My commentary from today, Oct 12, 2018: If you are connected to the airline world, you have probably seen that Singapore Airlines has re-taken the title of offering the world’s longest flight by re-starting their Singapore to Newark route. To celebrate the re-starting of the flight, using an Airbus A350ULR (That ULR stands for Ultra Long Range btw), I wanted to share my story from about five years ago where I live blogged taking this flight on an Airbus A340-500. Read below to experience a bit of the past and follow along our friend, Chris Sloan, on Airways as he starts his live blog adventure taking the flight today. If you have not experienced one of these super long flights, it is worth trying… at least once. Although, even five years later, I am not sure I would do SEA-LAX-SIN, be only on the ground for about a day, before heading home on SIN-EWR-SEA. I love flying, but I think I prefer to have a bit more time on the ground before taking those ultra long flights back-to-back (but I am also five years older and have a harder time recovering)!
My full story re-posted from October 13, 2013: It is almost that time to board a Singapore Airlines Airbus A340-500 and be a part of the world’s longest flight. Okay, well I still have a few hours left. Before then, I will be checking out of my hotel, getting a short tour of the airport, probably relax in the lounge for a minute or two and then find my seat for the next 18 hours or so. I will be departing on SQ 22, which leaves about 10:55am local time [which is 7:55pm 10/13 in Seattle or 2:55am 10/30 GMT].
You can follow along the flight on FlightAware and hopefully on this blog. Here is the catch though; due to the flight plan there is a good chance that I won’t be able to access the internet the whole time and when I do, it could be slow. Have no fear though, if I cannot connect up, I will write the story as a live blog on my local laptop and be sure to update when I have a chance. Worst case, that means after I get settled into my hotel after arriving at Newark (aka worst case scenario).
Since I will be crossing about half the existing time zones (and the international date line), I plan to update based on time spent on the aircraft. Once I enter the cabin, I will start a timer and update the post based on the elapsed time. I am hoping to stay awake the whole time, but know that I might need a little nap. Also realize that on a flight this long, there might not be too much happening between, “oh starting this movie,” and “done with the movie,” so my silence might not mean I cannot connect to the internet, but because I am doing something boring. Well, nothing is boring while on this flight, but I don’t want to give away plot lines of a movie.
With live blogging and possibly having a Singapore Sling or two, I realize that the grammar might not be 100%. No worries, it will all be worked out as the flight progresses or afterwards, so try to have a little more flexibility for the short-term and we shall do just fine. Well, I think that just about lays the ground work for how this shin-dig will work out. Hopefully you will be hearing from me soon and if not, know that I am enjoying the flight and looking forward to sharing soon.
T-MINUS ABOUT 8HOURS
I just made this pre-post. There will probably not be too much more to share until I am about to board. Stay tuned.
T-MINUS ABOUT 100 MINS
Wrapped up a nice tour of Singapore Changi International Airport and I have to say I have never been invited into a bathroom during a tour before. This is one epic view from the loo. Now resting quite comfortably in the Silver Kris Lounge waiting to board the fight in about an hour and 15 minutes or so. The weather is down right nasty outside now, but SQ 22 is still showing “on-time.” Might walk around a few laps of the lounge to prepare for the long flight and show-off the special socks that I am wearing. It is only 9:15am local time, but 6:15pm at home (Seattle). Does that mean I can drink a beer? Why yes, I think it does.
T-MINUS ABOUT 45 MINS
Heading down to the gate to board the A340-500. At SIN, passengers need to go through security at the gate, so want to give myself enough time. Will hopefully be checking back in soon, but it might be a while before I can get a signal with the on-board Wi-Fi. Until then – cheers!
We are now at about 30,000 feet and heading northeast. Boarding started pretty close to on-time. We were able to select one of two jetways to board and I chose the one which seemed to have the fewest passengers; that gave me the opportunity to request a photo with one of the flight attendants. Upon finding my seat (36F), I made myself comfortable. Per usual, flight attendants came around and offered magazines, newspapers, and pre-flight drinks.
Although I wasn’t very interested in the reading material, I was up for a glass of champagne. Before the front door shut, each passenger was asked what beverage they might enjoy after take off – for me, it was a Singapore Sling (when in Rome, right?). I quickly made friends with the professional business woman sitting across the aisle in seat 36K (and I shall call her “36K”). We were able to talk about how sad it is the flight is ending, the blog, politics, air travel, business, and a few other things. It is always nice to make friends on long flights.
Our taxi to the runway was another 28 minutes and we lifted off at +48min. The wings flexed up quite a bit during take off, which was a little surprising since they are filled to the brim with fuel. 60 minutes after boarding the aircraft, we reached an altitude of 10,000 feet, meaning I was able to break out the laptop and make this update.
The internet is a bit slow and it seems that my bandwidth allowance might go quickly so I am a little weary to upload any photos (Editor: David splurged later for these photos). Now it’s time to figure out which movies that I want to watch. There are many choices, but I went through four during my flight to Singapore.
Man, time flies when you are having fun. Just after my last update, one of the flight attendants came around asking what meal would I prefer. The choices were chicken, beef, or fish (Singapore makes them sound much fancier than that). I first went for the beef but was told that the selection was no longer available.
Then I asked for the chicken. I was very nicely informed that she thought those meals are spoken for as well and left to double check. Sure enough, my meal was to be the fish. Luckily I am not a picky eater, but this is one of the down sides of sitting back in row 36. If I would have planned ahead, Singapore Airlines has a “Book the Cook” option where you can customize your meal. But I like to fly by the seat of my pants and I ended up with fish. Well, it is not just fish. The official description on the menu reads, “Wok fried garoupa in garlic chili sauce, seasonal vegetables, and friend rice.”
Before trying the main fish, I was able to enjoy some starter fish comprising of a “trilogy of salmon with mesclun salad.” At the 2hr 15min mark, my fish (err garoupa) was served. I have to say that I am glad that it turned out I wasn’t able to have the beef – my fish was amazing.
After finishing the meal, it was on to desert. I never pass up an opportunity to have (Viennetta) ice-cream at 30,000 feet and I was not disappointed. My meal was complete at about the 3hr mark. I decided to try some desert wine, which is not normally my thing, but why not? It was a 2009 Chateau Filhot and put a great end to the meal.
Although I am pleased with my meal, I am regretting my choice in movies (White House Down). I always feel that one should not be judged by the movies they watch while flying; it’s a time for “guilty pleasure” movies. Currently the cabin has gone dark and many passengers are starting to sleep. I have plenty of energy and am about ready to start my second movie while going through some photos of this trip. Our trip status is showing that we have about 14.5hrs left of flight and I feel so lucky to be here right now.
I wish this update was a bit more glamorous. I have spent the last hour updating the live blog, adding photos and putting it on Twitter. At $1/MB, I was trying to be a bit conservative, but heck this is a historic flight in the making so let’s splurge on some photos!
I still haven’t even finished White House Down yet. Not sure that I should, it might be time for a new movie.
SIX AND A HALF HOURS
I used to know what the different colors of the Singapore flight attendant uniforms meant. While refilling my wine glass, I posed the question to one wearing green and she explained: Purple = Inflight Supervisor; Red = Chief Stewardess (their terminology, not mine); Green = Lead Stewardess; and Blue = Flight Stewardess. The color on the men mean the same but they are called “Stewards.”
During this flight and my previous one (LAX-SIN), I have asked quite a few people (off-record) what the A345 means to them. I have started to realize that those who fly on the A340-500 (crew and passengers) have formed this special “family relationship” that is amazing and difficult to describe. These flights are more than just a job or a way to get from point A-B.
When you stop to think about it, this sort of makes sense. There are only five A345s in the fleet and they only fly on two routes. The frequent passengers get to know the flight crew, the flight crew get to know the passengers, and they all get the know the aircraft.
So far, I have not met one person who has not made it very clear that they are sad (even upset) that these flights are ending. That being said, the majority of passengers and crew understand the reasons for moving away from the flights.
There really has been this energy onboard both of my flights that I have not found anywhere else. It is more than just the product, more than just the service.
At this point, I am not feeling tired and ready for the next 12 hours. Still waiting to find out how White House Down ends.
Most of the last hour and a half has been about relaxing and trying to re-connect to the internet. At this point, I have been able to successfully do both. The cabin is still dark, with just a few passengers staying awake. The idea of a nap is starting to sound pretty darn good, but I am able to hold off – for now.
As I write this we have just hit a pocket of pretty good turbulence and the seatbelt sign has been turned on. Not the best timing since I kind of need to use the lavatory.
I finally finished White House Down – not my favorite. After starting a few other movies and opting out, I am now about 30min into Dead Man Down, but not confident that I will finish it.
Almost on the mark of exactly nine hours, the cabin was quickly transitioned from dark into full-on lighting. At first there was a deep red and then I’m pretty sure I saw some purple before it went all white. I would like to think that a transition like that might take a good 5-10 minutes, but this one took about one. Luckily, I was already awake.
The signs were pointing to the fact that the second meal service was about to begin. After taking a walk down the cabin to use the lavatory (no more turbulence), I have found that many are choosing to still sleep.
I have just realized that I have no idea if it is light or dark outside. My guess would be that it is light. I just asked 36K if should wouldn’t mind opening her shade a bit and it turns out that it is completely dark outside – wrong again.
This is also a special moment since we are about halfway through the flight. It almost seems impossible that we have been flying this long and I am almost sad that it is halfway over.
NINE AND A HALF HOURS
I have to admit that I have not been able to re-connect to the OnAir internet in over two hours (I knew that it would be a challenge). Yes, I am writing everything up live on my computer, but this darn system keeps teasing me. Multiple times it has made me think that I am connected. Pro tip – you never want to count on in-flight internet, especially for business purposes.
Once in a while it will show the admin panel for the blog before it kicks me off again. Trying to get back onto the internet has become my main form of entertainment. Not sure if that is good or bad, but I have been connected now for at least a good 30 minutes.
USA! (and all that jazz). At this point, we have moved into US airspace via Alaska. So close to Seattle (my home), but we shall continue on to Newark. The previous meal service (which I did not fully partake in), has stopped and the lights in the cabin have gone black again.
Shockingly, I am still awake and might be able to push through the remaining seven hours that we have left (maybe). Time once again to find a movie that I might enjoy.
FIFTEEN AND A HALF HOURS
Well, I did it – I ended up falling asleep. I did not put my seat into a flat bed, but still found it comfortable enough (or I was so tired) that I took a little siesta. Not going to lie, I am a bit disappointed that I wasn’t able to stay awake, but what can you do?
At this point, there are only three hours left in the flight. Easy.
It is time to once again use the lavatory, since I feel like it’s time to brush my teeth. There are no amenity kits on this flight (thanks to @thatjohn for the heads up), but the restroom provides a few different options.
I am really starting to feel the lack of humidity. My lips, nose, and skin are getting pretty dry and lotion/chap stick doesn’t seem to be doing much help any more. I am still thoroughly enjoying the flight, but I am starting to look forward to my shower when I get to the hotel.
The cabin is still dark, but I can see that there is light coming from the outside. It makes sense since we are flying over Canada, north of Bismark, and it is 2pm in NYC. With almost every flight that I have been on, where the cabin is dark and it is light outside, someone opens their shade just to get a peek, which floods the aircraft with light. So far, that has not happened, but I am willing to bet that it will. Well, maybe not, since this flight is mostly filled with frequent fliers who know better.
I plan to put a little faith into another movie: Snitch. I am starting to feel a bit hungry and I am not sure if we have another meal service, but I might try one of the snacks.
I have actually settled into this movie Snitch. Not sure if it is the long flight or the movie is actually entertaining. For hydration, I decided to go a little fancy; sparkling water with some lemon.
Once again, I am finding it difficult to connect to the internet to make an update. It keeps teasing me and making me think I am connected, but then it disconnects me before I can do anything. I have to say that I am quite annoyed. What is even more frustrating is that some data is still sent/received, which I can tell since I keep being charged even though I can’t do anything with it. Oh well.
I decided that I would like to eat and confirmed that there are no further scheduled meal services. I had a few selections that I could custom order and I went for a “cheese omelette with chicken sausage, grilled tomato and potatoes,” and some coffee off the “Light Bites” menu.
SIXTEEN AND A HALF HOURS
I am eating my meal and have to say that it is not bad, but not really my favorite. Sure, it is asking quite a bit of a meal to be created almost 24 hours ago, fly on a plane nearly all day, and then taste like a champ. It is not that bad, but just not up to the quality of the other meals I have experienced on Singapore.
The internet is still flirting with me, maybe I can re-connect here soon. I am realizing that I probably should have started my timer at take off versus when I got onto the plane. Although 16.5hrs on the clock, we are at about 15.5hrs of flight time.
The flight from LAX to SIN took almost exactly 17 hours from walking onto the plane to landing. This is now the longest flight that I have ever been on and another two hours still remain. I feel like celebrating, but the cabin is pretty dead right now with most people sleeping (it is still dark). I am amazed at how fast this flight is going.
A flight attendant just went through the cabin offering some goodies to the few passengers who remain awake. The Snickers, chips, and cookies were tempting, but I am still full from my meal. I am about halfway through the movie Snitch – too invested to move on to something else.
We have just hit another pocket of turbulence and the fasten seat-belt sign is back on. Doesn’t seem to be a real inconvenience, since no one but the flight attendants are moving around right now.
Time to see if I can connect to the internet again – my expectations are a bit low.
SEVENTEEN AND A HALF HOURS
The lights are starting to come back on in the cabin with only about an hour of flight time left. The transition to full-on white light is going much slower than last time, which is nice. At this point I am totally giving up on trying to connect to he internet – who needs it? About 30 minutes ago I was connected long enough to send out a tweet, but that was it. I still feel accomplished.
No one ended up opening up their sun shade while the cabin was black, but my guess is a few will be opening soon as passengers wake up. I am looking forward to seeing some natural light once again – it has been too long.
The movie Snitch is now over. It made an okay airline movie and with not much flight time left, I am watching a documentary…I think it’s about insects or is it about old time movies, I am not so sure?
I was just given a warm washcloth and some orange juice. Both feel and taste amazing at this point (to be certain, the juice was the one I tasted, the cloth I felt). I almost feel refreshed enough for a few more hours of flight, but all good things must come to an end.
We have received the announcement that we will soon be descending to Newark and reminded that we need to fill out the US Customs form.
The cabin is now bustling with life. Passengers, who all look a bit disheveled (me included) are gathering their belongings and there is a line at the lavs about five people deep. Sure, people can have fancy clothes and watches, but being on a plane for so long is a pretty good equalizer.
Unfortunately, a passenger near me must have decided to put on some of those interesting scents which were located in the lavatory – it now smells a bit strong. I guess with 100 people who have not showered in over 24hrs all locked in a tube, it could be worse.
TOUCH DOWN AT 18 HOURS 35 MINUTES
As I was looking out the window at the clouds, I realized that it had been a really long time since I have seen, or been on, the ground. Actually, the longest in my life. It was kind of cool.
Humorously an announcement was made for people to be sure to save their work since the internet would be shut off shortly. I am pretty sure that I actually laughed out loud.
No matter how long a flight is, there will always be an end to it and almost exactly 18 hours and 35 minutes from when I first boarded the aircraft, we safely landed at Newark Liberty International Airport in New Jersey. Our actual flight time was 17 hours and 50 minutes. We arrived early, meaning that we had to wait a while to get to our gate. I used the last few minutes to really absorb my experience and realize that this will likely be the longest non-stop flight that I will ever take in my life. Surreal.
I said my goodbyes to the crew and 36K before slowly making my way off the plane and back to reality.
Oh crap, more of my thoughts? Like I haven’t shared enough already right? Do not worry, you are almost done.
This one crazily amazing flight, which I will be sad to see go, but also understand why. I thought after flying LAX-SIN-EWR over a weekend, I would be completely burnt out, but oddly I am not. I really think that says a lot to the level of quality that the Singapore product and service offers. I am so very thankful that Singapore Airlines gave me this opportunity to fly the world’s two longest flights and record the experience as a historical perspective.
Who knows. This flight might just be gone for a little while. Future versions of the 787 or the A350 might make these routes more economical. But until then, they will be missed by thousands.
Before ending, I want to take a moment here and recognize a pretty amazing crew that took care of me and the others around me. As I mentioned earlier, when you fly on the A345 you become a part of the family. I want to thank Malkeep Kaur, Lim Peuysan Sandra, Ng Junhao Joel, Roy Jean Jian Ming, Michelle Woo Yina, Dephne Chin Qianyu, Belinda Lim Qwglin and the rest of the crew for doing an outstanding job!
And a final thank you for following along on this journey. I had a great time and am happy that I could share!