First nonstop flight between Singapore and Los Angeles
by Nureza Ahmad
On 3 February 2004, Singapore Airlines (SIA) launched its first A345 LeaderShip nonstop flight service between Singapore and Los Angeles, United States. The 14,700-kilometre journey was made possible using the new, long-range Airbus aircraft, the A340-500. The inaugural Flight SQ20 departed at 4 pm from Singapore Changi Airport and landed 16 hours later at 4 pm local time on the same day in Los Angeles.1 It set a new record for the world’s longest direct commercial flight when it was first introduced.2 From Los Angeles to Singapore, its return flight on SQ19 took 18½ hours, departing at 8 pm Los Angeles time.3
Travellers on this flight avoided stopovers at either Tokyo or Taiwan. This reduced their travelling time by two hours, but at a price: Passengers had to pay an extra five to 10 percent of the usual airfare.4
Time reduction was not the only key component in this long-haul flight. SIA had ensured that passengers were provided with adequate comfort and space, in order to reduce the likelihood of aggravated aches, pains and medical ailments (for example, deep-vein thrombosis, motion sickness and sleep disturbances) during the flight.5
For the seating comfort of passengers, only 181 seats were available in an aircraft cabin designed for 313 passengers. This allowed for more legroom and wider seating space, both for its 64 seats in the Raffles (business) Class and 117 seats in the new Executive Economy Class. The seats were 51 cm wide instead of 46 cm, making them the widest seat in the economy class at the time. The seats also had legroom of 94 cm instead of 81 cm. Business class seats, known as “SpaceBeds”, could be reclined to almost 180 deg for sleeping passengers.6
Designated lounge areas
Passengers tired of sitting in their seats could socialise at specially designed passenger corners on the aircraft, one at the front of the plane for business class passengers and another at the back for economy class passengers. At the lounges, six standing passengers could be accommodated around a countertop, where they could mingle, stretch their legs and help themselves to snacks and beverages.7
Food and beverages
Three full meals were provided for passengers on the flight. In addition, passengers could also help themselves to an assortment of snacks, granola bars, sandwiches, soups, biscuits and fruits at the lounge areas. Passengers in the economy class were also served wine, a practice that returned after it was stopped two years ago.8
Passegers could choose from an array of 19 movies, 78 television shows, 33 video games and 102 music CDs from the entertainment system built into their seats. The SpaceBeds were equipped with DVD ports.9
Frequent fliers and corporate travellers find the direct flight appealing as it reduced travelling time and hence money. The historic flight also marked the beginning of a new growth era for Singapore Airlines. It made use of Singapore’s 1997 open skies agreement with the United States which permitted unlimited flights between the two countries.10
The use of the long-range Airbus aircraft by Singapore Airlines was foreseen to strengthen Changi Airport as an aviation hub. Direct connections could be made from this region to almost all parts of the world without the need for a transit stopover. Furthermore, the flight schedule provided customers travelling in each direction a wide choice of connecting flights to other parts of the region.11
1. Chellam, R. (2004, February 3). SIA charts ultra long-haul routes. The Business Times, p. 9. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
2. Goh, C. L. (2003, October, 16). SIA direct to US, a world’s first. The Straits Times, p. 4. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
3. Kaur, K. (2004, February 15). 18-hour flight? So fast so good. The Straits Times, p. 12. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
4. Teo, G. (2003, October 26). Long haul fright. The Straits Times, p. 18. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
5. Teo, G. (2003, October 26). Long haul fright. The Straits Times, p. 18. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
6. Goh, C. L. (2003, October, 16). SIA direct to US, a world’s first. The Straits Times, p. 4; Teo, G. (2002, June, 8). Singapore Airlines: It’s a great way to lie (flat). The Straits Times, p. 13; Chellam, R. (2004, February 14). Mind the wind on ultra-long-haul flights. The Business Times, p. 2. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
7. Kaur, K. (2004, February 15). 18-hour flight? So fast so good. The Straits Times, p. 12. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
8. Chellam, R. (2004, February 14). Mind the wind on ultra-long-haul flights. The Business Times, p. 2. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
9. Kaur, K. (2004, February 15). 18-hour flight? So fast so good. The Straits Times, p. 12. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
10. Goh, C. L. (2004, February 4). SIA can widen its reach in US now. The Straits Times, p. 1. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
11. Goh, C. L. (2004, February 4). SIA can widen its reach in US now. The Straits Times, p. 1. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
The information in this article is valid as at 2016 and correct as far as we are able to ascertain from our sources. It is not intended to be an exhaustive or complete history of the subject. Please contact the Library for further reading materials on the topic.
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