On the world’s longest flight, expect flat beds, guided stretches, and lobster thermidor
The world’s longest flight is just two days away (Oct. 11)—a little over twice the length of the journey itself. From Thursday, you’ll be able to fly direct from Singapore to New York on Singapore Airlines. The catch? There are no economy seats.
For this 10,400-mile (16,700-km) journey over nearly 19 hours, a maximum of 161 passengers will climb aboard an A350-900 Ultra Long Range aircraft outfitted with 67 flat-bed business class seats and 94 premium economy seats. If you want to try out the experience, tickets for about eight weeks from now between Changi Airport and Newark Liberty start from around US$4,000 for a return ticket in a premium economy seat.
But be warned: Flights can be hard on the body, especially at this length. To ease the effects of almost a whole day up in the air, the airline has partnered with the health spa resort Canyon Ranch to put together “sleep strategies,” “guided stretching exercises” and a “science-based” wellness set menu—think prawn ceviche, organic chicken and zucchini pappardelle. The focus isn’t just on flavor but “nutrition and hydration (taking into consideration longer flight duration with less body movement).”
You’re not obliged to lean in to their wellness solutions. There are 1,200 hours of movies and television shows to distract you from the guided stretching exercises, while workaholics can access up to 200MB of wifi for an additional fee. Travelers who prefer creature comforts can take matters into their own hands with the “Book the Cook” service, which allows you to replace the goody-two-shoes zoodles with lobster thermidor, seared veal, or a good old-fashioned burger. (Sodium content be damned.)
If some of this sounds familiar, it’s because Singapore Airlines has flown a similar route between Singapore and JFK in the past. It was axed five years ago when oil prices soared to $100 a barrel. Oil is now just under $75 a barrel—much cheaper than in 2013, but still close to its highest price in four years. But what may now keep this leg aloft for good is a change in the technology: Planes are lighter, requiring 25% less fuel than aircraft of a similar size, and can hold 17% more jet kerosene in tanks in the wings, allowing for more than twice as many seats, compared with last time around.
Now, other airlines are considering muscling in on the ultra-long haul space, appealing to time-strapped business travelers and the premium leisure set. Qantas is in talks with Boeing and Airbus to design planes that can handle an even longer route, from Sydney to London or New York, Bloomberg reports. If they do, there is talk of adding bunks, child-care facilities and even something resembling a gym—which may in turn push Singapore Airlines to up the luxury ante. In this age of shrinking seats, cheap online fares, and long-haul low-cost, it feels like a throwback to the much mythologized “golden age of aviation.”