How does 19 hours on a plane sound?
Singapore Airlines is bringing back the longest flight in the world this week, nonstop from Singapore to Newark on a brand new kind of Airbus A350.
(From 2004 to 2013, Singapore flew the route with a less efficient A340. Rising fuel prices ultimately made that operation uneconomical.)
While it may be the longest flight now, 19 hours is nothing compared with some of its predecessors.
In 1936, Pan American Airways started the first passenger service between San Francisco and Manila — via Honolulu, Midway, Wake Island and Guam. The first leg of that trip alone was originally more than 21 hours.
Just eight days after mail service began on that route a year earlier, The Times ran a headline exclaiming, “CLIPPER TRIMMED SCHEDULED TIME; Reached Manila From Alameda in 59 Hours 47 Mins., Instead of 60 Set, Musick Says.”
Even then, airlines wanted to provide as fast a trip as possible. Their passengers probably would have loved seat-back TVs with video on demand, too.
The ability of airlines to deliver fast, direct trips was — and is — constrained by fuel. As one analyst told The Times when Singapore retired its previous Newark-Singapore flights, “ultralong-haul flights like this are essentially flying jet fuel tankers.”