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Singapore Air revives world's longest flight with fuel-efficient jet

Carrier sees business travel demand for nearly 19-hour route to New York

A Singapore Airlines Airbus A350-900 plane takes off at Changi Airport.   © Reuters

SINGAPORE -- Singapore Airlines will revive the world's longest direct flight in October, using a new fuel-efficient aircraft to boost profitability on a New York route that was popular with business travelers.

The ultralong-range version of the Airbus A350-900 will fly 16,700km between Singapore's Changi Airport and the New York area's Newark Liberty International Airport in 18 hours and 45 minutes, the airline said on Wednesday. The route will be the longest in both distance and flight time, surpassing the Qatar Airways flight between Doha and Auckland, New Zealand.

The Singapore flag carrier debuted the nonstop service to New York in 2004 with the four-engine Airbus A340-500. Despite the long hours, the flights were popular with business travelers for their convenience. But the airline halted the route in 2013 when fuel prices surged.

For the revived service, the carrier will target high-yield business travelers and busy jet-setters by offering the fastest travel between Singapore and New York -- the leading air hubs of Asia and North America, respectively. The cabin will consist of a 67-seat business class and a 94-seat premium economy class. Singapore Airlines plans a direct route to Los Angeles as well, using the same aircraft.

The flights will boost connectivity to and through the Singapore hub, said CEO Goh Choon Phong.

Singapore Airlines, the launch customer for the fuel-efficient A350-900ULR, will receive the first of the twin-engine aircraft in September, with all seven ordered by the company due to arrive before the end of the year. The carrier also flies Boeing's Dreamliner wide-body jet, including on routes to the "hugely important" Japanese market.

Enhancing its long-haul business routes seeks to boost passenger yields as the carrier undergoes a three-year restructuring program. These yields face pressure from the intense competition in Asia's aviation market.

Airlines globally are launching ultralong routes, taking advantage of the latest aircraft types. Australian carrier Qantas Airways debuted direct service between Perth and London this month using the Boeing 787-9, and the airline says a Sydney-to-London route might follow. U.S.-based United Airlines began flying direct from Los Angeles to Singapore last year.

Whether these services lift the bottom line for carriers remains unknown, especially as oil prices rise. But air transit hubs such as Singapore may benefit if the trend continues to spread.

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