Are we there yet?
Like most experienced travellers, The Gentleman Economist occasionally gets wistful recalling really long flights, suppressing painful memories of so many hours yearning to simply be home in one’s own bed.
The war stories include:
- Shanghai -> San Francisco (6,150 miles)
- -> Istanbul (5,000 miles)
- San Francisco -> Tokyo (5,124 miles)
- -> Hong Kong (6,925 miles)
- -> São Paulo (6,472 miles)
- -> Seoul (5,658 miles)
- -> London (5,367 miles)
- -> Paris (5,583)
- Frankfurt -> Los Angeles (5,806 miles)
- Vienna -> Bangkok (5,256 miles)
None of these would have been any preparation for Singapore Airlines’ non-stop Singapore to Newark flight that ran from 2004 until last fall and took eighteen hours to complete. At 9,533 miles it was the world’s longest commercial flight.
One engineering problem on really long flights is the need to bring lots of extra fuel, of which at least half is consumed providing enough power to fly the other half. For the first few hours you’re basically ramming your way through the atmosphere with your nose tipped up just to stay aloft. On these flights the planes departed with over 222,000 liters aboard, which weighed more than ten times the weight of the passengers.
Another engineering problem is apparently people sometimes die in flight so the Airbus A340-500 planes were modified with a special compartment to store a corpse. I suppose you can fool passengers into thinking someone’s asleep for only so long. A wag might propose a headline for the New York Post: “The flight was non-stop; he wasn’t”.
It’s also interesting that for the Great Circle Route when they left Singapore they headed almost due north, passing near the North Pole. You almost have to hold a globe in your hands to believe it works.
For an airline that specializes in ultra-long haul flights, go with Emirates. In the strange alchemy of air travel destinations and non-Euclidian geometry, their hub in Dubai manages to be both at the center of the world and centrally isolated in the middle of nowhere.
Bring a pillow and an iPad and give silent thanks to Orville and Wilbur Wright.