The world’s longest commercial flight has touched down at New York’s Newark Airport half an hour ahead of schedule, despite leaving Singapore late. The restored Singapore Airlines flight SQ22 took 17 hours 52 minutes – 33 minutes less than the scheduled time.
Onboard, there were no cheap seats – only 94 premium economy seats and 67 business class flat beds.
The business class dinner options were snapper fillet, croque monsieur, steamed lobster dumplings and beef stir-fry.
Richard Quest, the CNN presenter, was onboard and took advantage of the inflight WiFi to maintain a running commentary – from “Smooth takeoff despite bad weather” to “I couldn’t decide which main course to have … so I had them all.”
Mr Quest and the other passengers crossed 12 time zones, and experienced two short nights divided by one short day.
After take-off just before midnight, Singapore time, dawn broke while the aircraft was off the eastern coast of Japan. Night descended again over eastern Alaska.
The distance between the two airports, which is the measure used for flight comparisons, is 9,534 miles. But the Airbus A350 flew hundreds of miles further in order to take advantage of favourable winds. It is believed to have covered 10,100 miles.
The direct path goes almost due north from Singapore, crossing Cambodia, Laos, China, Mongolia and Russia to a point close to the North Pole, followed by an almost due south track over Baffin Island and down to New York.
But to take advantage of favourable tailwinds, the inaugural service tracked north-east to Tokyo, then across to Anchorage in Alaska – staying south of the Arctic Circle. It then spent almost six hours flying over Canada.
Arrival at Newark in New Jersey was at 5.29am.
Singapore Airlines previously deployed the Airbus A340 on the route. It operated from 2004 to 2013, before it was abandoned as unviable.
On today’s flight, the highly efficient new A350 aircraft burnt slightly over 100 tons of fuel – about half the amount used previously.
The jet achieved a remarkable average speed over the ground of 580mph during the journey, including time during the climb and descent. The cruising speed of the A350 is around 560mph.
The nonstop saves around four hours compared with one-stop services.