How to survive the world's longest flights, in style

Turn left for the best experience on these ultra-long range flights.

By David Flynn, August 7 2019

Eight hours from Sydney to Singapore? It’s a doddle. 12 hours from Hong Kong to London? No sweat.

With a high-tech assist from Airbus and Boeing, airlines are steadily pushing the boundaries of long-distance flying.

Even the language is being redefined. The new frontier is the “ultra-long range” flight, where globe-striding jets regularly tackle journeys of more than 16,000km (8,600nm).

For passengers, that translates to 18+ hours in the air. But for many business travellers, even those non-stop marathons prove the superior alternative to airport lay-overs halfway along the route. So if you’re in for the long haul, here’s the best way to handle it.

Singapore Airlines: Singapore-New York

Flight: SQ21/SQ22

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 a flight time of almost 19 hours, you'll want to settle in and get comfortable...

With SQ21 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 2002, which sells for around SDG300 per bottle.

Solitaire PPS members can begin their journey with superb preflight bubbles at the first class lounge

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.

The trick to doing the world's longest flight? Plan ahead, and you'll be sitting pretty.

Singapore Airlines’ online Book the Cook service lets you choose from an extensive selection of meals before you fly. There’s a staggering 49 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.

Why settle for the standard inflight menu when you can 'Book the Cook' for a Lobster Thermidor?

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.

Singapore Airlines' inflight entertainment system lets you assemble a customised playlist before you fly.

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.

Qatar Airways: Doha-Auckland

Flight: QR920/QR921

Average time: 17 hours

The world’s second-longest flight sports the world’s best business class. This is the Qsuite, a bespoke Qatar Airways design with first class-style sliding doors.

Qatar Airways' stunning Qsuite is arguably the world's best business class.

For 17 hours, these wonderfully well-appointed suites become a cosy crib for relaxing or a private cocoon for sleeping.

Close the door, hit the 'Do Not Disturb' button and grab as many hours' sleep as you can on the Doha-Auckland flight.

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, 8 and 10.)

Window seats at rows 1, 3, 5, 8 and 10 give you that 'private jet' feel.

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.

Qatar Airways makes it easy for couples to enjoy an ultra-long flight.

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 at 4pm.

The 'Dine on Demand' menu is one of the best traits of Qatar Airways' business class.

Qantas: Perth-London

Flight: QF9/QF10

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.

We rate Qantas' Boeing 787 business class as among the best in the sky.

This is the world’s longest Boeing 787 Dreamliner flight, and will be joined in April 2020 by Qantas’ new Brisbane-Chicago service.

Qantas' Perth-London flight is the world's longest Boeing 787 route.

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.

The Qantas Business Suite offers plenty of working space for the business traveller and corporate high flyer.

Thankfully Qantas is big on boxed sets. Downton Abbey is tailor-made viewing for the trip to London, although a special HBO channel includes entire seasons of high-profile shows such as Game of Thrones, Big Little Lies and Curb Your Enthusiasm.

The Boeing 787’s cabin technology helps mitigate the effects of jetlag through lower effective altitude, higher humidity and cleaner filtered air, while Qantas has partnered with chef Neil Perry and Sydney University to develop a special inflight menu of nourishing metabolism-friendly ‘wellness’ meals.

Wellness meals help reduce the impact of jetlag, but a glass of wine never hurt anybody...

Emirates: Dubai-Auckland

Flight: EK448/EK449

Average time: 16 hours 30 minutes

Emirates' flagship Airbus A380 soars daily between Dubai and Auckland.

With one of Emirates’ double-decker Airbus A380s featuring on the flagship NZ service, well-heeled passengers can find a haven in the superjumbo’s private first class suites. 

With its own minibar, Emirates' first class superjumbo suite becomes your cosy crib for this long journey.

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.

Few things say 'luxury travel' like a relaxing shower above the clouds.

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.

Emirates' Airbus A380 cocktail bar is perfecting for whiling away the hours.

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.


David Flynn is the Editor-in-Chief of Executive Traveller and a bit of a travel tragic with a weakness for good coffee, shopping and lychee martinis.



24 Oct 2010

Total posts 2333

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20 Nov 2015

Total posts 59

Some fine tips in here, especially for SQ's T3 First Class lounge, that is a sublime Champagne to be serving. It's also served in The Private Room. I flew EK first and I actually was happy to go to the bar to stretch my legs and 'escape' from the suite for a while. These bars and lounges are wonderful to have on an ultra-long flight, it's a shame that of all the routes listed here Emirates is the only airline with any real 'social space' like this.

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