Get on board a plane for uninterrupted 18 hours and 25 minutes in the air is definitely not pleasant. That is why Singapore Airlines relaunched nonstop between Singapore and New York on Thursday setting up the brand new Airbus A350-900ULR (ultra-long range) to carry only 161 passengers, 94 of them in the premium economy and 67 in business class .
Even so, airlines, especially those in Asia, see these jets of great autonomy as a viable option to avoid a stopover along the way. In the case of the Singapore-Newark route, we are talking about a distance of about 8,285 nautical miles (15,344 km), 437 more than the Doha-Auckland (New Zealand) route that was until now the longest in the world and operated by Qatar Airways with a Boeing 777-200LR.
Unexpectedly, this first flight lasted 17 hours and 25 minutes because of a tailwind in the northern Pacific Ocean that helped speed up the trip. The aircraft took off with 150 passengers. While they had access to two full meals and seat that turns into a bed, customers who boarded the premium economy could enjoy three meals and more generous leg room to stay for the long period in the pressurized cabin.
More routes on the way
Due to the speed with which Singapore has placed its first A350-900ULR in service on this flight, it is clear how efficient it is. The Asian company was already linking the two cities nonstop but with the A340-500, a four-engine airplane that consumes a lot of fuel that made it give up the route in 2013 due to the high costs.
With the long-range version of the A350, Singapore can take the long flight back financially. To provide the desired range, Airbus had to modify the twin engine by upgrading its fuel supply system by increasing capacity by 17% and adding some aerodynamic elements to achieve a few miles over range.
The frequency starts with three flights a week, but Singapore already plans to extend service for a daily flight next week. With the six A350 ULR it will receive in the coming months the airline intends to fly to Los Angeles and San Francisco as well.
The A350-900ULR is not a plane that will be produced on a large scale, which we will find at several airports in the world. Think of it as a special version, able to simplify the lives of passengers traveling for long distances. It is a temporary solution until aviation takes over the plans of supersonic jets or that sub-orbital journeys become possible someday. While this does not happen, you will need to watch a full season of Game of Thrones to occupy your time on board.