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The world's longest commercial flight took off from Singapore on early Friday morning, with Singapore Airlines resuming its non-stop route from the Asian city to New York for the first time since 2013.
The flight will cover a whopping 9000 nautical miles (16,700 kilometres) and take almost 19 hours. The airline will initially operate the flight three times a week before increasing frequency to a daily service.
Flight SQ 22 departed at 11.37pm, local time (2.37 am Friday, ADST), from Changi Airport in Singapore and will arrive in at Newark Liberty International Airport at 5.27 am on Friday, New York time, 33 minutes ahead of schedule.
Watch the world's longest range airliner's final assembly
Watch as the world's first Airbus A350-900ULR (ultra long range) is assembled, ready for delivery to Singapore Airlines. The plane will fly the world's longest non-stop route, Singapore to New York, from October 2018. Video: Airbus
Singapore Airlines is flying the new Airbus A350-900ULR (for "ultra long range") on the route. The plane will feature no economy class, with just 67 business class and 94 premium economy class seats.
While the airline's business class on board the ULR Airbus remains the same as its shorter-range A350s, Singapore has tweaked its premium economy offering for the ultra-long-haul flight.
While the size of the seat remains the same, with 38 inches (96cm) of pitch and 19 inches (48cm) wide, a new calf rest has been added to increase comfort. With no economy class seats, the narrowing rear of the plane means premium economy window seats in the final three rows have no other seats next to them. These will likely be highly sought-after by passengers.
While airlines are typically able to charge more for non-stop flights, Reuters reports that Singapore Airlines has been offering initial fares from as low as $S1438 ($1470) return for premium economy from Singapore to Newark.
Passengers on Flight SQ22 were invited to celebrations at the gate, where flight attendants performed songs including the hit New York, New York. New York cheesecake and hotdogs were served.
Tilo Kruger was boarding the flight with three friends - all members of the "first to fly" club, which was formed after the inaugural Airbus A380 flew from Singapore to Sydney in 2007.
Kruger will not be spending time in New York. He plans to quickly leave for Atlanta and then travel to Houston. After a short stopover, he will then travel to Manchester before heading home to Ireland after some 34 hours in the air.
"I just want to explore how the aircraft looks, and party time hopefully. It's a nice hobby. I get the opportunity to come to Singapore, stay here, be in the city, but then also see other destinations," he said.
Other passengers were more apprehensive. "I'm not sure what I'm going to do for 18 1/2 hours. Watch all the movies I can, I guess," said Peggy Ang, who is on business trip to Orlando.
"My cousin said 'hey, this is in the press.' I'm going to take pictures and show her," she said.
Singapore Airlines previously flew Airbus A340s on the route, but the four-engine aircraft, which Airbus no longer manufactures, were too heavy on fuel use to make the non-stop flight economically sustainable.
Advances in technology mean the A350 can carry 165,000 litres of fuel with 161 passengers on board. The all business-class A340, by contrast, carried 223,000 litres of fuel for just 100 passengers.
Traveller writer Steve Meacham is on board the flight and said most passengers were asleep by the 10-hour mark.
"We currently have a tail wind of 155 km/h and are travelling at 11,887 metres a minute at a true airspeed of 898 km/h," he said.
One passenger was planning to come straight back on the return flight from New York.
"I just love flying! If you did this for a living, it wouldn't be fun. But I enjoy it," he said.
There were a couple of babies on board, with the mother of one eight-month old explaining: "We have to get to New York one way or the other...might as well get it over with in one hit. It's quicker this way."
Airbus is building just seven of the ULR version of the A350-900, all for Singapore Airlines to fly on US routes. The airline intends to also fly non-stop to Los Angeles using the aircraft.
Singapore Airlines' New York flight reclaims the title for the world's longest commercial flight route, previously held by Qatar Airways' Doha-Auckland flight. As the range and efficiency of aircraft has improved in recent years, the title for world's longest flight has changed several times. Qantas held the title from 2011 to 2016 for its non-stop Sydney to Dallas route.
It's a title the airline is looking to regain as it embarks on "Project Sunrise" – a plan to launch non-stop flights from Australia's eastern capitals to both New York and London, and possibly other routes.
The airline launched the first non-stop flight between Australia and London in March this year with the first non-stop flights from Perth.
The A350-900ULR is under consideration as the aircraft that could make Qantas' dreams a reality. Earlier this year, Qantas CEO Alan Joyce challenged Airbus and Boeing to come up with an aircraft that could fly the distances required for its desired non-stop routes. So far, Boeing has been less enthusiastic about creating an aircraft that potentially only one airline would be interested in.
The world's longest flights
- Singapore-Newark (New York) 16,700km
- Doha-Auckland, Qatar Airways, 14,529km
- London-Perth, Qantas, 14,496km
- Dubai-Auckland, Emirates, 14,200km
- Los Angeles-Singapore, United Airlines, 14,113km
- Houston-Sydney, United Airlines, 13,833km
- Sydney-Dallas, Qantas, 13,804km
- San Francisco-Singapore, United Airlines & Singapore Airlines, 13,592km
- Atlanta-Johannesburg, Delta, 13,581km
- Abu Dhabi-Los Angeles, Etihad, 13,502km