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Oct 24, 2018,  by Allianz Partners Business Insights

Airbus: new A350 ULR to fly almost 19 hours non-stop

Singapore Airlines has just taken delivery of the latest Airbus, designed to cover a distance of 16,700 kilometres without a layover ­– the equivalent of a flight of around 18 hours and 45 minutes. This new aircraft, of which seven have been ordered, will enable the airline of offer direct – and very comfortable – flights between Singapore and New York, and then Singapore and Los Angeles, from the end of 2018.

On 22 September in Toulouse, Singapore Airlines took delivery of an Airbus A350-900 ULR – a new model capable of covering half the globe without a single layover, according to Le Point. The airline has ordered seven of this "Ultra Long Range" craft, fitted with 161,000-litre fuel tanks around the wings (as opposed to 141,000 for the standard version).

This quantity of fuel will enable the plane to fly around 20 hours and does not require an extra tank in the hold, optimising the space available for transporting freight containers and baggage. A commercial service from Singapore to New York-Newark (16,700 km) will begin on 11 October, followed by flights to Los Angeles from November. In the long run, 27 flights a week will link Singapore and USA without a layover.


4–6 hours less travel time


For around 3,000 euros for a single in premium economy class, passengers will save  4–6 hours flight time in comparison with regular flights that have a layover. On certain days, the price of the ticket could even work out to be less than for flights with a stop-over. As regards comfort, the A350 ULR only has 161 seats (67 in business and 94 in premium economy) as opposed to 253 on other A350s, but the quality of the seats in premium economy is almost that of business class on other airlines.

Each of the 12 members of the crew – double-staffed, with a captain and a co-pilot – will get 4–5 hours of rest on the flight and will be required to have a minimum of 48 hours off beforehand, and then a three-night layover in New York. "Fatigue levels will be relatively low compared with other flight patterns," said Dr Philippe Cabon from the University of Paris-Descartes, who is a member of the panel of experts who studied the launch of ultra-long-haul flights for Singapore Airlines.


IFE, connectivity and personalised meals


Passengers on board the A350 ULR will have access to Internet (for a fee) and an in-flight entertainment (IFE) system with 1,500 programmes (films, box sets, music etc.) which they will be able to access via smartphone. They will also be able to make personalised playlists in advance. Singapore Airlines is planning to serve meals to its travellers based on the time zone at their destination, which can be ordered free of charge 48 hours before the flight via Internet using the "Book the Cook" option.

The airline will be battling for the record of the longest non-stop flight with its Australian counterpart Qantas, which is currently looking at a London-Sydney flight covering 17,000 km in 20 hours and 20 minutes on-board future A350-1000 ULRs. Turkish Airlines meanwhile has announced the launch of a flight from Istanbul to Sydney in a Boeing 787 for June 2019, likely also without a layover.


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