United Launching Mind Numbingly Long 18 Hour Los Angeles – Singapore Non-Stop Flight

A year and a half ago United announced non-stop Singapore service which commenced in June of last year. It was a clear shot across the bow of its Star Alliance partner Singapore Airlines (they haven’t been especially close in years) which offered only one-stop service to Singapore.

Singapore Airlines launched non-stop San Francisco – Singapore service in October using an Airbus A350, pushing it towards the high end of its range but offering a far better inflight product than United on the route.

Now United has announced that they will begin non-stop Los Angeles – Singapore service which is an even longer flight beginning October 27 and utilizing a Boeing 787-9 aircraft.

Here’s the schedule:

    Los Angeles – Singapore, 8:55pm – 6:50am+2, United flight UA37
    Singapore – Los Angeles, 11:00am – 10:15am, United flight UA38

The Singapore – Los Angeles non-stop will be scheduled to arrive same day as it departs, it will be one of the Asia -> West Coast U.S. flights that “time travels” arriving even earlier than it takes off.

Until very recently Los Angeles – Singapore would have been the world’s longest flight, however at 8770 miles it is slightly shorter than Dubai – Auckland (Emirates, 8824 miles) and Doha – Auckland (Qatar, 9032 miles).

The westbound flight to Singapore will clock in at 17 hours 55 minutes versus ‘just’ 15 hours 15 minutes eastbound.

United’s Existing B/E Aerospace Diamond Business Class Seats As Shown on a Boeing 757, Similar to Their Existing 787 Business Class

United’s New Polaris Business Class, as Seen on a Boeing 777-300ER

Fortunately United’s 787-9 cabin is premium heavy with 48 business class seats compared to 30 for American’s 787-9. However until they receive a retrofit these are six-across (2-2-2) business class seats where you climb over a neighbor or a neighbor climbs over you to use the lavatory unless you’re seated in the middle section. That’s far from a preferred configuration on one of the world’s longest flights, and that’s in business class. United Economy for nearly 18 hours is almost unfathomable.

And you won’t even be stuck with United for non-stop Los Angeles – Singapore for long, because Singapore Airlines plans to fly both Los Angeles and New York – Singapore once it receives its new Airbus A350ULR (“ultra long range”) aircraft next year.

Singapore’s A350-ULRs will reportedly have business and premium economy seating only, no coach which is striking since Singapore’s economy seat is far more comfortable than United’s and features a foot bar and drink holder.

Singapore Airlines Airbus A350 Business Class

United’s press release claims “The flight between LAX and SIN will set the new distance record for any airline operating a flight to or from the United States, at 8,700 miles.” However that’s not true. Singapore Airlines used to operate Newark – Singapore non-stop which clocks in at 9534 miles.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community InsideFlyer.com, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. United’s press release IS true. Maybe SQ operated a longer flight in the past, but they do not now. So, until somebody starts a longer flight, it is true for the time being.

  2. I remember doing this with SQ on a 744 with a stop in TPE, first… my first 744 flight. 🙂 So many memories!

  3. @Jason the sentence does not say it’s a “new distance record for current flights” it says it’s a new distance record for any airline operating a flight to or from the United States,

    Singapore operated a flight to and from the United States that was longer. So United has not set a new distance record that they appear to suggest.

    They are merely announcing a new longest current flight from the U.S. that is expected to operate before the record is broken again by Singapore Airlines’ announced plans to fly New York – Singapore again.

  4. Even though I live in LA, I would rather fly to SIN out of SFO, so that I can get the additional 1,000 miles for LAX-SFO-LAX. It depends on price, though. Nice to have a choice.

  5. you’re reading into this a bias. They dont say for any route EVER”.
    they say: The flight between LAX and SIN will set the new distance record for any airline operating a flight to or from the United States, at 8,700 miles.

    This implies currently operating, not ever operating.

    And currently, there is no longer flight. So I dont think they’re lying or untrue.

  6. @Jason – I disagree, a record is a record, it refers to what’s been achieved so far. A distance running record refers to something in the past. A home run record refers to something in the past. If you’re talking about a record and limiting the scope, you need to limit it. In baseball that might mean referring to “the modern era” for instance. Or “the inter-league play era.”

    United’s claim here, with respect to setting the record for distance from the US, is wrong.

    A better claim would be “will set the record for longest current flight from the U.S.” (and of course that record will be broken shortly thereafter).

  7. @Jason: reading comprehension pls. Either that or you don’t understand the meaning of the word “record”. When people say “100m world record”, they don’t mean the fastest runner on any given day.

    United’s claim is false on all accounts.

  8. I have not flown a United 787 in any class, so I don’t have a direct comparison. But I have flown a lot of UA “first class,” and I have flown the SA SFO-SIN direct in biz. You couldn’t pay me to take this flight with UA.

  9. We’ve done the long CTU-SFO flight which was just under 16 hours and it was Ok. The seat was comfortable, but I don’t know if that’s because we’d already flown SIN-CTU and it was like 4AM when the UA flight departed and we were exhausted. Crew in J was terrible. Several times we’d ask for something and the crew would just turn the other direction and walk away. Probably the worst service we’ve ever gotten in J.

  10. AA has offered plenty of longer itineraries in recent months, most of them award flights between places like Flagstaff and Peoria.

  11. I did the now defunct SQ SIN-LAX nonstop on their all business A340-500. Thought the flight was pretty neat, but it did have an all SWA feel, as everyone was in the same class! 🙂

  12. I cannot imagine flying UA in Y on this nonstop route. Anyone who knows anything (or has someone to advise them) would do far better with another airline, or booking a flight with a long layover to stay at an airport hotel.

    I’ve done the DL ATL>JNB flight in J lie flat, but when I must travel in Y I always route through Europe or DXB and arrange for a stopover. A shower and a good sleep midway allows me to end my trip feeling somewhat human and able to function, thereby eliminating a post-trip 3-day recovery period.

  13. Interesting that they have enough demand for this route from both SFO and LAX. I guess the 787 is a relatively small aircraft. This is clearly the type of mission the aircraft was designed to serve.

    Logic would suggest the US airlines would suffer on transpac service from quality concerns vs. Asian carriers. I know I book away from them. But apparently many people don’t.

  14. I get itchy just flying from Chicago to Milan… argh. What’s that like, 18 hours without getting off the plane? In coach? I’m going to Singapore in the fall. Chances are I’ll break it up somewhere; just can’t stand those long flights. And UA isn’t my favorite. Years ago I remember taking something for 13 hours from LAX to Shanghai. Hemmoroid express, you betcha!

  15. OMG.
    You would have to pay me $1000 per hour to fly 18 hours in economy.
    As hours in flight exceed 12 the number of faintings, fully used bathroom, and diabetic comas approaches 100% of the passenger load.
    There has to be a math formula for calculating the suffering.

  16. Who cares if it’s a distance record! They can’t hype their service so they have to make a big deal out of the length of the flight. I just flew the 787 in biz/first a few days ago and it wasn’t very comfortable. Being stuck in coach for 18 hours would be like being sentenced to prison. I personally think the AA 787-9 is lousy and in first/biz and it’s only 4 across. United crams 6 seats across in the same cabin! That is 2 more extra seats than AA. Do yourself a favor and fly Singapore if you’re flying to Singapore especially in biz or first..

  17. @losingtrader — I’m always amused at the “horror” stories about ultra-long haul coach travel from people who avoid it. Having flown at least a dozen such flights, I can attest to the fact that they are uncomfortable. But all ultra-long haul flying is uncomfortable — and it doesn’t really matter if you stop somewhere along the way or you fly it nonstop. Everything else equal, it’s less painful to fly nonstop. Regardless, the discomfort is modest. My butt tends to start hurting a little after 12 or 14 hours. It’s more a slight discomfort than actual pain. In the scheme of what humans can endure, though, it’s nothing. And paying a lot more money to fly upfront doesn’t make you any more refreshed when you arrive — it’s just slightly less uncomfortable along the way.

  18. Why do you Americans always refer to the back of the plane as “Coach”? It’s Economy Class. It is what it is reflective of the price paid.

  19. Just FYI. Economy class, also called coach class, steerage, or standard class, is the lowest travel class of seating in air travel, rail travel, and sometimes ferry or maritime travel.

    I guess those of us who have been traveling for years are used to calling it coach. Here’s an article going all the way back to 2000. Those were the days when airlines actually did something to alleviate discomfort for their passengers. These days management does the complete opposite and crams in as many rows as possible into their planes no matter how uncomfortable and how unsafe it may be.

    American Air to Put More Room in Coach
    By REUTERSFEB. 4, 2000
    Continue reading the main storyShare This Page
    American Airlines said today that it had begun removing two rows of coach seats from all its aircraft to ease the crowded conditions faced by most passengers.

    Citing its most frequent customer complaint, American said it would strip a total of about 7,200 seats from its 707-plane fleet, or about 6.4 percent of coach capacity.

    ”Then we’re going to use the space once occupied by those seats to provide more room for passengers throughout the cabin — row after row after row,” Donald Carty, chairman and chief executive of the AMR Corporation, American’s parent company, which is based in Fort Worth, said at a news conference in Washington.

    Among complaints he cited were being ”packed in like sardines,” laptop computer woes, inability to cross one’s legs and having a passenger in front reclining in one’s lap.

    When the $70 million project is complete, about 58 percent of American’s coach seats will have a ”seating pitch” of 34 inches or more.

  20. A lot of people on here that are saying that you couldn’t pay them to take the flight… I just want to chime in and say that I for one am willing accept all serious offers to be paid to take this flight!

  21. As someone who commutes twice a year with a family of 4 from Singapore to LA, this non-stop is great! Less likely for the kids to miss a connection when flying alone, and cuts 3 hours off current timing.

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