World’s longest flight to come to an end at Newark Liberty Airport
By Tom De Poto/The Star-Ledger The Star-Ledger
on November 23, 2013 at 7:33 AM, updated November 23, 2013 at 10:39 AM
The longest commercial airline flight ends its run this evening when a jet from Singapore touches down at Newark Liberty International Airport. There won’t be any farewell party, but there will be a twinge of sadness for some of the passengers who have endured the 19-hour trip.
“I will miss them,” said Ken Jongsma, an engineer with Honeywell who has made the trip several times for business.
Singapore Airlines offered the only nonstop flights to Changi International Airport from the United States. It ended its Los Angeles-to-Singapore route on Oct. 22. The 9,506-mile Newark route over the Arctic Circle will end operations tonight.
How long is the flight? Long enough to get a full night’s rest, enjoy several multicourse meals and snacks, watch a complete season of “Modern Family” re-runs, play 100 games of solitaire on a smartphone and still have time to get work done before landing.
“It’s long no matter how you cut it but it beats spending time in an airport trying to make connections,” Jongsma said. “Once I’m en route, I want to be there in the shortest time possible.”
There are at least 20 other flights from the United States to the Southeast Asian country, but none is direct.
Travelers who prefer Singapore Airlines will now be able to get there from John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York with a stopover in Frankfurt, Germany, which could add as much as five hours to the journey.
“Spending time in an airport waiting to make connections isn’t fun,” Jongsma said.
Despite the long hours flying, the accommodations were as good as it gets for an air traveler.
The Airbus A340 jumbo jet carries just 100 business-class passengers in rows of four — one at each window, and two in the center aisle.
Seats are 36 inches wide, the equivalent to two coach seats on a regular plane, and recline into flat beds.
Each passenger has a 15-inch video monitor for a film library that includes 243 titles. Also available are 358 television shows, 800 music CDs, 22 radio channels and 80 video games.
“We want the passenger to come away from the overall experience feeling they’ve been looked after,” said James Bradbury-Boyd, a spokesman for the Singapore Airlines.
It’s long no matter how you cut it but it beats spending time in an airport trying to make connections.
Singapore Airlines began the daily route in May 2008. Bradbury-Boyd said even in the final weeks, there were still waiting lists on peak flying days, which he said were mid-week and weekends.
Tickets cost between $6,000 and $8,000 roundtrip.
Bradbury-Boyd said the route ended, in part, because the A340 jumbo jets are being sold back to Airbus as part of a deal for new A380s, which carry about 470 passengers but aren’t designed for the super-long flights.
Others cited economic factors: “It boiled down to the route didn’t earn enough of a profit,” said Henry Harteveldt, a travel industry analyst at Hudson Crossing, an industry consulting firm. “Supporting the aircraft doesn’t outweigh the cost involved. You need parts for this plane and there are only a handful available.”
Airbus stopped producing the A340s in 2011. Singapore Airlines employed five Airbus 340-500s for the Newark and LA. routes — two for each city with the fifth rotated in and out as the others required maintenance.
“It’s a shame this route didn’t work out, but I would bet in a few years it might be reopened,” Harteveldt said. “It’s one of those long, thin (low-demand) routes that might be viable if it flew a few times a week” instead of daily.
Other economic factors also came into play, said Halene Becker, managing director of the brokerage firm Cowen and Company.
The largest cost of flying is fuel, she said. When Singapore started the route, fuel was $28.88 a barrel. Today it’s about $107.
Also, a flight that long needs two full crews.
“To do that, you really can’t charge enough,” she said.
Becker said marathon flights in general are at risk. In the past year, three other extra-long routes were scratched: Delta Air Lines’ 16-hour nonstop between Detroit and Hong Kong; American Airlines’ 15-hour Chicago-to-New Delhi route and Thai Airways 17-hour flight from Los Angeles to Bangkok.
For those who like to keep track of such trivia, Qantas Airways’ nonstop flight from Dallas to Sydney, Australia, now becomes the longest fight in distance — about 8,600 miles — while Delta’s Atlanta-to-Johannesburg, South Africa, journey will take the most time — 17 hours.