Qantas robbed of longest flight by Emirates and then Singapore airlines

By Bjorn Fehrm

Oct. 14 2015, ©. Leeham Co: The planned “Flight 21” of Singapore Airlines between Singapore and New York would rob Qantas Airways of the title of flying the longest direct flight in the world come 2018.

Qantas operates today’s longest flight, the one between Sydney (SYD) and Dallas- Ft. Worth (TX) (DFW), using its Airbus A380. Emirates plans to take that crown next year with a Dubai (DXB) to Panama City (PTY) flight, Figure 1. It’s fractionally longer than the Qantas flight when comparing great circle distances (the 2015 and 2016 label).

Qantas CEO Allen Joyce just announced that the airline plans to take that title back when the Boeing 787-9 arrives in 2017. This aircraft enables direct service to London Heathrow (LHR) with flights from Perth (PER) in Western Australia, a flight of 7830nm or 18 hours, labeled 2017 in Figure 1.

Longest flights 2015-2018

Figure 1. Worlds longest flights 2015 to 2018. Source: Great Circle Mapper.

As can be seen (label 2018), the 2018 A350-900ULR “Flight 21” from Changi airport Singapore (SIN) to (we assume) Newark (EWR) close to New York places the title firmly back to Singapore Airlines for the world’s longest commercial flight. (Singapore Airlines is a Star Alliance carrier; Newark is the primary hub of Alliance partner United Airlines.)

The new generation of Boeing and Airbus airliners make 18 to 19 hours flights possible as their fuel efficiency enables a break-even for a premium-heavy flight. Premium seat customers are also the ones interested in paying for a direct connection, thereby avoiding a stop-over which will cost them 4-5 hours travel time in each direction.

The Qantas plans for direct connection between Australia and the UK and Singapore’s reopening of the New York flight shows that we are entering in a new era of air transportation, the return of the Ultra Long Haul flights. There will be very few megacities which will not have direct connections going forward, at least for the business traveler.

27 Comments on “Qantas robbed of longest flight by Emirates and then Singapore airlines

  1. I’m so not looking forward to being stuck in economy from PER to LHR on a 787…

  2. When will flights from London to Sydney come? New York to Sydney? London to Honolulu?

  3. The planed Qantas PER to LHR 787-9 connection might be direct, but I recon it won’t be nonstop. This distance seems to long for a 787-9, so that makes me think there will be a short technical stop for refueling.

    • The plan is for non stop, from what I understand.
      It would require a flight path over Crimea and / or Eastern Ukraine, which may be problematic for some time however.
      The other main stumbling block is alternate airports – although RAAF Base Learmonth could handle it in an emergency I believe.

      • There is no “plan”. It was merely raised as a possibility. My thoughts are that there isnt enough premium traffic to justify the fuel costs and importantly use up a precious Heathrow slot.
        Some of these ultra long hauls are only viable when they use little trafficked air routes ( like over North Pole), putting them through dense air corridors like ME to Europe or USA NE seaboard to Europe just kills any efficency as you cant follow the tail winds or are slowed by heavy traffic ahead.

        • Oh I think there’d be enough premium traffice London-Perth. Perth is reknown as the home town of Kevin Bloody Wilson, a muscian of fine repute….

  4. There is very little demand for aircraft designed for ultra long range; the A345 and B777-200LR both sold just over 50 units. But if Airbus can achieve extreme range on the A350 with some modifications to the fuel system the A350ULR should be successful in niche markets. It should be remembered that the A345 was designed in an era where four engines were required for very long range overwater routes. It is interesting to compare data , from Airbus website, for A345 and A350-900. The 345 had a max TOW of 380 tons and a fuel capacity of 215,260 litres, while 350 was 268 tons and fuel for ULR now increased to 165,000 litres. This shows the gains over a generation due to improvements in airframe and engines. The numbers suggest a fuel improvement of around 25% on long flights, and if 350 can carry 170 premium passengers it may well make SIN-EWR profitable.

    • I believe A350-900ULR has a maximum takeoff mass of 280 metric tons, not 268.

      • A 100 tonne lower MTOW, which is about the MTOW of an A321.

        In other words, the ULR compared to the A345 sheds the whole weight of a large fully laden narrowbody aircraft to do the same mission.

        • Not quite ‘shed the weight’ as its the fuel that is not required to be carried. The zero fuel weights are the more useful comparison you are looking for, and its mostly in the order of 30-40 tonnes.

          • Was just trying to illustrate how much less take off weight the ULR starts out with to move c. 170 passengers over the same distance.

          • Whatever the exact number, a dramatic change in fuel efficiency for ULR.

            What is the breakdown of percentages of crew cost, fuel, and aircraft costs for ULR? How much of a premium on ticket price for the extra crew on board to fly one leg instead of two legs? Plus they take up the weight or potential space of revenue passengers. An extra $200 per leg? What’s the premium for fuel for flying one 18 hour leg on an A350 vs two legs? $200 per pass.?

  5. If the 787-9 can theoretically fly from Perth to Heathrow, so can the A350-1000 and A350-900 and the current 777-300ER.

    This 787-9 will either have to stop for fuel or will be modified like the A350 ULR to carry less but more premium passengers.

    I dont understand the constant comments about the bad choices for ULR routes and crticisms of the A350 ULR. Numerous 777-8 planes were sold, and likely, more ULR routes will open such that these carriers can compete with each other.

    Knowing what we know now about the A350 wing and proactive design, it would not be surprising at all if an A350-1000 LR or even the original the A350-900R (an “XLR”) emerge for increased capacity if markets demand it. This would in direct competition with 777-8.

    It will also be interesting to see what aircraft will replace the A340’s crossing the south pacific and indian oceans~ LAN, A Argentinas, SAA

    • LAN is already using 787-9 across the pacific, Aerolinas Argentinas doesnt fly that route anymore but Air NZ is planning on using 777-200s when it starts flying that route.
      South African is looking at widebody fleet renewal, but its financial outlook is poor as it loses money on most longhaul

      • I thought LAN is still using the A340 for that. I thought the 787-9 can not because of ETOPS.

        • I just read the article. The 7878 is not ETOPS certified for that LAN route but “it is up to the individual national aviation regulators “to follow………interesting. Loop holes to cut costs. Off all planes, the 787?? Never in a million am I stepping foot on that flight?

  6. Kant,
    I took the figure of 268 tons from the Airbus website, info for 900ULR was not available.

    • The A350-900ULR incorporates a number of necessary changes over the standard A350-900. These include a higher capacity fuel system within the existing fuel tanks, increasing fuel carrying capacity from 141,000 litres to 165,000 litres.

      The A350-900ULR has an MTOW of 280 tonnes. The extended range capability is achieved without installation of additional fuel tanks and the aircraft can be reconfigured easily to the standard A350-900 long haul specification.

      http://www.airbus.com/presscentre/pressreleases/press-release-detail/detail/airbus-launches-new-ultra-long-range-version-of-the-a350-900/

    • “268 tons”

      There is already a 275t MTOW variant around.
      ( IMU just like on the 787-8 to compensate for the
      early frames being overweight but there to stay
      beyond the empty weight coming down to/below design targets )

      another 5t more should not pose nmuch of a problem, right?

  7. With an increased MTOW, won’t the max. engine thrust have to be increased too (ie from 84k)?

  8. Singapore-NY, in an apples to apples comparison, what is the cost premium for nonstop? What’s the time savings, 5 hr? What’s extra cost to the airline for a premium economy or business seat to fly that seat nonstop? Does somebody flying premium economy value their time at $60/hr or does somebody flying business value their time at $100/hr?

    • Just look at similar long haul v non stops on any online booking site.
      Do you want non stop across pacific or stop via hawaii for say Sydney to LAX.
      Another location is SE Asia to Europe, choose non stop or stop over in ME

  9. Seeing as How I won’t be flying any of them my time does not matter.

    Back in the day I took what I could get (or the company decided). Sometimes cattle class and sometimes business.

    Business was much nicer but I got there regardless.

  10. It’s clear then, that efficiency improvements are dramatically magnified on long range missions.What about very short range? I wonder if this why Ryanair bought 737 800 ng last year (as well as a very good price) A lot their routes are very short, you might well drive if it wasn’t for the English channel. The other thing that interests me is the effect of efficiency improvements to tankers. It’s a bit more complicated to work out, but it can only be a very good thing, particularly on missions that are so long that the tankers have to take on fuel.

    • needing fuel to to carry fuel is an exponential relationship.
      sfc sits in the exponent.

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