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Singapore Airlines VP discusses the world's longest flight

Aarthi Swaminathan
Finance Writer

Starting October 12, you can take the world’s longest flight by flying nonstop from Newark to Singapore. You’d be airborne for approximately 18 hours and 45 minutes.

Operated by Singapore Airlines (SINGF) — recently ranked as the top airline in the world — the New Jersey-Singapore route will be re-launched this year in response to high consumer demand for the one-stop journey. The airline had cut the route in 2013 due to rising fuel prices.

After the airline terminated the route in 2013, “we got a lot of feedback from our customers that they really like the flight because it saves them a lot of time when they’re traveling from the U.S. to Singapore,” Lee SekEng, regional vice president for the Americas at Singapore Airlines, told Yahoo Finance.

“We have been looking for a solution all this while, and when Airbus came up with the A350,” Lee added, noting that the plane was “able to perform this mission. We were very excited that we’re able to bring back these non-stop flights. It has been 5 years in the making.”

An A350. (Photo: Singapore Airlines)

The new aircraft is fuel efficient and allows the company to go longer durations without any stopover points — like Frankfurt or Tokyo — and compete with other airlines that fly nonstop from destinations much closer to the U.S.

Yahoo Finance Editor-in-Chief Andy Serwer asked his brother, who lives in Singapore, “whether he would take this. And he said yes.” Serwer, speaking on the Final Round when the flight plan was first announced, added: “It is worth it? Changing planes, of course, is terrible, or landing … in Manila if you’re going from Singapore to New York. But direct, … you sleep not once but twice.” 

Longest route in the world

The current record for the world’s longest flight is held by Qatar Airways for the Doha, Qatar to Auckland, New Zealand route which has a flying time of 18 hours and 20 minutes.

The Newark to Singapore route will break that record by 25 minutes. A Singapore Airlines spokesman told Yahoo Finance that the specific route has not yet been announced, but previous flights were sometimes routed over the North Pole (depending on conditions).

John Chesire, a retired airline pilot, created the following map based on the flight’s routes in 2012:

The map “shows the approximate flight paths for SQ 22 SIN-EWR and SQ 21 EWR-SIN in purple along with estimates of their most northerly points. These paths are about 11.3% and 7.2% longer than the shortest, geodesic path, which is shown in red. The Arctic Circle is shown in blue; neither flight comes very close the arctic region never mind the North Pole.” (Photo: John Chesire)

The airline will fly daily from Newark to Singapore, Lee said, and the average cost of an economy-class ticket will be around $1,300 for a round-trip flight for premium economy and $4,500 for business class — but the price also depends on factors such as seasonality.

‘American market is very important for us’

Singapore Airlines has a long history of operating the Asia to U.S. route. The first-ever Singapore Airlines flight to the U.S. was launched in 1979 when it flew from Singapore to San Francisco with stops in Hong Kong, Guam, and then Honolulu, Hawaii.

The airline has come a long way since, now offering 27 non-stop flights to Newark, Los Angeles, and San Francisco each week (on top of the other routes that have stopovers in various cities in Asia and Europe.)

(Photo: Singapore Airlines)

The effort to connect Singapore to the U.S. even further comes at a time when the price of crude oil is rising and U.S. airlines are warning that there could be an impact on flight plans.

Furthermore, the struggle to recruit pilots is leading to some routes around the world being slashed.

But Lee doesn’t see these factors as an impediment to the company’s plans. With the launch of these new routes, the company hopes that these flights will boost its bottom line in 2018 and beyond.

“I think the one thing for us, we take a long-term view… so far as our pilots and cabin crew recruitment, that long-term view is factored in the recruitment strategy,” Lee said. “We are confident when the new aircraft comes on board, we will have enough manpower.”

In fact, Singapore Airlines is looking to expand even more in the U.S.

“The American market is very important for us,” Lee said. “We are indeed looking at opportunities to expand to new points.”

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