June 28, 2004
SINGAPORE Airlines (SIA) claimed a small spot in aviation history Monday, June 28, when the first direct flight from the city state to New York arrived here, inaugurating the world's longest non-stop commercial service.
Flight SQ22 touched down at Newark Airport at 6:41 pm having taken a little more than 18 hours to cover the distance of nearly 9000 nautical miles (about 16,600 kilometres) over the North Pacific.
The new direct flight using an ultra long-haul Airbus A340-500 will save customers up to four hours in travel time compared with SIA's existing one-stop services to New York.
"It's an important milestone, not just for Singapore Airlines, but aviation in general," said SIA spokesman James Boyd. "It marks the advent of a whole new generation of aircraft that can connect pretty much any two points on the globe with one tank of fuel."
The A340-500 used for the service has only 181 seats in a two-class configuration, with 64 seats in business class, all equipped with "space beds" in a "2-2-2" seat configuration.
The rest is devoted to Executive Economy Class, with 117 seats in a "2-3-2" configuration described as among the industry's widest at 20 inches.
All seats are equipped with amenities such as laptop power supply outlets and an in-flight entertainment system offering over 400 entertainment options including 60 movie choices for the long journey.
The flights also feature "passenger corners" in both Business and Executive Economy cabins offering passengers some space to stretch out or socialize.
"I watched a lot of movies and ate a lot," said passenger Teo Lay Cheng, a frequent traveller on the Singapore-New York route. "It's still a long flight but the absence of a refuelling stopover is obviously a bonus."
The inaugural flight was full with a fair number of paying passengers joining the SIA executives and invited Asian journalists on board, at a cost of S$9160 (US$5388) for Raffles Class and $2050 for Executive Economy.
SIA placed an order for 10 A340-500s in 1998 -- five on firm order and five on option -- worth US$2.2 billion, including spares and spare engines.
The Singapore carrier has also ordered 10 Airbus A380 "super jumbo" aircraft, which will be the world's biggest civilian airliner with a passenger capacity of 550, for its long-haul routes to the United States and Europe.
Last month, SIA reported a net profit of $849.3 million for the year
to March after a turbulent 12 months in which the Severe Acute Respiratory
Syndrome (SARS) epidemic sharply undercut travel in the Asia-Pacific region.