Do you want to fly 16 hours and 20 minutes in coach? Or even in business class?
This is a choice United Airlines travelers now have. On Thursday night, United announced it will soon fly one of the word's longest routes - from San Francisco to Singapore. No airline flies nonstop between the U.S. and Singapore. Ever since Singapore Airlines pulled its flights from Newark and Los Angeles in 2013, Singapore has been considered too far to serve profitably. [The Singapore Airlines flights, which used Airbus A340s, likely were not lucrative toward the end.]
United says the Boeing 787-9, the most advanced version of the Dreamliner, solves this problem. "Measured by distance," United says, "the San Francisco - Singapore service will be the longest scheduled 787 flight operated by any airline and the longest scheduled flight operated by any U.S. carrier, at 8,446 miles." In the past, United customers from the United States had to change planes in either Tokyo or Hong Kong. [With this announcement, United will stop flying between Tokyo and Singapore, but the Hong Kong-Singapore route will remain.]
Here are the details for the San Francisco- Singapore route, which starts June 1.
- UA1 will depart San Francisco at 11:25 p.m. daily, arriving in Singapore at 6:45 a.m. two days later.
- UA2, will depart Singapore's Changi Airport at 8:45 a.m. daily, arriving at San Francisco International Airport at 9:15 a.m. the same day.
This is a long time to sit on an airplane. But this could be a more comfortable coach ride than usual. My understanding is that this route will push the 787 to its range limit, and when that happens, airlines usually block seats to compensate. It makes the aircraft lighter and lets it fly farther. [Airlines block seats all the time for this reason, though you may not notice.]
I don't know how many seats United would need to block, and it probably depends on the time of the year, with winter being worse. But since it's possible United will not be able to sell all 204 coach seats, you might have a better-than-average chance of extra elbow room.
As many of you know, United has been on an international growth binge recently from San Francisco, announcing new flights to Tel Aviv, Auckland and Xi'an, China. A source tells me we can probably expect a couple more exciting routes from San Francisco, so I'll keep an eye on that.
United has not been nearly as active in Los Angeles, its other West Coast hub, but the source told me not to discount the possibility of another long-haul route from Los Angeles.
Do you have any guesses about what these new routes might be?