Singapore Airlines axes the world’s two longest flights, between Singapore and Newark/Los Angeles

Buried deep in a press release about Singapore Airlines’ new A350 and A380 order, they also revealed that in the fourth quarter of 2013 they’ll be discontinuing the world’s two longest flights, namely between Singapore and Newark/Los Angeles:

As part of the deal, Airbus has agreed to acquire SIA’s five A340-500s, which will be removed from service in the fourth quarter of the 2013 calendar year, in line with the Airline’s policy to maintain a young fleet. This will result in the cessation of non-stop flights between Singapore and Los Angeles and between Singapore and Newark, in the absence of replacement aircraft in the SIA fleet with sufficient range and operating economics.

This is interesting given that Singapore only took delivery of their five A340-500 aircraft in 2003 and 2004, so these are hardly old aircraft. And while they do tend to maintain an extremely modern fleet, these planes are still newer than a majority of their 777-200 fleet, which was delivered as far back as 1998.

So I doubt Singapore is discontinuing these routes because of the need to retire these planes, but rather is doing so because they’ve been given a convenient opportunity by Airbus as part of a larger deal.

Singapore has always struggled somewhat with these ultra longhaul flights. Initially they had business class and premium economy on them, and then a couple of years ago they removed premium economy so they would have just 100 business class seats. That reduced the weight of the aircraft somewhat, and also let them focus on selling their new business class product.

The issue with the route is probably twofold  — the A340-500 is a gas guzzler, and operating any ultra longhaul flight is extremely inefficient. The A340-500 can carry roughly 400,000 lbs of fuel, so when you think of how much of it you’re burning just to carry that extra weight for the first portion of the flight, it really is quite expensive. So I doubt this was ever an especially profitable route for Singapore and they kept it around mostly for the prestige, though are probably happy to have the opportunity to get rid of it.

Singapore’s only service out of the New York area now will be to Frankfurt, with connecting service to Singapore. While Frankfurt isn’t that far out of the way when flying from New York to Singapore, there’s still something a bit weird about Singapore Airlines no longer operating any service out of New York directly to Asia (wherever it might be).

Singapore Airlines does release award space on the flights between Newark/Los Angeles and Singapore to their own KrisFlyer members (transfer partners with Membership Rewards), so I’m quite tempted to try and redeem miles for the last flight once the date is announced. Hopefully it’s not as touching as the 747 retirement flight, or I may need to bring a box of tissues. 😉

Comments

  1. Shame to see it go but no real surprise, I could never see how this would work economically. Personally I am not sure there is anything “strange” about SQ not having any service from NY, before this flight they never did anyway. And heck Newark ain’t New York anyway 🙂

  2. this is surprising to me as the EWR-SIN flight is constantly sold out… good luck getting a seat 3 days before departure. even at the $5k OW price point it was always in demand.

  3. Once the two SQ flights you mentioned go away, does this mean QF 8 between DFW and Brisbane, Australia is now the world’s longest commercial flight?

  4. I am lucky to be flying SIN-EWR this Jan 9th. Was going to change it, but with this news today I will hang on to it. So this route will be RIP?

  5. @beachfan – But would the revenue they get from partner redemptions be enough to offset the cost of operating the flights?

  6. In 2004, I traveled on the very first flight between Singapore and Newark on this route. We received a postcard, a momento (I think it was like a statue). An awesome ending to a great graduation trip in Thailand. Sad to hear it’ll be gone.

  7. Most of the time I don’t really care to be on the first revenue flight for a new aircraft or first route flights. It also seems to require a bit of luck and a willingness to make last minute changes unless you have connections.

    On the other hand, I did actually feel a little bad when I realized I had missed my last chance to fly the Concorde. That aircraft made no economic or environmental sense whatsoever, but it was still something I wanted to have tried before it was over. A bit like some folks want to fly to the edges of our own planet’s atmosphere. Doesn’t really accomplish anything but it makes you feel like you experienced something rare and unique I suppose.

    Something about these flights makes me feel the same way. The cost of fuel and the unlikelihood that it will decrease appreciably in the future has been putting pressure on ultra long haul routes for years. Among those routes it’s SQ that probably has the best product in addition to the longest flights.

    So anyway, my question is this. I have miles with UA, AA, and UR. Can any of those be applied (or laundered) toward these flights in some way? Even though I’ve hedged my bets by earning with members of the two largest alliances and the top non-branded card I’m doubtful I can do anything with SQ barring some sort of computer system failure. 🙁

  8. @ Dax — Unfortunately the only program through which you could redeem for this is KrisFlyer, and they partner with SPG and Membership Rewards. That being said, if you have UR points you shouldn’t have much of an issue swapping them for Membership Rewards points with a fellow points nut.

  9. Hi Lucky;

    The last bit of advice on swapping UR for MR points is perhaps not good.

    Chase has been actively enforcing the T&C of UR account to UR account transfers by summarily cancelling the cards. It has to be a spouse (or perhaps business employee in the case of Ink). I’d advice everyone to follow the T&C closely, at least for now.

  10. @Brian L

    I wasn’t saying they should continue the flights, I was saying the should allow awards until they discontinue. It would be positive marginal profit if the planes have low load factors.

  11. Word on the street is that the 345s are due for a D-check shortly after Airbus takes possession, which is why the economics work out nicely for Singapore.

  12. Oh, and @Thomas #3: the SYD-DFW leg of that flight is slightly longer than the DFW-BNE leg, but yes, that Qantas flight is now the World’s Longest.

  13. Didn’t points guy use UA miles on EWR SiIN route not so long ago. I was under the impression that they had started to occasionally release seats on these flights?

  14. @lucky

    yes, that’s right. But then you are just trading an award for an award, not UR points for MR points. Having UR points just means you can do a few different airlines awards.

  15. Shame to see the routes go- shared knowledge of the route with friends and family who would look rather wide-eyed when they heard they were 18-19 hours long nonstop.

    It’s funny- after these routes are terminated, all of Singapore Airlines’ routes from the US will require a stop somewhere else first before continuing to Singapore…

    I wonder who’s going to get the planes after Airbus- whoever does is going to have to basically gut the whole interior. Unless Airbus pays for a retrofit themselves. I’m guessing that not a lot of airlines will be able to make a profit on routes with an A340 that has fewer seats than a standard A320/737…

  16. @ Chris — Right, I believe he booked it back in March when Singapore first started releasing saver first and business class award space on their new product to their KrisFlyer members. For a brief period they also released that space to Star Alliance partners, though that space was quickly pulled.

  17. Lucky: Guess we got lucky on flying both to be discontinued SQ flights. Better half and I are flying the EWR-SIN with return on the SIN-LAX in March of 2013. Would you know which direction the EWR-SIN flys? Thanks —

  18. I flew this sector on 6th Dec 2012. The flight was only partially full. No wonder SQ wishes to retire this sector.
    The flying time just sped past.
    The wifi on board was working. (in spite of a board announcing its non-availability at the boarding gate area).
    It was a wonderful and memorable flight.
    Feels good to have done it.

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