Fri, Oct 12, 2018 - Page 5 News List

Passengers ready for relaunch of world’s longest flight

AFP, SINGAPORE

A Singapore Airlines Airbus A350-900 receives a water cannon salute upon arrival at Singapore Changi Airport on March 3, 2016.

Photo: EPA

Passengers yesterday were getting ready to board the world’s longest flight — a marathon 19 hours in the air between Singapore and New York City.

Two pilots, a special “wellness” menu and more than seven weeks’ worth of film and television entertainment were expected to accompany travelers on the 16,700km journey to the Big Apple.

Singapore Airlines previously offered the service from 2004 to 2013, and announced its relaunch in May.

Flight SQ22 was to use the long-range Airbus A350-900ULR, configured to carry 161 passengers — 67 in business class and 94 in premium economy.

For the flight crew — which also includes two first officers and a 13-strong cabin contingent — the work load is to be broken up, with every person getting a mandatory minimum four hours’ rest, the airline said.

However, for passengers, the challenge would be what to do with all that down time up in the air.

For those not packing a weighty novel or two, there will be 1,200 hours of audio-visual entertainment to choose from.

Dining options would include dishes the airline said have been selected to promote well-being in the skies, with organic dishes.

The cabin has higher ceilings, larger windows and lighting designed to reduce jet lag — all part of an effort to lessen the stresses that can accompany almost a day on a plane.

“Research has shown that hydration and food intake are important factors [to consider], such as avoiding foods that cause gas or bloating, as well as excessive alcohol,” said Rhenu Bhuller, a healthcare expert at consultancy Frost & Sullivan.

“The biggest concern is deep vein thrombosis from a combination of sitting for too long and also from dehydration,” said Gail Cross, an associate consultant at the National University Hospital in Singapore.

The twin-engine plane that is to make the journey uses a modified system that burns 25 percent less fuel compared with other aircraft of a similar size, Airbus said.

The flight from the city-state to Newark Liberty International Airport in New Jersey could take up to 18 hours and 45 minutes under normal weather conditions, but the pilots would have something in reserve in an aircraft capable of flying more than 20 hours non-stop.

Singapore Airlines originally flew the route for nine years using the gas-guzzling, four-engine A340-500 before abandoning it in 2013 because high oil prices made the service unprofitable.

However, the carrier is hoping that the introduction of more fuel-efficient planes would set cash registers ringing, even as crude prices soar above US$80.

Yesterday’s flight would top the current longest direct link between cities: Qatar Airways Flight 921 from Auckland to Doha, which takes 17 hours 40 minutes.

“It’s turning out to be a race between a few airlines eying the longest routes inter-continentally,” said Shukor Yusof of aviation consultancy Endau Analytics. “They are hoping to capitalize and exploit a very niche market.”

Facing increasingly strong competition in recent years, Singapore Airlines has consolidated its low-fare subsidiaries and is strengthening its premium segment.

“Ultra-long-haul services comprise an important component of that strategy,” an airline spokesman said.

The company is the first airline in the world to operate the A350-900ULR plane. It received the first aircraft last month. Six more are due for delivery by the end of the year.

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