Flights

That 18 hour United flight between LAX and Singapore

With the launch of new non-stop service between Los Angeles and Singapore, United Airlines set a new distance record among U.S. airlines flying to or from the United States.

Thanks – or rather, due – to headwinds facing westbound aircraft, the published length of the 8,700-mile trip from Los Angeles International Airport to Singapore’s Changi Airport clocks in at whopping 17 hours and 55 minutes, with the return/eastbound trip scheduled to take ‘just’ 15 hours and 15 minutes.

While still long, for many travelers this flight significantly shortens the journey to the Lion City. Until now, passengers had to make a stop somewhere along the way.

“This flight shaves hours off that journey,” said Patrick Quayle, Vice-President of International Network for United Airlines.

The new LAX to SIN flight (UA37) is scheduled to leave Los Angeles daily at 8:55 p.m. and arrive in Singapore at 6:50 a.m. two days later, local Singapore time. The return flight (UA 38) leaves Singapore’s award-winning Changi Airport daily at 11 a.m. and is scheduled to arrive at Los Angeles International Airport at 10:15 a.m. the same day, local time.

United also serves Singapore with a daily non-stop flight from San Francisco, which at 8,466 miles is now the second longest scheduled flight operated by a carrier from the United States.

In addition to being the longest flight from the United States to anywhere in the world, the new United Airlinesnow holds the record for both the longest (LA – SIN; 8,700 miles) and second-longest flights (SFO – SIN; 8,466 miles) on Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner aircraft. That record is destined to fall in March, 2018 when Sydney, Australia-based Qantas begins flying a 787-9 Dreamliner aircraft between Perth and London, a distance of about 9009 miles.

While these will be the longest flights on Boeing 787-9 aircraft, they won’t be the world’s longest flight. That record is currently held by Qatar Airways, which flies between Doha and Auckland, a distance of 9,032 miles.

Courtesy UNITED

Shortening the flight time between Los Angeles and Singapore is not only appealing for leisure travelers heading to Asia, it gives Southern California an economic edge.

“Over 71 Singaporean companies have operations in the six counties of Southern California,” said Stephen Cheung, President of the World Trade Center, Los Angeles, “They create over 3,300 jobs for the local region and together contribute over 200 million in annual wages. So this new direct flight increases the opportunity for Singaporeans to invest in Los Angeles.”

If you’re going to be on a plane for 18 hours – or any long stretch of time – comfortable seating, upgraded amenities and the aircraft can make a difference in how you feel on arrival.

United’s 8,700-mile non-stop flight is serviced by a Boeing 787-900 Dreamliner with 252 seats: 48 in Polaris business class, laid out in a 2-2-2 configuration; 88 premium economy seats and 116 economy seats, in a 3-3-3 layout.

While the 787-9 United used on this route doesn’t have its newest Polaris business class seats (and won’t be retrofitted with them for several years), the business class section does have lie-flat seats and benefits from the airline’s Polaris service, which includes Saks Fifth Avenue-branded bedding and fleece-lined slippers.

The aircraft itself offers benefits to long-haul fliers. The composite carbon fiber material (as opposed to aluminum) used to make the aircraft means the cabin pressure and humidity can be higher than on other airplanes. That makes passengers feel as if they are flying at a lower altitude than on a standard flight and can helps cut down on the fatigue, dryness, and jet lag travelers usually experience.

United Airlines is about to retire its entire fleet of 747 aircraft, known as the “Queen of the Skies,” and through January 2018 is giving passengers flying in Polaris premium cabins a collectible 747-themed amenity kit.

In addition to amenity-kit basics such as a travel toothbrush, toothpaste, tiny tissue pack, ear plugs, lip balm and hand lotion, this kit contains some commemorative items, including 747-themed socks, a 747-themed padded eye-mask and a pack of five 747-themed trading cards. There are 15 commemorative 747 cards in the full set, giving passengers on the 18 hour LAX to Singapore flight, and others, an excuse to strike up a conservation and swap cards along with road warrior stories.

     

Eating and snacking are important on a long haul flight. United’s Polaris passengers on the Los Angeles to Singapore flights can plan on having a four course dinner, with ice-cream sundaes and Asian sweets for dessert, breakfast before arrival and a choice of serve-yourself snacks, including Ramen noodles, sandwiches, fruit and candy during the flight.

Singapore Airlines, which – like United – flies direct between San Francisco and Singapore, plans to re-introduce direct flights between Los Angeles and Singapore soon. For now, though, United Airlines is the only carrier offering direct flights between LAX and SIN.

Last week, after dipping to as low as $177 for a short time, roundtrip economy fares for United’s non-stop flights between Los and Singapore were as low as $600 (including taxes) for some early December flights.

(My story about United Airlines’ new 18-hour flight between Los Angeles and Singapore first appeared in a slightly different version on CNBC).

 

Snaps from World’s Longest Flight from the US

On Friday evening, United Airlines launched what is (for now) the World’s Longest Flight from the U.S.: an 8, 7000 flight between Los Angeles and Singapore.

Scheduled to take 17 hours and 55 minutes, the flight actually arrived more than an hour early.

I’ll be doing a few reported stories on the flight – and how to survive such a long airplane journey – but for now here are a few snaps from the pre-flight festivities.

Flight crew lines up for a group picture before United flight 37 takes off.

 

Plenty of props on hand to help celebrate the inaugural.

Business class seats stocked with Polaris bedding.

More pictures to come. Along with an hour by hour report on my (rough) journey. Thanks, United, the for the ride to Singapore.

 

Getting ready for the World’s Longest Flight

I travel to Los Angeles today so that I can join United Airlines for the launch of their LAX to Singapore flight tonight.  At 17 hours 55 minutes, this will grab the title as longest flight from the U.S.

I’ll be one of the lucky ducks flying in the cabin of a 787 offering United’s swank Polaris service and surroundings but, still, that’s an awfully long time to spend on a plane.

So I’ve been putting together a list of activities and projects to make sure I stay occupied, entertained and productive.

Here’s what I have so far:

Watch some movies.
Learn some Italian (Next month: trip to Florence!)
Hem pants
Get to inbox zero
Have (only) one drink
Check out the menu, but don’t eat too much.
Charge Fitbit. Get my 11001 steps.
Interview at least 4 other passengers about how they are staying occupied.
Finish two or three assignements due next week
Start that will.
Outline my next book.
Finish reading that book about King Leopold.
Sleep some. Or a lot.

What else should I add?

Of course, I said yes to flying to Singapore because what many believe is the World’s Greatest Airport is there. Singapore Changi, with multiple gardens, free movie theaters, a giant slide, cool art, over-the-top floral installations, shops galore and much, much more, is a destination unto itself and while I’m in town a brand new terminal opens.  Joy!

Comparing airlines, airports by on-time performance

Travelers use all manner of measurements to choose an airline to fly on or an airport to fly through and beyond price, punctuality is high on some lists.

Flight informatoin company OAG gathers oodles of on-time performance data and twice each year shares an ‘award’ ranking airlines and airports with OTP star ratings, 5 being the best.

For U.S. airlines, the latest list – found here – give high marks to Delta’s performance.

“It not only topped its mainline competition, but finished ahead of smaller airlines such as Alaska Airlines and Sun Country Airlines,” OAG notes. “In a U.S. air travel ecosystem that relies on major hubs, it’s easy for a single delay or cancellation to knock an entire day of flights off schedule. Despite managing one of the largest fleets in the world, Delta has remained a cut above its competitors. Southwest (78.9 OTP), American (78.8 OTP) and United (78.5 OTP) all performed admirably, earning 3 stars respectively.”

When it comes to airports, the standouts are Salt Lake City International Airport (earning 5 stars for an 85.2 percent on-time performance), Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport (82.9 percent), Detroit Metropolitan Airport (83.1 percent), Charlotte Douglas International Airport (82.2 percent) and Minneapolis St. Paul International Airport (85.1 percent).

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Greetings from Austin

 

On Monday, June 12, Delta Air Lines kicked off its new non-stop flights between Seattle-Tacoma International Airport and Austin Bergstrom International Airport.

The new year-round, daily flights depart Austin daily at 7 a.m. and arrive in Seattle at 9 a.m. Flights depart Seattle daily at 5 p.m. and arrive in Austin at 11 p.m

I flew on the inaugural flight from Seattle to Austin and, before the flight, passengers were treated to live music, snacks and these special cookies.

 

 

There are a couple of other options for folks who want to fly non-stop between Seattle and Austin. Both Alaska Airlines and Southwest serve this route.

Stay tuned for more snaps from my tour of the airport today.