A friend recently described her recent longhaul flight with a 4 and 2yo as a ‘living hell’. The 4yo was mostly fine, immersed in a world of screen time and snacks. Her 2yo, who doesn’t like TV (what? what? what?), needed constant entertaining or would commence a whining binge, before conking out about 20 minutes before the flight landed. Now that flight was a paltry 12 hours long. Imagine another 7 hours chucked on top of that and you’ve got yourself a date on the ‘world’s longest flight’.
Yes my friends, Singapore Airlines is the latest to enter the ‘ultra-longhaul’ madness with a 9,535-mile flight from Singapore to New York. Beginning in October, it will offer a daily service between Changi airport and Newark clocking up an 18 hr and 45 minute journey time. I can tell you now (and Jetlag & Mayhem are a flight-worthy 9 and 6 years old) that they won’t be visiting the city that never sleeps just yet. I’ll save that for when we are based back in London.
Interestingly Singapore Airlines have decided this route deserves a jet seating only Business and Premium Economy passengers. As The Times writes ‘The new service will beat Qatar Airways, which flies Auckland to Doha using the Boeing 777-200LR in 17 hours 40 minutes. It is 750 times longer than the world’s shortest commercial flight, the 90-second hop on Loganair between Westray and Papa Westray in the Orkneys’.
I have been based in Asia for the past 14 years and regularly fly longhaul back to my home town of London. Since 2009 I have been accompanied by Jetlag, then Jetlag & Mayhem and have experienced many nightmare flights involving parenting fails. There was the flight when I had the norovirus and spent the 12 hours clutching an Air New Zealand toilet bowl. There was another where my 2 year old refused to sit down for the duration of the flight and I had to chase her around the cabin. There have been numerous vomit/poo/orange juice spillage incidents. But all of this was crammed into 12 hours. I simply cannot imagine adding another 6 to the fray….
So my question, dear reader, is whether you would consider an ‘ultra-longhaul’ flight with your kids or whether you prefer to break up the journey with a stopover? Would an ultra-longhaul flight give you access to a destination you wouldn’t normally have considered for a family trip? Or will you avoid like the plague?
We travel from Asia to America each summer and I never really question the fact our total combined flying time is usually around 18 hours. We fly the first 12, then get off and loiter around the airport before hopping on a shorter domestic flight. In fact if there was an ultra-longhaul flight option, it would certainly bring us to our destination far quicker, maximising our vacation time.
Yet I can imagine most parents with young kids, especially the ‘no-fly zone’ of 3 and under, would dread 15+ hours of flying time. Even if you bank on your child obtaining an awesome 6 hours of sleep, that’s still 11+ hours for them to be awake! Plus it’s not just young kids who can be annoying. In fact, I’ve encountered adult passengers who are far more irritating; the arm-rest hoggers, the smelly, the snorers…. Spending a day trapped with them inside an aluminium tube is also NO FUN. Plus what if your in-flight entertainment system was broken (I’m looking at you Singapore Airlines)
Spare a thought for the cabin crew too. Am assuming that’s an insane shift to work? Will they need to carry extra crew to rotate on and off? Perhaps they could revive that complimentary airline nanny service we’ve all been waiting for. Or stick a soft-play area at the back of the plane where we can send the kids? I’m still waiting for science to hurry up and make teleportation a thing.
I suppose I’m being flippant in remembering just how far we’ve come in air travel. On November 22, 1935 — the Pan Am China Clipper prepared to depart San Francisco on the first transpacific mail flight. Six days later, after five legs and 59 hours and 48 minutes in the air, the China Clipper landed in Manila. Which does makes the upcoming Singapore to New York 18 hr and 45 minute journey time look like a mere sprint…