she felt ‘apprehensive because I’m not sure what would I do in 18.5 hours’ inside the plane.
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‘Now that you asked me, I’m a little bit worried. I’m thinking of sleeping, watching TV, doing my work,’ she told reporters after checking in at Changi Airport for the flight scheduled to depart shortly before midnight local time.
‘I have a lot of notes to read, hopefully I can sleep well,’ said Ang, a membership director of an IT services firm.
Some of the passengers were flight enthusiasts, like Singaporean engineer Danny Ong, 50, who bought a return ticket.
‘I’m coming back on the next flight. I enjoy the passion of flying,’ he told AFP, adding he would binge on the in-flight entertainment.
Pier Messaggio, 41, an Italian electronics designer based in Singapore, said he is part of a group called ‘First to Fly’ whose members have been on board all of Singapore Airlines’ inaugural flights.
Today’s flight will top the current longest direct link between cities – Qatar Airways Flight 921 from Auckland to Doha, which takes 17 hours 40 minutes
He and his group met during the world’s first commercial flight of the Airbus A380 double-decker plane operated by the airline in 2007 and discovered that everyone had a passion for flying.
‘I fly for fun…. I’m an aviation enthusiast,’ Messaggio told AFP.
Dining options will include dishes the airline says have been selected to promote well-being in the skies, with organic dishes on the menu.
The cabin has higher-than-normal ceilings, larger windows and lighting designed to reduce jet lag – all part of an effort to lessen the stresses that can accompany almost a day on a plane.
‘Research has shown that hydration and food intake are important factors (to consider), such as avoiding foods that cause gas or bloating as well as excessive alcohol,’ Rhenu Bhuller, a healthcare expert at consultancy Frost & Sullivan, told AFP.
Dining options will include dishes the airline says have been selected to promote well-being in the skies, with organic dishes on the menu
The flight from the city-state to Newark Airport can take up to 18 hours and 45 minutes under normal weather conditions, but the pilots will have something in reserve in an aircraft capable of flying more than 20 hours non-stop. Pictured is Singaporean William Chua (right) with family members, all passengers of flight SQ22
‘The biggest concern is Deep Vein Thrombosis from a combination of sitting for too long and also from dehydration,’ said Gail Cross, an associate consultant at the National University Hospital in Singapore.
The twin-engine plane that will make the journey uses a modified system that burns 25 per cent less fuel compared to other aircraft of a similar size, Airbus said.
The flight from the city-state to Newark Airport can take up to 18 hours and 45 minutes under normal weather conditions, but the pilots will have something in reserve in an aircraft capable of flying more than 20 hours non-stop.
Singapore Airlines originally flew the route for nine years using the gas-guzzling, four-engine A340-500 before abandoning it in 2013 because high oil prices made the service unprofitable.
Singapore Airlines Flight SQ22 will use the long-range Airbus A350-900ULR, pictured, configured to carry 161 passengers – 67 in business class and 94 in premium economy
But the carrier is hoping that the introduction of more fuel-efficient planes will set cash registers ringing even as crude prices soar above $80.
Today’s flight will top the current longest direct link between cities – Qatar Airways Flight 921 from Auckland to Doha, which takes 17 hours 40 minutes.
‘It’s turning out to be a race between a few airlines eyeing the longest routes inter-continentally,’ said Shukor Yusof of aviation consultancy Endau Analytics.
‘They are hoping to capitalise and exploit a very niche market,’ he told AFP.
Passengers wearing commemorative T-shirts place their luggage on the scales to be weighed at Changi Airport
Facing increasingly strong competition in recent years, Singapore Airlines has consolidated its low-fare subsidiaries and is strengthening its premium segment.
‘Ultra-long haul services comprise an important component of that strategy,’ an airline spokesman told AFP.
The company is the first airline in the world to operate the A350-900ULR plane. It received the first aircraft in September. Six more are due for delivery by the end of the year.
‘We are optimistic about the demand for non-stop services to the US,’ the spokesman said.
But the service from Singapore to New York might not hold the record for the longest commercial flight in the world for long.
Earlier this year, Qantas revealed it was close to ordering ultra-long-range jets to carry out services between Sydney and London.
The Australian carrier explained how it is considering an order for ultra-long-range jets such as the Airbus A350 and the Boeing 777X to carry out the service, which is expected to take 20 hours and 20 minutes.
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