Note: Since I first published this review, I have traveled on these flights many times and the service experience is still excellent. Sadly, however, Singapore Airlines has announced that this direct EWR-SIN service will end some time in 2013, doing away with the current longest flight in the world.
It’s been nearly three years since I first wrote a number of articles about the ill-fated EOS Airlines and Silverjet, the once high-flying all-business-class airlines that jetted daily between New York City and London, and, believe it or not, I still get thousands of hits on those entries each month. These various articles prompted many comments from fellow EOS fliers, a number of references in other online articles and even a few comments from the old EOS executive team. Airline enthusiasts have even emailed me, asking if I had any sorts of “memorabilia” from EOS, the 48-passenger 757 airline that provided tremendous service (For the record, after 10 round-trip flights, all I have is a few amenity kits and a copy of their magazine).
Here’s reminder of the EOS seat, which I’ve previously published.
If you fast forward a few years, all the old hoopla might surpirse you, given that a number of mainline airlines have introduced comparable levels of international business class service. British Airways, for example, continue to run OpenSkies/L’Avion, while they also just started an all-business class service from New York to London City Airport on the miniature Airbus A318. Singapore and Emirates have introduced first-class “suites” which, despite having a hefty price, provide the massive personal space that EOS used to give you. There is no doubt that the highest levels of business and first class service will continue to be pushed as airlines continue to revamp their products.
I recently had the opportunity to experience Singapore Airlines flights SQ21 and SQ22, which have some pretty interesting designations: These are the longest scheduled commercial non-stop flights on earth and they are both services in an all-business-class configuration. Given the historical interest in this topic, I figured that I should, once again, recap my experiences.
SQ21 flies from Newark Liberty International Airport (in New Jersey – a New York City area airport) to Singapore’s beautiful Changi International Airport, while SQ22 handles the return leg of the journey. Scheduled at 18 1/2 hours and 18 hours 15 minutes of flying time, respectively, they are the longest non-stop scheduled flights today. Take boarding, taxi and landing time into configuration and you’re sitting in the same seat for nearly 20 hours each leg. The flights are run on a specially-configured Airbus A340-500 (A345) with 100 seats in an all-business class configuration. The flight was originally offered in a three class configuration – offering First, Business and “Executive Economy” services – until being retrofitted with SA’s massive, signature business class seats throughout the plane.
On board, the configuration is an impressive 1-2-1 layout, which gives you a sense of the massive size of these seats. For comparison’s sake, Emirates their 777 buisiness class in a 2-3-2 configuration on an airpline which is only 1 foot wider in the cabin (19.3ft width on the 777, 18.3ft width on the A345). When Singapore says that they have the “widest business class seats in the sky”, they aren’t joking. And for the arm and leg charged for a round-trip ticket, they shouldn’t be.
I am a tall guy with very wide shoulders and my width easily spills over into any adjacent economy seat when I fly. The massive width of these seats is very welcoming to me, particularly on a 19-hour flight. The pictures, I believe, do not give the amount of personal space enough justice but, believe me, it’s impressive. The width and legroom allow for enough space to comfortably lounge while you are watching a movie or having a snack. The seats then flip down into a 6’3″ fully-flat bed, which does require you to sleep on an angle if you are tall (I didn’t have a problem with it).
Views of the A345 cabin and the extra-wide business class seat:
This video will probably give you a better sense of the cabin:
So what the hell do you do on a 19-hour flight? Work. Eat. Sleep. Watch lots of movies and TV. Luckily Singapore provides quality services in each of these categories. The meals are first-class, and I do not mean that figuratively. They truly provide the quality of service that you would expect from first class international service on most other airlines. While there are scheduled meal services throughout the flight – three full meals served, as you might expect – you are welcome to dine at any time off of their extensive menu of meals and snacks.
The in-flight entertainment system contains hundreds of movies, television shows and music albums. The latest revision of the system also includes an iPod plug-in, which allows you to play any movies stored on your iPod directly on the personal 20-something-inch LCD television at your seat. I watched an entire season of Mad Men between all of my flights, which I just downloaded from the iTunes store the evening prior. There are also standard RCA A/V ports, USB charging ports and power sockets at each seat.
Pictures of the available A/V connections and the wide-screen LCD at every seat:
In-flight service is superb, but SA has always had the reputation of having the best service in the industry. The famous “Singapore Girls” are very good at what they do.
Service at the airport will vary depending on location. Since Singapore does not operate a lounge at Newark, they rely on the SAS Lounge in Terminal B, which is not particularly elegant or exciting. Food options are limited, space is cramped and it can appear a bit worn at times. On the Singapore side, however, the Business Class Lounge in SA’s new Terminal 3 is among the best that I’ve ever been in – probably only surpassed by the Emirates First Class Lounge in Dubai. Gleaming marble, wonderful, comfortable seating, excellent full meals, a full selection of Macs and PCs, and newspapers and magazines from around the world.
Pictures from the business class lounge at Singapore Changi Airport:
Singapore’s spotless new terminal at Changi Airport:
All in all, Singapore does a phenomenal job at making you feel comfortable during this killer flight. It should be noted, however, that the flight sceduling means that the overall experience for each leg can be very different. The EWR-SIN leg leaves at 11:30 in the evening, so you can easily waste half of the flights away snoozing in your super-wide sleeper seat. The SIN-EWR return, however, departed Changi at 10:30 am, which means that you could be sitting awake at 10:00pm Singapore time and realize that you still have nearly 6 hours left to fly after already having flown 12 hours!
And, unfortunately, the tiny LCD screen on your seat’s remote control is always more than happy to remind you of just how much time you have left in the air:
Postscript #1: I also flew Singapore’s business class, round-trip, on a 777 from SIN to Sydney. The seats, configuration and level of service is comparable, although the A345 in-flight entertainment system is slightly updated and includes the iPod connection, while the 777 does not.
Postscript #2: As a frame of reference, at the time of this writing, I have flown international business class on Singapore, Continental, British Airways, Silverjet, EOS, Emirates, Delta, Qantas, Virgin Atlantic, KLM, Northwest and Air France.