MIAMI — Singapore Airlines quietly retired what had been the world’s longest flight Monday, ending a nine year non-stop daily run between Newark, NJ and Singapore.
Aviation enthusiast and frequent flyer Gino Bertuccio, who was on board the final flight, noted that only a short announcement from the pilot was made on board before landing. Apart from that and small ceremony at the lounge and gate prior to departure, Mr. Bertuccio said it “looked like just a regular flight while on board.”
The flight, which had been beloved by business travelers, high-end tourists, and wealthier aviation enthusiasts alike, was scheduled for over 19 hours while traversing almost 10,000 miles non-stop. For those seeking to continue flying aboard Singapore between the two cities, the trip now requires a stop in Frankfurt aboard the Airbus A380 before continuing on to New York JFK.
The route had been paired with another ultra-long haul service by the carrier; LA to Singapore non-stop. That flight had been the world’s second longest until its retirement in late October. Passengers now must connect via Tokyo-Narita on the A380 super jumbo.
Both flights had a reputation for being particularly opulent, even by Singapore Airlines’ standards. The cabin of the Airbus A340-500, which flew the routes exclusively, were configured entirely in business class seats—100 to be exact—through the majority of their life (they did have a premium economy cabin for several years). Passengers enjoyed dining on shrimp and relaxing in lie-flat seats while sipping fine wine. “I never flew Concorde, so this is the most exotic regular service I ever flew. The flight didn’t feel like forever: I didn’t want to get off, even after eighteen hours in the air.” said Airchive founder Chris Sloan, who flew the Newark flight in 2007. His sentiments echoed the thoughts of many who frequented the service, most of whom reported finding the eighteen plus hours to be a blessing rather than a curse.
High fuel prices combined with comparatively poor economics of the A340-500 led to the decision to ax the routes about a year ago. Topping off the fuel tank, required for such a long flight, required over 56,000 gallons of fuel, according to Airbus, a hefty bill even in the best of times. Adding to the decision was a good offer from Airbus to buy the airplanes back. No one has yet purchased the aircraft from Airbus, though several carriers are rumored to be pursuing them, including Aerolineas Argentinas.
The ultra-long haul crown can now be claimed by a handful of routes and airlines. In terms of duration Emirates can lay claim to two parts of a three way tie with service from Houston and Los Angeles to Dubai. Delta claims the third spot with a flight from Johannesburg to Atlanta. All three are scheduled for sixteen hours and 20 minutes – several hours shorter than the SQ flights. For distance, a Qantas flight now claims the longest flight; Sydney to Dallas at 8,500 miles non-stop.
Yet, at least in terms of duration, none of the above flights come even close to a handful of historical routes from the late 1950s and early 1960s. It is widely assumed that a TWA flight between Paris and San Francisco holds the record for longest regularly scheduled flight, blocked for an impressive 22 hours and 10 minutes. London to San Francisco came in at 21 hours and ten minutes, while Los Angeles to London was scheduled for 19 hours and fifteen minutes.
The routes were all operated by the Lockheed Starliner, a variation of the Lockheed Constellation, a four engined piston airplane with a cruise speed of 350 miles per hour. The airplane still holds the record for longest single non-stop regular passenger flight, operated between London and San Francisco on October 1st through 2nd, 1957. Total time aloft? : 23 hours and 19 minutes. Now that’s a long flight.