Ultra long haul aviation got a boost these couple of weeks, after Emirates plans to start a Dubai to Panama City route that will further strengthen Dubai as the world’s connecting city. In fact Emirates’ flight into Panama City will be its first into Central America. Then Bloomberg writes an article stating Singapore Airlines plans to work with Airbus into relaunching what used to be the world’s longest city-to-city route between Singapore’s Changi Airport and Newark Airport which comes in at 15,344 km (or about 9,536 miles), for a flight that would total nearly 19 hours. The longest plane ride I have been to date was onboard Qantas between Los Angeles and Melbourne for a flight totalling nearly 16 hours. Even then I was ready to get off the plane.
However, Singapore Airlines really does need the direct route to United States because of the country’s status as one of the largest economy and as the largest aviation market. With the discontinuation of direct Singapore to Los Angeles and Singapore to New York (Newark) route, Singapore flies to Houston (via Moscow), New York (via Frankfurt), San Francisco (via Incheon and Hong Kong) and Los Angeles (via Tokyo). This meant any passenger not originating their travel from Singapore needs to do a 2-stop connecting flight. That means Singapore Airlines loses its advantage when compared to Middle Eastern carriers which flies directly to New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco from Dubai, Doha and Abu Dhabi. So passengers connecting on the Middle Eastern carriers need only make 1 transfer. In the scheme of things, that is a huge convenience for business travellers. And we all know business travellers generate the highest income for airlines.
If we look at recent moves by Singapore Airlines, it includes sending their A380s to major cities in China and India. Shanghai, Beijing, New Delhi and Mumbai are recipients of direct air service to Singapore via the A380s. This move serves to congregate passengers in Singapore for connecting flights to other South East Asian cities, Australia and New Zealand. Thus restarting direct flights to the United States might win customers over since Singapore Airlines is still wanting to preserve its status as a premium carrier.
When Singapore Airlines announced their plans to discontinue the direct routes which at that time was served by Airbus A340 aircraft, a big part of the reason was due to low passenger loads and high operating costs since the A340 uses a lot of fuel due to the 4 engines and fuel costs were higher then. With oil prices dropping and Airbus having a new A350 aircraft that could have an extended range to meet the demands of this direct routing, I had envisioned Singapore Airlines would want to re-open this route with the A350s. All things considered, it looks like Airbus and Singapore Airlines might just retake the crown for the world’s longest route and that would certainly move global aviation back in the right direction.