Singapore Airlines (SIA) has reclaimed the title of operating the world’s longest nonstop passenger flight with the resumption of service between Singapore and New York Newark.
Flight SQ22, operated by Airbus A350-900ULR 9V-SGB, took off from Singapore Changi Airport a little after 2330 on Thursday.
It was due to land at Newark Liberty International Airport about 17 and a half hours later at about 0500 the next day.
Celebrating the launch of our non-stop flight from Singapore to New York on the new Airbus A350 Ultra Long Range! pic.twitter.com/8ZKP2JaZ6y
— Singapore Airlines (@SingaporeAir) October 11, 2018
Meet the pilots from @SingaporeAir that will fly the @Airbus A350-900URL to New York from Singapore – the world's longest flight. @mcdonaldsarahj #avgeek #SQ22 @ChangiAirport pic.twitter.com/fviM7DtNGkPROMOTED CONTENT
— Kyunghee Park (@mangogemini) October 11, 2018
LIVE: History x 2: The first revenue service of an @Airbus A350 ULR (Ultra Long Range), on the new 'World's Longest Flight' Singapore to Newark. Track @SingaporeAir 9V-SGB as #SQ22: https://t.co/UeG4NVOS6Q | Photos via https://t.co/umov7bV9FS #avgeek pic.twitter.com/AhfkEyTLWw
— Airport Webcams (@AirportWebcams) October 11, 2018
The 8,285nm journey, as measured by the Great Circle Mapper, beats out Qatar Airways’ 7848nm Auckland-Doha flight, which has been the world’s longest flight since launching in February 2017.
SIA last served New York nonstop from its Singapore hub in 2013 with four-engined A340-500s. However, it ended the route due to high fuel costs that made the route uneconomic.
This time, with oil prices lower than at their 2013 levels and a next-generation A350-900ULR configured with just 161 seats (67 business and 94 premium economy), the airline is hoping to make a better fist of the route and regain what it lost when nonstop flights to New York and Los Angeles were suspended five years ago.
SIA is the only customer for the A350-900ULR, with seven of the type on order.
The aircraft can carry 24,000 litres more fuel than the standard A350-900 (165,000 litres versus 141,000 litres) thanks to modifications to the layout of the piping and valves in the central fuel tank.
There is also a performance improvement package with larger winglets, a slight twist to the wing compared with the standard A350-900, as well as changes to the flap fairing and belly fairing.
The A350-900ULR also has maximum takeoff weight (MTOW) of 280 tonnes, compared with previously certified MTOW of between 268 tonnes and 275 tonnes for the standard A350-900 variant. Airbus says the aircraft was capable of flying up to 9,700nm, or more than 20 hours non-stop.
Also, the A350-900 Airport Planning Guide published on the Airbus website showed the forward cargo compartment would be deactivated on the ULR variant. It has also publicly canvassed the prospect of an ultra long haul variant of the A350-1000.
The aircraft is also a contender for Qantas’s Project Sunrise, which has challenged Airbus and Boeing to deliver an aircraft capable of operating from Australia’s east coast to London and New York with about 300 passengers.
South East Asia-US nonstops take off
Singapore-New York Newark joins a growing list of current and upcoming nonstop routes between Southeast Asia and the United States.
United flies daily to Singapore from Los Angeles and San Francisco with Boeing 787-9s. (The airline is dropping the Los Angeles route and instead offering twice daily San Francisco-Singapore nonstops from the end of October.)
Meanwhile, SIA currently flies nonstop between Singapore and San Francisco (with a standard three-class A350-900) and plans to resume Singapore-Los Angeles flights in November.
Philippine Airlines is the market leader with two routes currently in operation (Manila-Los Angeles and Manila-San Francisco) and Manila-New York JFK due to launch in November.
A research note from aviation thinktank CAPA – Centre for Aviation said published schedules showed there would be 70 weekly nonstop flights between South East Asia and the continental United States in December 2018, compared with 39 a week at the start of October 2018.
It warned that low initial yields would make it challenging to sustain the new nonstop flights, particularly given the recent rise in fuel prices.
Highlighting the extremely competitive nature of the Singapore-United States market, CAPA noted SIA was offering SGD$1,328 fares in premium economy on Singapore-Los Angeles and SGD$1,428 on Singapore-New York Newark, which was “lower than the cheapest regular economy fares offered by almost all of the other airlines offering one-stop products in this market”.
It described some of the fares on offer as “alarmingly low”.
“SIA should have a competitive advantage as it will be the only airline offering a nonstop service from Singapore to Los Angeles and New York,” CAPA said.
“However, the fares that have been offered in the first few months of sales suggest that SIA is unable to command a premium – at least, not in the premium economy cabin. The decision to go with such a large premium economy cabin (94 seats) could be impacting its pricing ability.”
Looking ahead, the CAPA research note indicated other airlines could look to enter the market.
“Delta Air Lines could use its new A350-900 fleet to launch nonstop services from Seattle to Singapore. Delta still serves Singapore one-stop via Tokyo Narita, but is in the process of closing its Narita hub,” CAPA said.
“Thai Airways is considering nonstop flights from Bangkok to the US west coast, which is within range of its existing 787s and A350s. Thai Airways suspended nonstop services (using A340-500s) between Bangkok and Los Angeles in 2012. It dropped Bangkok-New York nonstop services in 2008, but is not likely to resume this route.”
A nonstop flights from Vietnam to the United States could also be on the cards, CAPA said.
Current longest nonstop passenger flights by distance (nautical miles)
1. New York Newark-Singapore (8,285nm) – operated by Singapore Airlines with Airbus A350-900ULR.
2. Auckland-Doha (7,848nm) – operated by Qatar Airways with Boeing 777-200LR.
3. London Heathrow-Perth (7,829nm) – operated by Qantas Airways with Boeing 787-9
4. Auckland-Dubai (7,668nm) – operated by Emirates Airline with Airbus A380
5. Los Angeles-Singapore (7,621nm) – operated by United with Boeing 787-9 until October 27 2017. (Singapore Airlines with Airbus A350-900ULR from November 2 2018)
6. Houston-Sydney (7,470nm) – operated by United with Boeing 787-9
7. Sydney-Dallas/Fort Worth (7,454nm) – operated by Qantas with Airbus A380
8. San Francisco-Singapore (7,339nm) – operated by United with Boeing 787-9 and Singapore Airlines with Airbus A350-900
9. Atlanta-Johannesburg (7,333nm) – operated by Delta Air Lines with Boeing 777-200LR
10. Abu Dhabi-Los Angeles (7,291nm) – operated by Etihad Airways with Boeing 777-300ER
Planned future routes
1. Manila-New York (JFK) (7,404nm) – to be operated by Philippine Airlines with Airbus A350-900. From October 29 2018
2. Auckland-Chicago (7,111nm) – to be operated by Air New Zealand with Boeing 787-9. From November 30 2018
1. Sydney-London (LHR) (9,188nm) – Qantas
2. Sydney-New York (JFK) (8,646nm) – Qantas
3. Sydney-Chicago (ORD) (8,022nm) – Qantas
4. Melbourne-Dallas/Fort Worth (7,814nm) – Qantas
5. Auckland-New York (JFK) (7,672nm) – Air New Zealand
VIDEO: How the first Airbus A350-900ULR was built from the Airbus YouTube channel.