18+ hours – the new normal for extra long-haul flights

There seems to be a war amongst airlines to show whose is longer than the others – whether it is the longest flight by ‘great circle’ distance (Qatar’s DOH-AKL) or by actual miles flown (Air India’s SFO-DEL). United is in the mix too but not for the longest flight in the world, but for the longest originating in the United States. United already operates San Francisco to Singapore (SFO-SIN) non-stop on a 787-9. But Singapore Airlines soon matched them with its own flight on the same route. So now United announced a longer flight with Los Angeles to Singapore (LAX-SIN), starting this October. SFO-SIN stands at 8,447 Miles. The new LAX-SIN will be longer by a few hundred miles at 8,770 miles. I have flown the United SFO-SIN twice since it started. The outbound flight in 17:15 hours long! That’s long. That’s eat-watch a movie-sleep-wake up-eat-sleep-watch another movie-repeat at least twice before you get there – long. The 750 odd miles will add another 40 minutes to the flight, making it just shy of 18 hours! Can’t wait…

a map of the worldOne favorable item in United’s column on this flight is the use of the new 787-9 aircraft. The 789 has much lower altitude simulated in its air pressure and has better humidity to add to it. I personally did not find the flight very tiring. Being in business class helped. I cannot imagine that long haul in coach. Back in the day Singapore Airlines used to fly a 18+ hour flight to Newark, NJ (SIN-EWR). They used a A340-500 which is now discontinued. But they operated it in an all-business class configuration, which I am sure made the flight more bearable, but made their economics more difficult. The development of more efficient aircraft like the Boeing 787 and the Airbus A350 now make these extra-long haul flight more economically viable. I am sure we will see more of these to come, especially on some real long-thin routes.

Have you flown on one of these extra-long haul (17+ hour long) flights? What has been your experience? Was it in Coach (ouch)? Leave a comment below and share.


  1. SFO-SIN (coach); SIN-SFO (polaris biz). To be honest, the flight outbound in coach was not that bad. My wife and I shared three seats between the two of us in economy plus. Here’s how it went: board; get a moderate amount of restless sleep; awaken to what is essentially the equivalent flight from the West Coast to Europe. Eat, read, movie. Eat some more. Arrive in Singapore and then… go to Bali! Note, the rotation of the Earth makes this an all night, continuous darkness trip.

    Return in Business Class is an all day slog. The lie flat bed is great for legs and circulation, but being a daytime flight, it’s really, really long.

  2. 18.5 hrs in mid air on DL DXB/ATL due to wind / detour. I was in C+ so it ain’t bad with 3 meals, fancy water bottles, snacks, tons of movies / shows in between naps. I heart flying and DL service is generally good (I was PM and now DM).

  3. I recently flew EZE-DOH on QR, which is actually routed via GRU making it total of +19h on the aircraft! Due to some delays departing GRU I counted 20:43h from gate to gate (and total of just under 18h on the air) . Qatar’s fantastic service in business class made this whole day of flying just the best part of a business trip connecting to PVG.

  4. Thanks @David. I have actually never taken the SIN-SFO coming back. First trip I returned thru NRT and second thru PEK. For whatever reason (knowing my company – price) the return routing just worked out that way for me. And yes, an all daytime flight can be more cumbersome.

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