Singapore Airlines will restart non-stop flights to New York on October 11 2018, following delivery of the first ultra-long range Airbus A350-900ULR in September.
What will be the world's longest flight, at almost 19 hours, will run between Singapore and the NY-adjacent Newark airport three times a week – departing Singapore on Monday, Thursday and Saturday – but quickly toggle to a daily schedule from 18 October after a second A350-900ULR aircraft arrives. Tickets will go for sale from May 31, 2018.
The non-stop flights will resume almost five years after the airline pulled the plug on its previous Singapore-Newark direct service in November 2013.
This time around, the gas-guzzling four-engine Airbus Airbus A340 will be replaced by the fuel-efficient twin-engine Airbus A350, while the GFC which sounded the death knell for the A340 route has long since been replaced by a more buoyant economy.
Here's how the schedule will shake out (and yes, those old SQ21/SQ22 flight numbers are also making a return):
LA (and another North American city?) to follow
Singapore Airlines will be flying all seven of its globe-striding Airbus A350 jets by the end of 2018.
This will allow the Star Alliance member to restart non-stop service to Los Angeles and possibly a third North American destination, which could be in the USA or even Canada.
"Potentially there will be one more destination (beyond Los Angeles) we can consider," Singapore Airlines CEO Mr Goh Choon Phong has previously told Australian Business Traveller, adding "we do have a plan but we will announce it when we can announce it."
Approached for an update today, a Singapore Airlines spokesperson said "we review our network constantly and are always looking for feasible and profitable routes and new destinations."
"The A350ULR is a key part of our fleet, and will be instrumental in helping us expand our network with non-stop flights to the US. More destinations will be revealed in the next few months."
Two classes, no economy
As Australian Business Traveller has previously reported, SQ's Airbus A350-900 will sport a two-class layout of 67 business class seats and 94 premium economy seats.
(In effect, this will be updated version of the Airbus A340 Singapore-New York service, which once sported 64 business class and 117 ‘executive economy’ seats, before the airline switched in 2008 to an all-business class configuration of 100 seats.)
Singapore Airlines has confirmed to Australian Business Traveller the pointy end of the A350-900ULR will see the same business class seat as on its regular Airbus A350-900 jets (shown below).
The airline plans to retain its current Singapore-Frankfurt-New York Airbus A380 service, which takes a more leisurely 23 hours.
However, the non-stop flights could be priced at a premium due to not only their appeal to the busy executive but also the A350's lower head-count compared to the double-decker A380.
From A to B with more Zzzz
While passengers on the non-stop flight to New York and back will save around four hours compared to going via Frankfurt, Singapore Airlines has previously said that the primary benefit is more about enjoying a sound sleep en route.
"When you actually measure the total time (between Singapore and New York) – let’s say you transit through Frankfurt – there’s not much of a difference (between non-stop and transit)," Singapore Airlines' executive Mr Tan Pee Teck told Australian Business Traveller at a previous Airbus A350 briefing.
"The only thing is that you can have a longer sleep – instead of 13 hours and then 7 hours (with a Frankfurt stopover), you’d fly non-stop."
Qantas also eyes the A350-900ULR
Singapore Airlines is the worldwide launch customer for the Airbus A350-900ULR, but the jet is being eyed off by Qantas for direct flights to New York, London and other destinations from 2022 as part of its 'Project Sunrise'.
However, unlike SQ's lean two-class layout, Qantas CEO Alan Joyce has insisted that its ultra-long range fleet must be able to carry "a full load" of as many as 300 passengers across four classes – with the option to include railway-like 'sleeping berths' and even dedicated exercise areas located in the cargo area beneath the main deck.
"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 has said.
“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 admits these were “out there” ideas but said "there's a lot of 'out there' thinking that's going on.”
Airbus is thinking along the same lines, with plans to let airlines convert part of the downstairs cargo hold into sleeping berths using custom-designed 'lower deck modules'.
The spaces are designed to be interchangeable with a standard cargo container, making it possible for airlines to easily swap out cargo containers for passenger facilities to suit the needs of different routes.
However, a spokesman for Airbus tells Australian Business Traveller "the modules will not be occupied during takeoff or landing."
Instead, passengers who have booked a sleeping berth will begin and end their journey in a regular seat and then make their way to the bunk beds during the flight.