Herald reporter Grant Bradley files his story while 37,000 feet up on the world's longest flight. Fortunately, there was no cattle class on this slog.

10:30pm: Longest flight in the world lands in New York after 17 hour, 23 min marathon.

Singapore Airlines flight SQ22 has claimed the title for the world's longest after covering 16,563km, from Singapore to New York.

The Airbus A350-ULR touched down at Newark airport after what Captain S L Leong said was an important flight for the airline.

He said it was an "auspicious occasion" for the airline which is pushing hard into the United States.


The flight overtakes the Auckland-Doha service by Qatar Airways as the longest in the world.

Singapore Airlines budgets an average of 18 hours and 45 minutes for the flight. Today's inaugural flight landed early, helped by strong tail winds across the North Pacific and across Canada.

The plane with no economy class - it has business and premium economy- was packed for the first flight.


Nearly 13,000km into the flight my Lobster Thermidor was served.

Not just any Thermidor - this was the classic, one of the first celebrity chef Julia Child would be proud of.

The Lobster Thermidor - it was as good as it sounds.
The Lobster Thermidor - it was as good as it sounds.

Flight attendant Rani served up an Australian lobster tail sautéed in butter, flambéed in brandy, sprinkled with cheese, and served with creamy mushroom sauce, garlic and spicy mustard, and buttered asparagus.

It was as good as it sounds.


With a little more than three hours to go the cabin's dark sleep is happening for some on a flight that's been enjoying tail winds of more than 100km/h over Canada where we flew over places like La Loche, Great Falls, Calgary, Slave Lake and Fort Resolution.

The airline has high hopes for the service to New York where we're landing at the end of a week when financial markets have been spooked.

Senior Vice President sales and marketing for Singapore Airlines Campbell Wilson said the the financial sector is important and a key contributor to the loads on the all-premium plane with both cities being financial centres.

But there was also the pharmaceutical industry, resources and manufacturing executives who would also make the trip.

"An economic downturn would not be good but were confident and this aircraft was purchased when fuel was more than $100 (a barrel) and we know there's going to be ups and downs but the economics of the aircraft and fundamentals of demands should allow us to ride through," says Wilson.

Re-launching the service it's easier because it's familiar ground (it flew an older model Airbus from 2004 to 2013.

He said there was thoughts about putting in a lounge in the plane.

"This is a long distance and high cost operation and we want to use the space for revenue generation."

Nearly 14,000km gone, another 2500km to go.

Grant Bradley travelling courtesy of Singapore Airlines
6pm: Aboard SQ22 - 12,000m above northern Canada

I've learned the Wi-Fi is a bit average over the North Pacific through Alaska and Northern Canada.

It wasn't rocket fast over Asia but adequate, has gone on the blink for most on board as we fly over wild places at the north of the globe. Free Wi-Fi vouchers for everyone on board means its a race for bandwidth.

Slept for an inflight personal record five hours as we flew past Japan and over the North Pacific and have woken up to a cabin rousing itself and lights slowly coming on and having well and truly knocked the bulk of this flight off.

Members of the 13-member cabin crew take turns to get a total of about five out of 19 hours off to rest in crew bunks, in the ceiling at the rear of the premium economy section.
Right now the next main meal service is being prepared.

Among options there's beef cheek in red wine sauce, citrus braised shoulder, famous Singapore fried rice, braised egg noodles with seafood or an omelette or if you've planned ahead and used the airline's "Book the Cook" service there's an even wider range of dishes - including the passenger favourite Lobster Thermidor.

The airline has teamed up with a high profile (in the US) "wellness retreat" - Canyon Ranch which has its lighter food and non alcoholic options on the menu too. You can also watch a video on the enormous seat back screen in which one of "wellness architects" takes you some suggestions for achieving calm, and a restful flight.

It seemed sensible rather than naff.

There's a handy stretching band in your amenity kit to exercise with in your seat our standing up.

Some on board are doing this for work, others have targeted the inaugural flight because it's just that.

Vipin Bagga, a New Delhi restaurant owner has done first flights out of his home city before but his enthusiasm for aviation encouraged him to book on SQ22.

"I wanted to be a part of history," he said.

But standing out from all on board were a bunch of T-shirt wearing enthusiasts - The First to Fly group. There's nearly 10 of them on board throughout the plane. They scrimp and save for these inaugural flights and on this one came from Ireland, Singapore and Britain.

They reckon there's about 20 active members and the most travelled of them all, Isabelle Chu reckons she's done at least 75 per cent of Singapore Airlines' inaugural flights since getting the bug in 2003.

"It's a very expensive hobby," she says.

Just on 12,700km gone, 3700km to go.

8am: More than 2800 km travelled, 13,200 to go.

The Singapore Airlines A350-ULR we boarded early today had never had a passenger in it before. It had only done a ferry flight from Airbus in Toulouse, France to the airline's hub.

''It's been sitting on the ground waiting for you guys to get on board,'' command pilot captain S L Leong told journalists before what will become the longest commercial flight in the world - Singapore to New York.

''We want to save it for you guys, pristine condition, untouched.''

Three and a half hours into the flight it still has that new plane smell but passengers are making themselves comfy. The amenity kits have been handed out, the socks and slippers are on and the first signs of snoring's begun.

It's a full plane with 161 passengers on board - aircraft this size can carry around 300 but because of the massive distances it flies, passenger loads are limited for comfort and to carry more fuel. There are about 25 journalists from around the world - CNN's Richard Quest is on board so it's got to be an occasion.

There's no economy, just premium economy and business, where I'm enjoying the space and the prospect of stretching out.

The JAMCO-made business class seats are arranged in a 1-2-1 configuration and for anyone familiar with Singapore's business cabins they're near identical to those on the Boeing 777-300 it flies to Auckland, only newer, as in brand spanking.

This is the route the first flight will take tomorrow morning. Photo / Supplied
This is the route the first flight will take tomorrow morning. Photo / Supplied

The airline's done it nicely - doing away with overhead bins down the middle of the cabin, giving the feeling of much more space.

Inside the flight deck of the A350-ULR shortly before takeoff. Photo / Grant Bradley
Inside the flight deck of the A350-ULR shortly before takeoff. Photo / Grant Bradley

So far the specially selected cabin crew have served up the first of two main meals with a choice of beef hor fun, steamed lobster dumplings in 'superior soup' and pan seared lion head snapper. The snapper was just fine.

There's a fairly formidable array of top wines, cocktails - including the inevitable Singapore Sling - and other liquor but the airline has teamed up with health resort specialists Canyon Ranch I'm conducting an experiment, avoiding alcohol on this flight.

The Agave lemonade with a hint of ginger apparently has antioxidants, anti-inflammatory benefits and boosts energy levels. So far so good.

It's an inaugural flight so there are a few more goodies - cute little bears and a pair of souvenir glasses handed out to all passengers. No pyjamas though - the airline believes most passengers don't want them.

There's a relaxed mood among those who haven't nodded off, helped by the subtle lighting palette. There are a few bumps west of the Philippines but this is a very quiet plane; you hear things like the financial big wheels talking deals.

Captain S L Leong is in command of the first A350-ULR commercial flight. Photo / Grant Bradley
Captain S L Leong is in command of the first A350-ULR commercial flight. Photo / Grant Bradley

The LED lighting system capable of producing over 16 million colour combinations and according to Airbus enables realistic simulations of different times of the day, such as sunrise and sunset, helping passengers to acclimatise to different time zones.

From what I've been told by an expert, there's fat chance of beating jet lag on this assignment- the body is hard-wired to adapt to one or two time zones a day. For me the total journey (including the Auckland to Singapore leg) will span 17 time zones.

We departed from Changi Airport a couple of minutes behind the scheduled departure at 11.30pm local time (4.30am NZT) after a ceremony near the gate which culminated in a mini-cabaret act by the airline's performing circle.

We're heading over the North Pacific rather than the more direct route over the North Pole to pick up jet stream tail winds between Japan and the Aleutian Islands.

Winds of 200kph were forecast to be blowing towards the United States overnight, meaning our flight would likely be closer to 17 hours 30mins than more than 18h 45m average that the airline has allowed for.

Still, the plane will burn about 127,000 litres of fuel - weighing 99 tonnes. We took off at just over 300kph with 137,000 litres on board leaving leeway for contingencies for the flight of around 16,000km.

The plane can carry a total of 165,000 litres, without the need for additional tanks but Captain Leong says he only carries what he needs to - including contingency fuel.
because the more he carries the more he burns.

He's one of four pilots who share the work on this plane. He'll be off for his first rest break soon - he reckons he pulls rank and has the first takes the first of a four- to five-hour nap. Leong says any pilot who can't get to sleep quickly doesn't do so well flying long haul. The in-joke is that if you're struggling to nod off - read a flight operations manual.

Wouldn't mind one of those myself.

• Grant Bradley is travelling courtesty of Singapore Airlines