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What it’s like to take the world’s longest flight

What it’s like to take the world’s longest flight
[Photo: Cathal Mac an Bheatha/Unsplash]

Singapore Airlines Ltd. just reclaimed the title of flying the world’s longest commercial flight, swiping that honor from Qatar Airways’ route from Doha to Auckland. The 10,400-mile nonstop flight between New York and Singapore ensures that passengers can live out their Crazy Rich Asian fantasies after a mere 18 hours and 45 minutes in the air.

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This is not a new route for Singapore, but high fuel prices led them to scuttle the route back in 2013. Thanks to new technology, increasingly light-weight materials, new wing tips that cut down on drag, and cheaper fuel, the route became viable again. They now have seven A350-900 Ultra Long Range aircraft to make the flight between Newark Liberty and Changi Airport, as well as for nonstop service to Los Angeles starting in November.

I hopped aboard a recent flight and am here to report–the title does not lie. Here’s what it’s like to fly the world’s longest flight:

The plane is divided between business and premium economy, with 67 flat-bed seats in a 1 seat-2 seat-1 seat configuration for business class and 94 premium economy places in a mostly 2-4-2 arrangement at the rear (there are a few single seats, which I should have booked). The good news is that the configuration means no one has to spend nearly 20 hours shoehorned into a coach seat in addition to being trapped in a flying tin can for nearly a day.

The premium economy option is not bad. The seat pitch is only 38 inches, which means you can’t quite stretch your legs, but leg rests and foot rests make it more comfortable than you might expect. It’s almost possible to sleep, which is the key to success on such a long flight. And the flight is long. Like, really long. Like every single time I looked at the flight clock, it was still the longest flight I had ever been on. As in, watch two movies and eat a meal and there are still 14 hours to go long. In short, there’s nothing short about this flight.

The first leg I was in business class, complete with lie-flat beds, free slippers, and three-course meals. I slipped on my compression socks (it takes a while) figured out how to use my Lumos smart sleep mask that helps alleviate jet lag and settled in. While lie-flat beds are a great perk, because the flight departed at 10:25 a.m. it was nearly impossible to sleep. I watched a few movies (Sing Street, the Oceans oeuvre) out of 1,000 available on the in-flight entertainment, listened to hours of podcasts (Teen Creeps, Longform, 99% Invisible), read a book (Tana French’s The Witch Elm), did the Sunday New York Times crossword puzzle, tried to convince myself to nap, and checked the flight clock every hour convinced that time had stopped moving at some point. By the time I landed at Changi Airport in the late evening, I was exhausted, desperate for fresh air, really really sick of lying flat, and eager for laksa. An entire day of my life was gone, but hey, at least I didn’t have to transfer planes.

Even though I was in premium economy for the return flight, it was better. This was partially because I knew what I was in for but mostly because the flight left Singapore at 10 p.m. bound to land at Newark at 6 a.m. The flight was basically a decent way to spend the longest night. I slept for eight hours, watched almost an entire season of Star Trek: Discovery, and started a new book (Lauren Groff’s Florida). I landed back in the U.S. tired and needing a shower, but in much better shape than when I arrived in Singapore, albeit without the laksa to look forward to.

While being trapped in a flying tube for nearly 20 hours isn’t a treat, it is certainly an efficient way to fly around the world. For passengers heading to Singapore for business or for anyone wanting to live out their Crazy Rich Asians fantasies, the flight is as quick as possible and that alone makes it a great option.

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