Singapore Airlines (SIA) returned to New York in early November, when it launched non-stop flights between Singapore and John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK). Services to Newark Airport were suspended at the onset of COVID-19.
SIA will operate the Airbus A350-900 long-range aircraft configured with 42 Business, 24 Premium Economy and 187 Economy Class seats on this route. Its SQ24 will operate three-times-weekly from Changi Airport to JFK while SQ23 will operate the return journey.
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In addition to passengers, SIA also anticipates significant cargo demand from New York-based industries. The new service will provide the only non-stop air cargo link from the northeast to Singapore, which serves as a regional distribution hub for many companies.
A spokesperson for SIA claims that despite challenging times, there are early signs of optimism in air travel recovery. Customers inform SIA they are increasingly confident given the robust health and safety measures in place, as well as testing regimes to protect them and airline staff. This optimism is also driven by recent moves by countries like Singapore, which are easing restrictions on transit and inbound passengers in a safe and gradual manner.
Tried and Tested
Ironically, the second last flight I took before the onset of COVID-19 was Singapore to New York and return on SIA. My last flight was to northern Italy and at one stage I thought I might be a super spreader of the disease. Mercifully, I wasn’t and lived to tell the tale of both flights.
My notes from my New York flight should provide valuable detail for those planning to travel to the Big Apple.
While SIA has changed from Newark to JFK, few will complain. This flight is currently the record holder for the world’s longest scheduled commercial flight and at over 18 hours, it is memorable. While my flight was on the same aircraft as the new service, it had a two-class configuration – Business (67 seats) and Premium Economy (94 seats). The spacious and uncluttered Business Class has a one-two-one layout with no central overhead bins.
Noise-cancelling headsets are provided as are power points and USB ports while the reading light is good with multi-settings. There is an 18-inch HD screen and numerous entertainment options in various languages. While I was happy with the selection, I consider it too ‘safe’ with an emphasis on mainstream performers and shows; a few more obscure artistes would have been appreciated. Complimentary wi-fi is fast with minimal log-on procedures.
Supper, a full mid-flight meal, pre-arrival snack and refreshments throughout are offered. Local and global celebrity chefs provide input in the various menus including ‘Book the Cook’ before flying. I opt for healthy options listed as Canyon Ranch Selection. My entrée of grilled prawns with eggplant dip, pine nut crumble, lavosh and pomegranate vinaigrette is superb. The grilled, grass-fed beef fillet with garlic Bordelaise sauce is complemented by roasted sweet potato stuffed with chard and accompanied by an onion and chimichurri sauce. It too is memorable as the steak tasted as if it were just char-grilled.
A panel of oenologists has chosen wines like Laurent-Perrier Champagne, Weinhaus Ress Riesling and Morris Classic Liqueur Muscat. I sample all for research purposes and am suitably impressed.
When passengers are ready, the 28-inch seat is transformed into a 78-inch flatbed with three generous pillows. Bed conversion requires crew assistance who revel a quilt, linen and pillows in the headboard. All provide great comfort in what SIA refer to as ‘Lazy Z’ as this is the shape your body needs to be in to sleep. On the return flight, I requested a bulkhead seat (11D) and had more leg room as there was no seat in front. There are just four similar seats on the aircraft (11D, 11F, 18D and 18F) that have extra leg space and, despite them being close to galleys, they are best for passengers as tall as my six plus feet.
There is little space to stand on the aircraft with the only options being near galleys. While there, I peek through to Premium Economy and notice the spacious conditions there. The introduction of Economy seating for this long flight is perhaps a sign of the times and a necessity for those who need to travel on a budget.
Having spent so long in the air it was comforting that I did it in the good hands of Singapore Airlines with its professional crew.
Disclosure: The writer flew with the assistance of Singapore Airlines