In it for the long haul...

By David Flynn, January 16 2018
In it for the long haul...

Get ready for a new wave of long flights. Really long flights that'll see you spending up to 18 hours in the air.

It starts this Saturday, January 20, when United Airlines launches daily flights between Sydney and Houston.

That Houston-Sydney leg is scheduled at 17½ hours, just pipping the 17 hour flight time of Qantas' rival Dallas-Sydney service.

(The fights from Sydney to Texas trim around two hours off the tally, as aircraft don't need to battle the strong headwinds which slow them on the US-Australia journey.)

United Airlines believes that skipping the LAX stopover with a direct flight to its Houston hub will provide easier onwards connections to scores of destinations, especially those dotted along the east coast from New York through to Miami, as well as inland cities from Chicago to New Orleans.

This will also be the world's second-longest Boeing 787 flight, sitting just behind United's just-under-18 hours Dreamliner trek from Los Angeles to Singapore.

Qantas is set to claim its own non-stop Dreamliner ribbon with the March 24 debut of direct flights between Perth and London, which will clock in at 17 hours 20 minutes.

The airline is making plenty of noise about how it will minimise the effects of jetlag and keep passengers from feeling like they're on the verge of Stockholm syndrome, ranging from a health-conscious inflight menu and special bodylock-friendly LED lighting in its new Perth international lounge.

Read: The feel-good factor – how Qantas wants to change long-haul flying

(Travellers who care less about speed and more about a leg-stretching break will still have that option, and arguably a better one that today, with the daily Sydney-London QF1/QF2 Airbus A380 service shifting back to a Singapore stopover instead of Dubai from March 25.)

Towards the end of the year, Singapore Airlines will snatch back the "world's longest flight" trophy when it restarts non-stops between Singapore and New York – a route which previously took 18 hours when flown by SQ's Airbus A340 jets until 2013.

Read: Singapore Airlines' non-stop US flights more about sleep than speed

Singapore Airlines will resume that route – along with direct flights to Los Angeles and a third US city yet to be revealed – using a special ultra long-range version of the Airbus A350-900, dubbed the A350-900ULR.

That long-legged jet will carry almost 100 fewer passengers than the Star Alliance member's conventional A350s, with an expected 162 travellers in just two cabins: business class and premium economy.

The A350-900ULR is also being considered by Qantas for non-stop flights from Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane to London and New York – record-smashing journeys which would span from just over 18 hours between Sydney and New York, to 20 hours and 20 minutes from Sydney to London.

Read: Qantas wants non-stop Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane to London, New York by 2022

David

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.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

28 Dec 2011

Total posts 92

I wonder if for most people who travel, the thought of 20 hrs in Y horrifies them. And that these ultra long services will be used mostly for business people. Will these ultra long haul services become the norm, or the exception. Speaking for my self, I believe the Asian airlines, particularly the likes of China Airlines, China Southern, Air China, who are cashed up and with lower overheads. Will begin to dominate the market, as their product gets better. Meaning that they can offer cheaper airfares, like Y+ to Europe for around $2400.

This will be the dominate factor in the market, not time spent for the journey.

Qantas

19 Apr 2012

Total posts 557

I do the QF Sydney-Dallas flight regularly, which is over 17 hours on the return, and it is fine. The big issue is the appalling service on United and the meagre food offerings, having done LAX to Melb last year. You need to take your own packed lunch to top up the stingy servings. They offer no fruit, and water is in short supply. QF does feed the passengers well on the long flights, and offer plenty of water.

QFF

16 May 2016

Total posts 46

Might have been an issue with that particular flight? I fly UA regularly AUS-USA and have had no such issues. A mix of J and Y too.

10 Jan 2017

Total posts 9

I’ve found Qantas to be very stingy with food on their Asian routes, certainly less food than SQ or EK

Qantas

19 Apr 2012

Total posts 557

I did the 9 hour bangkok sydney last week and it is a reasonable meal and snack breakfast (a hot wrap). The QF 14+ hours flights is an okay meal, plus a hot snack (wrap or some such) plus a reasonable b'fast. United has small servings on each.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

22 Jul 2015

Total posts 223

QF7/8: agreed its not as painful as one would think. Outbound is usually between 14-15 hours and coming home around 16. Plus DFW is actually a great airpotrt to transit through.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

06 May 2016

Total posts 23

Couldn't agree more. We regularly visit our family 3-4 times a year in Houston and since QF7/8 the trip has been really good - LAX and then four hours was hell! DFW is excellent, and transfers are terrific, and not once has our luggage missed the connection.


The staff on QF7/8, without exception, are always patient, courteous and extremely professional, despite being on duty for such a long time. We usually travel Y over and PE return.

Congratulation Qantas for instigating this route!

16 Jan 2018

Total posts 89

There's airlines such as China Airlines that already have sub $2K Y+ fares to Frankfurt for 2018. They are a proper Y+ too. The longhaul carriers of western and middle eastern airlines are lacking in this category where the Asian carriers have exceeded and driven growth targeting the income of mid to high leisure travellers. Every Y+ flight I've ever taken on QF, SQ, LH, or BA has been at least 90% full.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

20 Aug 2014

Total posts 104

Has SQ announced the A359ULR cabin config yet? Last I heard they'd announced that it would be 2 class, and that one of those classes would be business.

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

13 Jan 2015

Total posts 593

The ither class will be premium economy probably the same layout as their current A359s with 2-4-2 and 38 pitch

25 Feb 2013

Total posts 59

Guess it can't be long now before DL starts SYD-ATL?

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

10 Dec 2014

Total posts 45

I think DL would be great on SYD-ATL with the right plane. Codeshare with VA too!

16 Jan 2018

Total posts 89

They will probably do SEA first because they can utilise existing A/C without investing into newer versions. Also their market share out of SEA is quite large and they have a great experience on the ground as well.

AT
AT

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

14 Sep 2012

Total posts 293

I just did SYD-Perth-SYD in Y on QF A330 which is essentially same size as 787. 5 hours over was fine, I could have done 8hrs but the thought of going Perth-London for 17+hrs in Y gave me anxiety just imaging it. There is absolutely no way I’d ever agree to doing it. If it’s Y I’d choose A380s with a transit.

02 Dec 2016

Total posts 31

United doesn't have the hard or soft product to make a 17+ hour flight in economy worthwhile. I think the only way they will fill Y is if there is a significant price differential - which likely means the other flight prices will rise as UA can't afford to lower fares IMHO.

QFF

16 May 2016

Total posts 46

I'm flying UA SYD-IAH in Feb for the exact reason mentioned above - it's going to shorten my second leg to east the coast. It's that second, 5+ hours Transcon flight that can hurt.

I think the SYD-IAH flight will do well. A great option for Carribbean/Latin America access.

07 Dec 2016

Total posts 31

Are other AB Travellers worried about the health effects of 17 plus hours long haul flights? I am, and am one who is fortunate to travel with flatbeds. What information do we have about increased risks for DVT and exacerbation of existing health problems?

LJC
LJC

15 Sep 2016

Total posts 2

I'd love the airlines to do two things: 1. Acknowledge that long haul flights in Economy class are inhuman, and to address this, provide as much legroom in Economy as there is in Business Class, together with lie-flat seats; and 2. Provide separate toilet facilities for girls and boys. To fund this, perhaps hit up the First Class passengers.

QFF

16 May 2016

Total posts 46

hahaha. You do realize such measures would drive the prices right up? Airlines keep providing cheap and segmented tix because the market keeps demanding (buying) them.

First class is being phased out too.

23 Sep 2017

Total posts 8

My wife suffers from claustrophobia which gets worse the longer the flight. Our rules are thus: maximum 9½ hour flight (which gets us to Hawaii) then at least one night on the ground. Daytime flights much preferred. As we're retired, we're in no hurry but we can't really afford Business class. The latest really long flights are thus going in the opposite direction to what we want and it's getting more complicated to find flights (eg BNE-LHR) that meet what we're looking for.

Rav
Rav

18 Aug 2017

Total posts 40

I found the Air New Zealand flights in Premium Economy with the shell to be brilliant to give the experience of room, reduces the closed in feeling.


Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

28 Feb 2017

Total posts 14

All gone now. But NZ premium economy is still No.1 IMHO. And they fly to Houston, albeit with a stop. Chalk & cheese between NZ & UA onboard service.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

29 Mar 2015

Total posts 85

While I have done dfw-syd-dfw more times than I care to remember, to me Qantas food and staff make a huge difference. I refuse to fly Air Canada as they literally have no idea about kind distance flight; to them is just toronto-montreal but longer. United is just as bad. While 380/350/787 metal does help, it's the staff that make or break long distance flights.

30 Sep 2011

Total posts 43

Forget Per Lhr at 17+ hours even in J. Though Syd Lhr at 20+ hours saves a few hours and the route. I would do just once for the route

 
The premium I would pay for direct would be 20% but for QF to get my twice a month SYD LHR flights, the it would be 10%. Otherwise I would rather have my luxe stopovers.

Of course very long haul flights are not designed primarily to satisfy the travelling public, they're designed to minimise the fuel/passenger ratio. Having said that, I travel Syd - Dubai - Birmingham often (Emirates A380 Business class) and Syd - Dallas (QANTAS A380 Business class). One thing is certain. B787 and A350 aircraft are no match for an A380 in terms of very long haul comfort. A380 not only offers a much more quiet cabin; it offers a very necessary large foyer and other areas to walk around to mitigate DVT. Further, if the only aircraft offered is a B787, take a large piece of card and some tape with you to (a) give total light block on the window and (b) mitigate the heating effect the window has on your arm and shoulder...some airlines are using the old style manual slide cover for B787 windows, thus obviating the necessity for the large piece of card and tape....food for thought from someone who flies in big jets more than he'd like!!

Rav
Rav

18 Aug 2017

Total posts 40

Thanks, I would like to do the Europe trip in an A380 as the 350 and 777 dreamliner just do not seem to cut it.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

07 Mar 2015

Total posts 9

An 18 hour non stop flight is not so earth shattering. I am old enough to remember the first non stop flights between LAX or YVR to Sydney which were around that duration at the time.

Emirates Airlines - Skywards

17 Apr 2014

Total posts 15

I wonder if anyone has thought or the safety aspect of a flight from SYD-LHR, let alone the effect on those poor souls who fly down the back. Let's face it, you can have 2 crews to fly it, but I doubt that you will get two crews to serve it. Even if you have 2 flight crews, does anyone really get proper rest in the air. Add to this the fatigue that cabin crews must suffer, I will never, ever fly longer than SIN-LHR and only with SIA. The truth is, that airlines have missed the point with travel. The A380 is ahead of its time, but needs a NEO and some refinements. In 10 yrs, they will be screaming to bring it back. It is not the time it takes to travel, it is the comfort. Nothing beats flying in an A380 operated by SIA and certainly not QF or EK.

Certainly agree 100% on your point regarding the comfort of the A380 for long haul. Don't completely agree with your comparative comments regarding SIA and QF and EK...I would say SIA is very good, Emirates better (largely because their food/bar service beats SIA) and QANTAS, well the less said the better...their business class offering and their overall seating layout, cuisine, decor etc in A380 is well less than most world travellers would expect.

23 Nov 2012

Total posts 24

17+ hrs in the dreaded 3-3-3 no thank you. As bad as an MRI.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

06 May 2016

Total posts 23

Plenty of "pairs" of seats upstairs in the beautiful Qantas A380. Window and aisle upstairs in Economy, PE and Business in current configuration.


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