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Opinion: I Flew on the World’s Longest Flight and Don’t Remember Most of It. But That’s the Point
At over 8,000 nautical miles, The Singapore-Newark route is currently the world’s longest with regularly scheduled service. It’s a very prestigious route flown by Singapore Airlines using its Airbus A350-900ULR aircraft designed specifically with the route in mind.
First opened with the Airbus A340-500 earlier in the century, the route relaunched in October 2018 with the ULR aircraft being able to perform the flight with better economics than its predecessor. Before the relaunch, the only other option for New Yorkers looking to head to Singapore and vice versa was through intermediary cities such as Frankfurt, increasing the journey time by hours.
I, personally, am a big fan of this flight since it is timed almost perfectly to the New York market with an early 5:30 a.m. arrival into Newark Liberty International airport. It allows enough time for a business traveler to make it to their hotel early in the morning and freshen up before getting to the office to start the typical workday at 9 A.M.
Though timed perfectly, the flight regularly clocks in at an eye-watering 16 to 18 hours of flight time in each direction. I’ve flown this route twice, most recently the flight was about 16 and a half hours long from Singapore to Newark due to winds being in our favor.
Despite the extensive flight time, I’ve managed to successfully walk off the plane, head home, freshen up and be in the office by 9 a.m. twice now. Each of those times I’ve successfully made it through the day without feeling tired or jetlagged even though I was essentially dealing with a 12-hour time difference.
The key to being able to do this was using business class for its intended purpose, to rest. I’ve long said some of my best flights are ones I don’t remember because I spent the majority of the flight sleeping. That’s exactly what I did on this flight.
SQ22 leaves Singapore a bit before 1 a.m. and gets into Newark at around 5:30 a.m. or earlier. The proper strategy for this flight is to stay awake the first half of the flight and sleep the second half. Qantas recommended a similar strategy to test subjects on its research flight from New York to Sydney in October.
This way, one basically sleeps during the nighttime of the destination and wakes up prior to landing. While not a perfect cure for jet lag it is the equivalent of having an early morning start vs dealing with a 12-hour time difference.
That’s what I did for the most part and this is something Singapore Airlines doesn’t seem to understand.
The Need for Better Timed Meal Services
The airline insists on timing meal services around Singapore time instead of Newark time. The main meals on the flight are served at a time when people should be sleeping.
There is an initial meal service after take-off, which is acceptable, but the timing of the second meal service is downright disrespectful since it is more geared towards people operating on the departure time instead of the arrival time zone. This effectively negates the notion of getting some proper rest on a business class flight.
I was already sleep-deprived from a red-eye into Singapore earlier so I slept right after the first meal service after specifically requesting that I am not woken up for the second meal service and intend to sleep right up until arrival.
The first meal service was a quick supper service where I ordered the Keisuke tonkatsu ramen which was offered in a partnership with Ramen Keisuke through Book the Cook. The meal didn’t live up to the hype since even instant noodles are more flavorful than this. Meal aside, however, I was ready to sleep.
The cabin on Singapore Airlines’ Airbus A350-900ULRs consist of only two cabins, premium economy and business. While the premium economy seats feature only recliner chairs, business class seats come fully-equipped with lie-flat seats.
There are a lot of complaints about this seat being cramped and having to sleep at an angle but for someone of average height like me, the seat is great and I actually prefer it to a lot of the reverse herringbone style type seats due to the width of the bed space in the upper body area. Bulkhead seats in rows 11 and 19 are recommended for taller folk but those are hard to come by since Singapore Airlines reserves them as bassinet seats but will occasionally release them to high-value customers.
I slept for a good 12 to 13 hours and walked off the plane feeling great. I missed the second meal service, I missed all the snacks, I missed the sitting in my seat marveling at the fact I’m sitting in business class. Many would say I missed out on the flight but I didn’t I accomplished exactly what I intended to do, maximize rest on the flight. Often times we lose sight of what business class is about, it’s primarily a method of effectively get rest to be ready to go right upon reaching your destination. Economy class is about being miserable and first class is about having fun. Business class is business.
The more I travel, the more I start to appreciate sleep. I can only be so excited sitting in a reverse herringbone seat for the umpteenth time, I don’t need to stay awake to revel at the fact I’m not in coach. That’s what I do when I’m sitting in Cathay Pacific first class because that’s first class. That’s supposed to be fun, even though I do aim to sleep well on those flights too.
I had a great time on the world’s longest flight. I don’t remember most of it and that’s the point.
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