Eight hours from Sydney to Singapore? It’s a doddle. 12 hours from Hong Kong to London? No sweat. But what about 17 from Perth to London? The good news is that this potentially bum-numbing marathon is actually easier than you might think.
As recent years have shown, “ultra-long range” flights – where globe-striding jets regularly tackle journeys of more than 16,000km – are now increasingly the norm, and it’s a trend that’s only set to continue as the likes of Project Sunrise lifts off from 2025.
For passengers, this translates to 18+ hours in the air. But while indeed a long time in the sky, these non-stop endurance tests prove the superior alternative to airport lay-overs halfway along the route, particularly for business travellers.
So if you’re in for the long haul, here’s the best way to handle it.
Singapore Airlines: Singapore-New York
Average time: 18 hours 35 minutes
Singapore Airlines originally flew non-stop between Singapore and New York (to be technically correct, the Manhattan-adjacent Newark) from 2004 to 2013, until rising oil costs grounded its gas-guzzling Airbus A340 jets.
New fuel-efficient Airbus A350 jetliners helped tilt the economics back in Singapore Airlines’ favour, with the route restarted in October 2018.
With SQ22 wheels-up from Singapore near midnight and reaching Newark around 6am, passengers see two long ‘nights’ bookending a brief sunrise near Japan.
Members of Singapore Airlines’ elite Solitaire PPS Club can make the best start to this marathon by visiting the SilverKris first class lounge at Changi Airport’s Terminal 3 to enjoy a few glasses of Piper-Heidsieck Rare Millesime 2007, which sells for around SDG320 per bottle.
Surprisingly, there are no first class suites on this flight: only 67 lie-flat business class seats and 94 premium economy recliners.
So how do you spend close to 19 non-stop hours in business class, short of a Stilnox-induced coma? Savvy travellers think ahead.
Singapore Airlines’ online Book the Cook service lets you choose from an extensive selection of meals before you fly. There’s a staggering 43 dishes which you won’t see on the inflight dining menu, headlined by the ever-popular Lobster Thermidor but also embracing Singaporean, Chinese, Malay, Thai, Japanese and Indian dishes.
Singapore Airlines’ smartphone app also lets you browse the inflight video ands music library ahead off your flight, to create a personalised playlist which is synchronised via WiFi with your setback screen once you step onto the plane.
This is especially handy when you realise that from start to to finish, you could spend the entire flight watching all eight Harry Potter movies or listening to every song ever recorded by The Beatles, twice over.
Read our review of the experience here.
Air New Zealand: New York-Auckland
Average time: 17 hours 35 minutes
No stopover, no changing planes – just one sleep and you’re in the city that never sleeps. That’s the chief drawcard of Air New Zealand’s non-stop connection between Auckland and New York City. Indeed, it’s a very good one.
While the US-bound hop is indeed impressive at some 16 hours, it’s the return journey to Auckland that really tests the stamina of flyers – a mammoth 17 hours 35 minutes. The outdated ‘sleeper shell’ business class seat doesn’t help either.
Designed some 20 years ago, the seat often feels narrow and confining due to shoulder-height partitions either side, while the angled layout sees many passengers facing one another like commuters on a bus.
Thankfully a better business experience is on the way, though those seats won’t arrive until late 2024 – initially on a new fleet of Boeing 787-9s designed for these ultra-long range flights.
In the meantime though, it’s still a relatively comfortable and convenient option. A well-stocked library of movies ensures you’re unlikely to be bored for the duration, while free inflight Wifi delivers a decent 5-10Mbps for non-streaming activities.
Take a look at our in-depth review of the experience here.
Average time: 17 hours
Sophisticated real-time flight planning software helps Qantas regularly shave slabs of time off the only direct flight linking Australia and the UK – it’s come down as low as 15¼ hours on the return London-Perth leg.
It also benefits from one of the world’s best Boeing 787 business class seats: a spacious ‘business suite’ with plenty of room to spread out your work en route plus a 16-inch HD screen.
In addition to a wide selection of movies, Qantas’ recent Paramount+ collaboration has seen its inflight entertainment system loaded up with a mountain of entertainment, including numerous TV shows to binge during the flight.
The Boeing 787’s cabin technology also helps mitigate the effects of jetlag through lower effective altitude, higher humidity and cleaner filtered air.
Average time: 17 hours 5 minutes
Featuring one of Emirates’ double-decker Airbus A380s, well-heeled passengers can find a haven in the superjumbo’s private first class suites.
Emirates was among the pioneers of first class A380 cabins with sliding doors, and the first to add showers – two of them, exclusive to the 14 first class suites – for a quick freshen-up before landing.
Combine this with a ‘dine on demand’ menu and there’s little reason to venture our of this rarefied realm.
Well, there’s one reason: head towards the rear of the superjumbo’s upper deck and you’ll find a cocktail bar where you can mingle with colleagues consigned to business class.
Ask the bartender for the drink of your choice or have them surprise you with their favourite in-flight tipple, add some conversation and the hours will fly by.
Qatar Airways: Doha-Auckland
Average time: 17 hours
Though for a time the world’s second-longest flight, Qatar Airways’ non-stop Doha-Auckland has been on ice for a while now. However, it’s primed to show-stopping return in September 2023, with the 17 hour flight set to feature an A350-1000 for the first time.
Onboard you’ll find the bespoke Qsuite business class. Fitted with first class-style sliding doors, these wonderfully well-appointed suites become a cosy crib for relaxing or a private cocoon for sleeping.
A staggered layout sees some seats facing backwards but positioned closer to the window rather than the door, which gives you more of a private jet feel. (If you want to select those seats when making your booking, choose the A or K seats at rows 1, 3, 5, 7, 9 and 11.)
If you’re travelling with your partner, request one of the paired middle seats which can convert into a double bed, then slip into the airline-supplied PJs and snuggle down.
The long flight also affords plenty of time to work your way through Qatar Airways’ extensive ‘dine on demand’ menu, which lets passengers order any dish at any time during the flight – perfect if your timezone-addled stomach fancies a mezze platter breakfast.
Take a look at our in-depth review of the Qsuite experience here.