On the 11 and 12th of October, Singapore Airlines showed who's boss in the ultra long haul market with the re-inauguration of the longest ever commercial flight.
SQ22 flew between Singapore and Newark Liberty Airport, leaving Singapore at 23:59 local time and arriving at Newark at 06:00 local time with a mammoth 17.5 hour journey as well as a 9,500 nautical mile crossing in that timestamp. Now, this may not seem like long, but the original flight time for SQ22 was supposed to be 18h 45m. The flight ended up experiencing high tailwinds which can help the flight arrive quicker at its destination, hence why the flight was so short.
The aircraft used was an Airbus A350-900ULR, with ULR standing for Ultra Long Range. This is a variant of Airbus’ successful A350 program containing the longest range of any commercial aircraft today, capable of flying London-Sydney nonstop (which is 20 hours long). This is because of a special fuel system which adds 24,000 liters of fuel without requiring any additional fuel tanks and enhanced winglets.
Singapore Airlines operate this aircraft with only 161 seats, 67 of them in business class and 94 of them in premium economy. You won’t find a single economy class seat in the plane since this is such a long flight and comfort is key. Aside from an non-economy cabin, passengers are treated to a “wellness menu”, with specially curated dishes to reduce jetlag and improve the passengers’ condition once they step off the flight.
Now, I did say that this is a rebirth. This flight used to be operated between 2004 and 2013 but was discontinued because of rising oil prices. During that time the flight was operated by the four-engine Airbus A340-500, which had the longest range of it's time. Unfortunately, it was very fuel inefficient which is why the route was cancelled.
This is certainly a big achievement for the aviation industry, Singapore Airlines as well as Airbus, for this could open up new possibilities in ultra long haul travel and we could see even longer flights being opened up in the next decade. The future certainly looks bright!