An Airbus A350-900XWB but this plane has even more initials — it's a ULR standing for ultra-long range. Singapore Airlines has the first of this new model for its world-beating Singapore - Newark/New York service. This aircraft has a modified fuel system that allows an additional 24,000L of fuel at take-off, for a total of 165,000L, without the need for additional fuel tanks. And with a few aerodynamic tweaks that means it can stay airborne for 20 hours, it did the inaugural flight in a canter.The XWB bit stands for extra-wide body. More vertical sidewalls give the cabin a bit of extra width.
: Business. This plane is a bit different in that it is entirely premium. There are 67 Business Class seats, 94 Premium Economy and no Economy. It's aimed squarely at higher-yield passengers who want to fly nonstop between two global financial hubs.
Price: Booked at short notice, a one-way BusinessClass fare between Singapore and New York is $7500and a Premium Economy fare is $3300. The plane is a premier aircraft and you're paying a premium for no inconvenient stops. The route was popular with corporates when it operated between 2004 and 2013 (using an older model, less-efficient plane) and the airline is confident it now has the right aircraft to make it pay this time around.
Singapore Airlines has budgeted an average of18hr 45m eitherway. Because of the vast distance — up to 16,700km — there are big weather variables affecting arrival time. We got in half an hour early — 17hr 23m.
Myseat: Seat 14D in the middle block of a 1-2-1 configuration. That means you've got a neighbour but you've got plenty of privacy. I was busy and so was he.
This is the same as other A350and Boeing 777 seats so it's the current generation big throne-like seat that folds down flat. You sleep on a diagonal to get get your lower legs into a recess. The mattress on top was the right firmness and there's a hard and a soft pillow for a blissful mid-flight snooze.
For working, the fold-out table is ideal for a laptop, while the universal plug and two USB cable sockets are easy to find. The seat controls are easy to spot although as they are on the outside armrest, it means they don't slide down, making for a bit of a squeeze for larger types when your table is up.
Fellow passengers: A fantastic bunch of 'First to Fly' enthusiasts (who target inaugurals), folks flying to visit relatives in North America, a few airline people and about 25 journalists from around the world duking it out over bandwidth, meaning Wi-Fi was a bit slow in those parts of the world where it exists. In thewild sub-Arctic north there was none.
Only a handful of seats vacant.
Food and drink:
The airline has teamed upwith a wellness retreat, Canyon Ranch, for input into its menu so there are plenty of new, fresh options to supplement the mighty range of inflight food and drink. The agave lemonade made for a surprisingly compelling alternative to the long liquor list which I avoided. But for the (Business Class) people's favourite you should use the Book the Cook service online at least 24 hours before your flight and order up the lobster Thermidor.
Editor Winston Aldworth made a passing reference to this recently sparking my interest in the classic. Mine was sauteed in butter, flambeed in brandy, sprinkled with cheese, and served with creamy mushroom sauce, garlic and spicy mustard, and tender buttered asparagus. It was a triumph.
For me writing about the trip, watching the Voyager Map on the big screen over far flung places at the top of the planet.
The 13-member cabin crew was specially selected so as you'd expect it was flawless. There was also a food and cabin crew manager on board to assess how it all went.
Seven of them and spick and span throughout. The orchids stayed fresh.
In Business Class, the standard allowance is 40kg.
The airport experience: As this inaugural flight was a big deal there was a party with plenty of food and drink at the gate at the excellent Changi Airport. Some of the airline's best singers put on a mini cabaret act — we were heading for New York.
The bottom line: A premium service that could be of interest to New Zealanders in Asia needing to be in New York in a hurry. It was fantastic to fly on an elegant, brand new plane on the world's longest route. I could easily have gone another few hours