At 4.35pm today (11.35pm in Singapore), Flight SQ22 will leave the tarmac at Changi Airport. Precisely 18 hours and 25 minutes later the same service is scheduled to touch down at Newark Liberty International in New Jersey where it will be crowned the world’s longest flight.
The red-eye service is noteworthy in another respect, too, because it contains no economy seats: the Airbus A350-900 used on the route has been configured to carry just 161 passengers, a mixture of business and premium economy travellers. No room for the hoi polloi here.
Running thrice a week to begin with, Flight SQ22 is set to become a daily service from October 18 when Singapore Airlines deploys another Airbus A350-900 ULR (ultra long-range) on the 9,537-mile route.
The service sees bragging rights for world’s longest flight pass from Qatar Airways, which has held the distinction since February 2017 with its 9,032-mile schlep between Doha and Auckland.
Singapore Airlines has held the coveted title before with... wait for it, a non-stop service between Singapore and Newark. That’s right: Flight SQ22 isn’t a new route but an exhumed old one, which the carrier launched in 2004 only to axe it in 2013 when it its fleet of Airbus A340-500s were retired.
As with the rebooted service, the old SQ22 was originally configured for just business and premium economy passengers. But in 2008 the airline did away with premium economy and decided to kit the whole plane out for business class instead. Will history repeat itself? Time will tell.
Speaking of time, those aboard the plane will have a lot of it on their hands. Enough to watch approximately ten films, learn basic Spanish (according to the guys at Babbel) and read a couple of classics: aptly-titled tomes include Margaret Mitchell’s Gone With the Wind, Charles Dickens’ Tale of Two Cities and Thomas Hardy’s Far From the Madding Crowd.
If Qantas has its way, Flight SQ22 won’t be the longest flight for long: the Australian carrier recently announced plans to launch a non-stop service between London to Sydney in 2022, a feat supposedly made possible by improvements in aircraft fuel efficiency.
A new epoch in ultra long-haul beckons. Probably.