March 3, 2024

Longest Flight in the World: What It’s Like to Fly 19 Hours Nonstop

Menu dishes include Hudson Valley-sourced trout with greens from the airline’s own aeroponic farm or a braised short rib with cornbread pudding. Flight attendants told me that Singaporean chicken rice is one of the most popular pre-order dishes.

Later in the flight, the mood lighting changes, even pulsing a bit at times. It’s all been thoughtfully designed to help ease jet lag as much as possible en route. The bathrooms are immaculate, and flight attendants typically clean them between passengers.

Singapore serves a meal after takeoff, but unlike most airlines, the second meal is mid-flight rather than before landing. It’s not a dine-on-demand service, like Qatar Airways, either. This is meant to follow peoples’ body clocks but may interrupt your sleep. Midway through the flight, the lights come on, and flight attendants (still as immaculate as after takeoff) present another multi-course meal service. The airline’s famous satay and peanut sauce arrived with great fanfare, which was enough to make me feel ok about having to get up in the middle of my sleep.

After that, there is no other formal meal service, but the crew can deliver a range of menu items like sandwiches, soups, and salads, at any time. Luckily, this presents another chunk of time for sleeping: On the 19-hour flight, I slept for 11 hours in varying intervals, in large thanks to the meticulous turn down with linens and pillows.

What I wish I had known before departure

Singapore Airlines has two flights a day from the New York area (JFK and Newark). Technically, the JFK flight is just a bit longer at two miles more than Newark (9,527 miles versus 9,525).

The Singapore flight from JFK leaves in the evening, which means you can eat and then sleep hours after takeoff without needing to reset your internal clock. About halfway through the flight, you can wake up and enjoy more food, movies, and drinks (or catch up on work). Since the flight is so long, you still have time for another several hours of sleep before landing in Singapore in the morning, with the whole day ahead of you.

When departing Newark, the flight leaves in the morning. This means the reverse is true: you’re up for at least the first half of the flight and then naturally ready to sleep after that. But because the Newark flight lands in the evening, you probably don’t want to sleep much mid-flight if you hope to rest on arrival.

My tips? Ask before takeoff for the exact meal service timing to mentally prepare your own sleeping and eating timetable. Also, don’t forget about Singapore’s Book the Cook service which allows you to order your preferred dish before takeoff. You’ll be able to select from more than a dozen options, which is more than what is offered on board. Lobster Thermidor? Thai or Indian curry dishes? Laksa soup? It’s all on offer (including for premium economy passengers), but only if you choose in advance.

If you’re curious about the menu, the airline makes it available on the reservation page online about one week before departure. There’s also unlimited, free Wi-Fi for business-class passengers. If I had known, I wouldn’t have downloaded so much work in advance, but I was grateful for the option to stay productive.

If you are flying premium economy, you’ll want to choose one of the solo window seats at the very back of the plane, which has extra space due to the curvature of the aircraft. But act fast: there are only six. Luckily, in business class, all seats are in a 1-2-1 configuration with maximum privacy.

Some travellers will prefer making a stop somewhere rather than such a long flight, but Singapore Airlines has a highly sought-after product. On several days this summer, the cheapest roundtrip airfare was about $2,700 in premium economy and $6,600 in business class. But, don’t be surprised to see the premium cabin reach into the five-digit range on many dates of the year. On the longest flight in the world, many fliers may want to trade cash for decent rest and more time at their destination. After all, that’s the benefit of a nonstop ultra-long-haul flight.

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