Previously, it was an exclusivity of two airlines: Qatar Airways and Qantas, but now Singapore Airlines (SIA) wants a share of the select long-haul transatlantic market.
The Asian company says it will offer the longest non-stop flight in operation in the world.
From October this year, passengers will be able to fly from Singapore to Newark, New Jersey, United States, on a journey that will last about 19 hours.
The longest nonstop flight currently available is offered by Qatar Airways.
It is a 17-hour, 30-minute journey from Auckland, New Zealand, to Doha, Qatar’s capital.
Australia’s Qantas offers the second longest flight.
This is the route from Perth (Australia) to London, which was completed at 17 hours and was offered earlier this year.
But holding the longest non-stop flight title was no easy task for SIA.
From 2004 to 2013, the company offered the same service from Changi Airport in Singapore to Newark International Airport in New Jersey.
But an increase in oil prices, among other factors, has made the Airbus A345-500 very expensive to drive.
The route was canceled and, fortunately for the airline, the aircraft were returned to the manufacturer, Airbus.
What has changed?
SIA is about to acquire a new model from Airbus, which will make the route between Singapore and Newark commercially viable again.
The A350-900 ULR (ultra long range) belongs to the long-range Airbus family.
It is a twin-engine aircraft designed to replace the old Boeing 777.
Airbus recognizes that the new aircraft uses about 25% less fuel than the old model.
Cathay Pacific (Hong Kong) and Singapore Airlines already operate several such aircraft.
But the A350-900 ULR aircraft have been modified to meet the requirements of the nonstop route between Singapore and Newark.
According to Sean Lee, Airbus spokesman in Singapore, these airplanes are the ones that can now make long routes.
“They can fly up to 9,700 nautical miles without stops, which are more than 20 hours flying, and they can do so because we have modified the existing fuel system so they can carry 24,000 liters of fuel.”
Will there be economy class?
No, there will not be economy class. There is only business class and premium economy class.
The new SIA aircraft will have 161 seats: 67 for business class passengers and 94 for those flying in the premium economy class.
On the A350-900 SIA, there are 253 seats for four classes.
“If there were economy class, that would mean more people and therefore more weight on board,” said Flightglobal’s Ellis Taylor, an aviation publication.
“Singapore Airlines is also making it clear that this is an exclusive service and that rates will be higher than normal,” he adds.
But Taylor believes SIA will not have work in attracting travelers.
“There is now a real consumer demand, particularly among executive travelers,” he says.
“The last time SIA operated these flights, although it did this by season, it seems that it was clear that there was demand for people who wanted to fly non-stop from the United States to Singapore, and with growing trade relations, that market has grown.”
What can passengers expect?
Compared to older jets, the A350-900 ULR aircraft have higher ceilings, larger windows and lighting designed to reduce jetlag.
But if you do not understand much about airplanes, you may not notice much difference, says Geoffrey Thomas, editor in chief of Airlineratings.com.
“The weight with which the plane takes off has increased to allow it to carry more fuel into its tank, that’s the biggest difference,” says Thomas.
But what is the limit for these ultra-long flights?
“I do not think they’re going to go past 21 hours because it’s about flights that cover two major spots on the globe,” says Thomas.
“The longer the flights are, the more they will go to the premium or business classes, because of the comfort levels these categories require,” he adds.
According to Thomas, it is impossible to predict the future.
“Qantas is getting excellent reviews about its Perth-London flight for economy class passengers, so who really knows what’s going to happen?”