Singapore Airlines is now running the world’s longest flights – around 18 hours between Singapore and New York – but many people, including this writer, have questioned the lack of any lounge or social space where travellers can escape their seat during the marathon flight.
However, Singapore Airlines has admitted it never considered adding such a facility to these long-range Airbus A350 jets, due in part fo the need to have enough seats to make the economics of the non-stop flight work.
‘It’s a very long flight, obviously, and there’s a limited amount of payload, and we wanted to make the best use of that payload possible in a revenue-generating sense,” explains Campbell Wilson, Singapore Airlines’ Senior Vice President Sales and Marketing.
”We felt that giving passengers a good seat with sufficient space to lie in and lounge in, and the usual opportunity to walk down the aisle, was the most appropriate use (of the space) both from an economic perspective and a customer perspective.”
Speaking with Australian Business Traveller on board the inaugural flight of SQ22 from Singapore to New York, Wilson reflects that the decision was pretty much made by the A350’s predecessor, the Airbus A340-500, which used to fly the same route between 2004 and 2013.
“In our previous iteration of the nonstop flights we had a gathering area where there was a self-service bar with snacks and drinks, but actually it wasn’t very well used, so we took some learnings from that when designing this aircraft.”
Peripheral to the decision was Singapore Airlines’ concern of the impact on passengers of noise from a bar or lounge.
“This is largely a corporate-focussed flight, connecting two very strong corporate centres, and the ability for people to rest and sleep without being disturbed is particularly important,” Wilson rationalises. “There’s also a disruption factor that comes from people gathering and socialising.”
“People spend most of their time in the seat so we wanted to ensure that is the absolute best seat it can be. The (aircraft) can’t be everything to everyone, we have to focus on what is is most important, and for us and we feel for our passengers, the seat and the bed are the most important things.”
Singapore Airlines could find itself alone in its approach, with Qantas considering lounges, stretching rooms and bunk beds for the belly of its Project Sunrise jets which are expected to begin non-stop flights from Sydney and Melbourne to New York and London in 2022.
"One of the concepts that we have is maybe if we're not carrying freight you do something lower where cargo is on the aircraft, do you have an area where people can walk? Do you have berths like on a train?” Qantas CEO Alan Joyce revealed in London earlier this year, following the airline's launch of a non-stop Boeing 787 flight connecting Perth and the UK capital.
“Could some of the freight areas we may not use be used as an exercise area? Could they be used for berths for people to sleep in? Is there a new class that’s needed on the aircraft?”
Joyce admitted these were “out there” ideas but said "there's a lot of 'out there' thinking that's going on" in relation to the ambitious Project Sunrise.