Back in May Singapore Airlines announced that it would resume world’s longest commercial flight between Singapore and Newark, NJ. The flight distance is 9,534 miles and it takes a jaw-dropping 17 hours and 50 minutes to complete the journey. This route used to be operated by an all-business-class Airbus A340, whose fuel economy was so bad that Singapore Airlines eventually cancelled the route. I guess we all learnt an important lesson: sometimes distance isn’t the only thing dictating the possibility of a route; profitability is the key.
In order to be able to operate over such a formidable flight distance, Airbus built a special version of A350-900 ULR (=Ultra-Long Range). Compared to the typical A350-900, the ULR variant can carry more fuels so it can fly up to 19 hours non-stop. The maximum flight distance in theory is more than 11,000 miles. At the same time, Singapore Airlines only installed business class and premium economy on the ULR aircraft, specifically built for such ultra-long, high-premium routes. These two factors make this flight perhaps the most interesting and exciting one in the aviation industry. As an aviation geek, nothing could possibly be more exciting than flying 18 hours nonstop in the marvel of human engineering.
I redeemed 92,000 KrisFlyer miles plus taxes for the flight from Singapore to Newark. The flight departs at 40 past midnight, and arrives at Newark 6:30 in the morning (local time). Now because of the shift in Daylight Saving Time, the arrival time is 5:30 in the morning, which is ideal for business travelers. I arrived at Changi Airport pretty early to catch up with some work in Singapore Airlines SilverKris lounge.
Singapore’s Changi Airport is often regarded as the best airport in the world. It is very impressive indeed.
Since the security checkpoint is located right before the boarding gate, I entered the center concourse immediately after exiting the immigration checkpoint.
In addition to shopping experiences, you could find a 4D movie theater and a butterfly garden in Changi Airport. No wonder Rachel in Crazy Rich Asians would “wow” as soon as she landed at Singapore and consider LaGuardia Airport coming from a third-world country by comparison.
After doing some work and taking a quick nap in the lounge, I walked to my boarding gate.
Security check was very fast, given how few people were on this flight.
After entering the boarding door, I turned right to the “large” business cabin in the middle, consisting of 11 rows of seats. There is another mini-cabin at the front with only 5 rows. If you value privacy, the front cabin would be preferable.
The layout of the cabin is essentially identical to Singapore Airlines’ vanilla A350-900 (see below), which I took between Manchester and Houston last year.
Here is my seat: spacious, but with confined footrest.
Unlike the business class seats on Singapore Airlines’ latest A380, the middle seats on A350 cannot be combined into a double bed. Between the two seats are a privacy divider.
On newer-generation aircrafts such as A350 and B787, an increasing number of airlines decide to forgo individual air nozzles.
View from the seat. Again the footrest are really cramped.
My leg in the picture below is being very exaggerated, but the point is the footrest felt very restricted.
Another imperfection of the seat: the IFE screen is just too close to you.
The pitch of the seat is rated as 60′, and in practice the seat covers 2 windows. By comparison the most spacious business seat can span up to 4 windows.
Thankfully the seat had plenty of storage space.
Under the footrest there was a shoe holder, which I really liked.
Before taking off, here are all of the amenities Singapore Airlines gave you: a pair of slippers and an eye-mask. When it comes to amenity kits, Singapore Airlines isn’t the most glamorous ones out there for sure.
Plus where was Aa bottle of water and a pair of headphone.
On the right you would find headphone socket and a control panel of your seat.
I forgot what my pre-departure drink was, and can only remember it was really good (so I guzzled it right away after taking this picture).
Soon the boarding was almost complete and I was presented with a hot towel.
The taxi and take-off were rather quick and smooth. WiFi became available for use once we were airborne, and business class passenger could use up to 30 MB of free WiFi, which sounds kind of stingy to me. What’s worse, after dropping the connection once, I never managed to reconnect …
The first meal started shortly after take-off. You could select “Book the Cook” on SQ22 so I ordered Classic Lobster Thermidor for my supper.
After the first meal the cabin light was dimmed, until the second meal (dinner) 8 hours after take-off. Here is the meal schedule:
- 1 hour after take-off: supper (a late light meal)
- 8 hour after take-off: dinner (the formal meal)
After the second meal the cabin light was dimmed again for 9 hours. This is an interesting and controversial schedule, as I know some people don’t like the idea of being interrupted mid-flight for food. However, I find this schedule to have some valid grounds: if you want to stay on the EST, the first meal would be lunch and the second dinner. Then you could take an 8-hr sleep before landing in the morning and starting a day’s work. Conversely, if you are on Singapore time, the second meal would effectively be a breakfast.
At any rate, the cabin was dimmed soon after supper.
While the flight attendants were busy preparing beds, I went to check out the lavatory.
While Singapore Airlines did not offer full amenity kit (yet), the lavatory was well stocked with toiletries.
Back to my seat-turned-bed—no complaints about the space above your waist.
Sadly, the footrest didn’t look so appealing…
To adjust myself to EST, I didn’t sleep much during the first half of the flight. Instead I watch a bunch of movies and asked for the second meal as soon as it became available. Again, I pre-ordered “Poached Egg Served with Hollandaise Sauce” as my second meal. Merely based on the description I thought this is basically Egg Benedict, but it turned out that I was wrong…
The second meal started with chicken and beef satay, which was delicious.
Next was crab salad. Small portion and just OK.
My main meal, Poached Egg Served with Hollandaise Sauce, which was … not bad.
By comparison the Egg Benedict I had at the Willard InterContinental Washington DC, which was top-notch. I have hoped that Singapore Airlines would offer something similar but apparently it wasn’t the case.
After main meal came dessert and fruit, which can be selected from a fully-stocked cart.
During most of the flight the cabin was dark and the sun shades lowered. After dinner I opened the sun shades and got a glimpse of the awesome view, which I believed to be sunrise.
Then the flight attendants started distributing amenities from a basket, which I picked a toothbrush, a hand cream, and a lip balm. There were other options available such as earplugs and socks but I declined. In retrospect this was an environmentally conscious move. The more I think about it the more I like this idea.
I fell asleep after dinner, and managed to sleep for about 9 hours, just 30 minutes before landing. By then the cabin light had been turned to a dawn-ish orange, mimicking sunrise. No meal was served since it was too close to landing.
Outside it was still dark, and I got a really great view of Manhattan to the east on our final approach.
We arrived at Terminal B at Newark in the early morning, when clearing immigration was like a breeze. By 7 am I was on a Uber on my way home.
To summarize, judging from the red-eye nature of the schedule I can see this flight specifically geared towards business travelers between Singapore and New York. Travelers in Singapore can finish a day’s work, head to the airport, take the flight, and arrive in the morning with a full workday ahead. Speaking of the hard and soft products themselves, I appreciate the flight attendants offering very attentive service, particularly given how many passengers they need to take care of. However, the seat is some sense flawed and the food is not perfect. So overall this flight may be OK, but not spectacular.
If you are into such ultra-long flights, below is the 10 longest flights in the world, according to Wikipedia. In addition to the Singapore-Newark flight, I took Dallas-Sydney flight as well, though in economy class. I look forward to trying the rest in the future (hopefully in business class!😜).