Airbus A35-900ULR Singapore Airlines Longest Flight
Credit: © Airbus A. Doumenjou/Master Films

Can you imagine spending nearly 19 hours straight on an airplane? That’s what passengers aboard Singapore Airlines’ new flight between Singapore and Newark will embark on Thursday, when the route goes into operation. It's the new longest flight in the world, both by distance and time in the air.

Covering 9,521 miles, the journey is about 500 miles longer than the runners-up, Qatar Airways’ Doha–Auckland service and Qantas’s recently launched Perth–London service, both of which just crack 9,000 miles.

Singapore Airlines’ flight is blocked out at 18 hours, 25 minutes in the direction from Singapore to Newark, and an astonishing 18 hours, 45 minutes on the return. You know, for when you really want to challenge yourself.

For the first few weeks, Singapore Airlines flight SQ22 will depart Singapore at 11:35 p.m. and arrive in Newark the same day at 6:00 a.m. On the return, Singapore Airlines flight SQ21 will depart Newark at 10:45 a.m. and arrive the following day in Singapore at 5:30 p.m.

The flight will initially operate just three times per week, before going into daily service on October 18. Starting October 28, the schedule shifts slightly so that SQ22 will depart Singapore at 12:40 a.m. and arrive the same day at 6:30 a.m. (that makes it only 17 hours, 50 minutes). Flight SQ21 will depart Newark at 9:45 a.m. and arrive the following day at 5:15pm. Flight times shift again with Daylight Saving, so be sure to check the schedule for your specific dates.

Same Route, New Plane

Thursday’s launch actually marks a return for nonstop flights between Newark and Singapore.

“This is an event that, in many ways, has been five years in the making,” said Singapore Airlines spokesman James Boyd. “Though Singapore Airlines flew longest distance and duration flights for a full decade using a different aircraft, technology has advanced to the point where we can now re-launch ultra-long-haul flights in cost-effective way.”

Singapore Airlines flew Newark–Singapore until 2013 using an all-business-class Airbus A340-500. This time around, the airline will employ brand new Airbus A350-900ULRs. This jet, for which Singapore Airlines is the launch customer, is mostly the same as the standard Airbus A350-900 already in service both with Singapore Airlines and other carriers like Cathay Pacific, Delta, and Qatar Airways. However, the ULR stands for “ultra-long-range,” and it can cruise for 11,160 miles. That's 1,800 miles more than a typical A350-900.

“What the new aircraft offers us, and traveling public, is a new set of options for saving time and traveling in greater comfort,” said Boyd. “For flights from the U.S., Singapore is located just outside the service range of planes like the Boeing 747 and 777 and the Airbus A380, all of which require an intermediate stop. The A350-900ULR is an aircraft that levels the playing field and will let us connect many more points within the U.S. to Singapore on a nonstop basis.”

Seat Assignments

To make the nearly 19-hour flight bearable, Singapore Airlines has opted for a cabin configuration with 94 premium economy seats and 67 business class seats. There are no economy or first-class seats.

The two business-class cabins feature some of Singapore Airlines’ newest seats. They are arranged in a front-facing 1–2–1 pattern. Each is an ultra-wide 28 inches across, with a pitch of 60 inches between seats. They recline to fully lie-flat beds that are six-and-a-half feet long. The individual entertainment screens are 18 inches wide, and they all have in-seat power and USB ports for staying charged.

Premium economy seats are spread across a single cabin in the back in a mostly 2–4–2 pattern. There are single C and H seats, however, in rows 40-42 if you can stand being near the lavatory. These are the airline’s latest premium economy seats, and are a roomy 19.5 inches wide. That’s about an inch wider than the premium economy seats on American and Delta. Each has 38 inches of pitch and eight inches of recline, with ergonomically designed leg and footrests. The personal entertainment screens are 13.3 inches wide and all seats have personal power outlets and USB ports.

“The concept of ultra-long-haul flight has matured in the five years since we last operated this flight with all business-class aircraft,” said Boyd. “Offering two classes of service represents a democratization of this type of travel and allows a broader swath of travelers the benefit of getting to Singapore in comfort four to six hours faster than taking connecting flights.”

In other words, the airline is hoping to lure not just business travelers, but leisure ones including seniors and millennials looking to reach Singapore and secondary destinations faster.

Cabin Comfort

Aside from seating, the A350 fields an array of jet lag-fighting features, all designed to minimize the effects of long-haul flight. The fuselage’s composite structure is stronger than steel so the cabin can be pressurized to the equivalent of 6,000 feet, versus 8,000 on conventional jets. Humidity can be kept near 20 percent, as opposed to 10 percent on conventional planes. Both these factors should help reduce symptoms like fatigue and lightheadedness.

The A350-900ULR also has multiple temperatures zones for precise climate control throughout the passenger cabin, and over 16 million ambient lighting settings that can be programmed to help travelers adjust their circadian rhythms on specific routes. There are also hospital-grade HEPA filters circulating air throughout the entire cabin every two to three minutes.

Singapore Airlines will put A350-900ULRs with the same cabin configuration into service flying between Singapore and Los Angeles starting November 2, shortly after United ends its flights between the two cities.

What the Longest Flight in the World Costs

Ready to test out the new service for yourself? At time of writing, airfares from Newark to Singapore in premium economy were $1,017 one-way, or $1,623 round-trip. Business class one-way fares start at $3,379 from Newark to Singapore later this month, or $5,098 round-trip.

You can use airline miles to book these seats as well. The easiest way to do so is to create a Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer frequent flier account. The program is a transfer partner of American Express Membership Rewards, Chase Ultimate Rewards, and Citi ThankYou Rewards, so if you have credit cards that earn these types of points, you can transfer miles into your new account when it’s time to book a ticket.

Premium economy seats at the lowest mileage level cost 70,000 miles each way. Business class awards are 92,000 miles each way. Taxes and fees are about $6-$50, depending on your direction of travel.