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The World's Longest Flight, in Coach

Over the Pacific Ocean It's 2 a.m. aboard Qantas Airways Flight 7 from Sydney to Dallas. The sun is rising. Time for a quick stretch, then a couple of episodes of "30 Rock." Are we there yet? Five hours remain on the 15-hour trip, the longest flight in the world with a coach cabin. It's an eternity when shoehorned into space with a mere 16 inches of hip width inside the armrests. Nonetheless, long-haul nonstop flights like this one are increasingly popular among business… ( More...

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Don Imus 0
Qantas launched its Sydney-to-Dallas nonstop flight last year four times a week and will move it to daily service this summer. Delta Air Lines offers Johannesburg nonstop from Atlanta, offering an alternative to European connections. Emirates is expanding its fast-growing network geographically, reaching Los Angeles from Dubai nonstop, for example, and Dallas next month.

"There are a certain amount of people in long-haul markets willing to pay extra to get there quickly, even though it takes a long time," said Bob Cortelyou, Delta's senior vice president of network planning.

The nonstops are possible as more commercial airlines add more ultra-long-range jets to their fleets. The latest offerings from Boeing and Airbus all can travel more than 9,000 miles before stopping for gas. And older models have extended range with strengthened bodies and bigger landing gear and wheels to carry the weight of more fuel. Qantas bought a few 747-400s from Boeing Co. specially fitted with extra fuel tanks to extend their range by about 500 miles, making it possible to reach Dallas from Sydney.

Likewise, passengers are prepared for the long haul.

"You have to know how to pace yourself," said architect and interior designer Beatrice Girelli. For her, the Los Angeles to Singapore 18-hour nonstop she takes about six times a year on Singapore Airlines is like a "spa day." Working long hours on the ground, she finds that time spent six miles above Earth becomes her escape: She sleeps, relaxes, avoids work and enjoys three meals plus Italian or French movies

Real-estate executive Gerald Giannini, another regular on Singapore Air, has his own routine. Dinner after departure from Los Angeles is followed by a sleeping pill. He wakes up after a full eight to nine hours of sleep—something he never gets even on 12-hour trips to London.

"People hear 18 hours and they freak out. Once you're on it, you understand," he said. "It's a lot less wear and tear on my body than the old way."

Singapore Air pioneered ultra-long nonstops when it began flying 18 hours from both Newark, N.J., and Los Angeles to Singapore seven years ago. Most Singapore Airlines flights stop in Tokyo or Frankfurt to get from the U.S. to the other side of the globe, but the nonstops have found a devoted following among frequent travelers.

The airline launched nonstop U.S. flights offering both business-class and a premium-type coach cabin. But demand for business class tickets was much stronger. For the first time in the airline's history, business class saw higher percentages of seats filled than coach, said Singapore spokesman James Boyd, so the airline switched to a luxurious all-business-class configuration, with 100 lie-flat beds on a plane big enough to carry more than 300 passengers.

Singapore said it charges, on average, about a 20% premium for the nonstop flight over one-stop trips. The flights save about four hours over flights with a Tokyo or Frankfurt stop.

For a trip at the end of this month, for example, the business-class fare from Newark nonstop to Singapore was priced at $8,446 round-trip, while business-class from New York's Kennedy Airport with a stop in Frankfurt for the same dates was $7,446.

The convenience has overcome passenger fears of being airborne so long. Some travelers worried about the safety of flying 15 hours or more. Others worried about dehydration in arid airplane cabins and the risk of blood clots from deep-vein thrombosis.

"Ten years ago, people were hesitant or fearful. Now they're going more and more long-haul. We are seeing more and more acceptance, and fewer queries on the phone" with concerns, said Singapore Air Vice President Mohamed Rafi Mar.

Delta loads up extra water, drinks, snacks and two full meals for passengers on its Johannesburg flights, which actually cover a shorter distance than the Qantas Dallas-to-Sydney flights, but take longer because of wind differences. Also, the cruise speed of the twin-engine 777 is a bit slower than the four-engine 747. The Delta flight is the longest in the world on a plane with two engines.

Flight attendants get two 2½-hour breaks during the flight; pilots work half the flight. Crews have bunks in the ceiling of the 777.

Qantas has six 747s with extended range of about 8,800 miles (7,670 nautical miles) and uses them to fly to Buenos Aires as well as Dallas. The planes take off at speeds 5 knots faster than regular 747-400s because wings have to produce more lift for the heavier plane. Flights from Sydney to London still have to make a stop—no commercial airliner can yet do that without making a stop.

Adding the Dallas flight let Qantas tap into the huge hub of its partner, American Airlines, adding 59 additional routes to the Qantas network. As a result of all those connections, the flights have been performing well since they started in May, said Stephen Thompson, executive manager of global sales for Qantas. Round-trip fares on that route typically cost $1,500 to $2,000. For a trip in early February, for example, a nonstop flight from Dallas to Sydney and back cost $2,052, while connecting service through Los Angeles cost $1,692.

Because of headwinds going back to Australia, the Qantas 747 has to stop in Brisbane for fuel. When weather has been bad, flights have had to make occasional fuel stops, but Qantas said it hasn't been any different than other long routes.

Mr. Thompson said service on the ultra-long flight is much the same as on 12-hour trips to Los Angeles. "The key is to entertain people and get them to relax," he said.

On board the trip in November, Mary Paulus of Okeechobee, Fla., curled up in two seats in coach to sleep. She paid $40 extra to reserve an aisle seat, then had an empty middle seat next to her. She slept, ate and still had time to watch three movies.

"What are you going to do? You know when you get on it's going to be long," she said.

Still, Earl Russell, like so many other passengers, was restless. After being airborne for 12 hours, it seemed well past like time to land, but there were still three hours to go. Mr. Russell, a government employee on his way home in Leavenworth, Kan., tossed a blanket over his head and tried to go back to sleep.

"It's just a very long flight," he sighed.
i thought the longest flight was Newark to Singapore?
Kevin Bush 0
It was noted that it is the longest flight WITH COACH.
Don't forget LAX-BKK at 16.5 hours.
John Casebeer 0
I am pretty sure the longest nonstop flight in the world is Singapore SQ21 Singapore to Newark on an A340-500. This is just splitting hairs as Sydney to DFW is plenty long!
John Casebeer 0
You are correct. They have discontinued the economy seat on SQ in favor of all business. My apologies.
Chris Donawho 0
I remember those JFK-SVO (Moscow Sheremetyevo) flights on PanAm (damn that sounds old). Being an exchange student during the climax of the Cold War was something most folks could never imagine and I was lucky enough to witness it first-hand.

Those outbound flights were great! Nobody wanted to go to Russia in the late 80's to early 90's so I had an entire tail section of a 747-200 to myself and any young lady willing to take her pants off for me - a sort of Mile High initiation and subsequent refresher ratings. Hell, we had entire rows to ourselves so it wasnt the contortionist mess in the lav, but instead plenty of room to.....

The return flights were jam-packed full of mostly Russians/Soviets, who waited months or years for permission to leave. Obviously, Mile High considerations were out the window and so the trip back left a lot to be desired. We're talking 10 hours here so I can feel for the folks who sit on a plane in coach for 15 or 16 hours.

As my experience would suggest, opinions of these long-haul flights can differ greatly. On one side you have an 18-21 yr old getting laid everytime he flies east and then the westbound leg yields an experience akin to flying in a sardine can (smells included) for 10+ hrs. The best of both worlds I suppose.
You make me want to go to Russia now on Pan Am...
Louis Krupp 0
Thanks for sharing.
Typical American attitude...thats why nobody likes the USA, you want everything brought to you. The world is INCREDIBLY beautiful and if you get a chance you should explore your country as well as others, it will broaden your horizons and by the way..the USA in terms of being inhabited is less than 300 years old. Europe, Asia, Africa are thousands and thousands of years with people on should check out what they have to offer..not everything here in the USA is number one.
Those bloody Yanks!!!
kenish 0
I'm a Yank and agree with you. But North America has had "thousands of years with people" too, not "less than 300 years"...unless you mean by Europeans. Need to broaden *your* horizons??
jim garrity 0
THRUSTT, please get me the 800# for Pan-Am so I can get booked to Russia,thanks. Oh by the way, I remember yesterday like it was yesterday! (I'm getting old).
That was Chris up above that did those flights. I'll go though...
wxmeddler 0
I've done IAD To JNB before.. but this is a tad longer. JNB to JFK non-stop averaging 16 hrs on a A340-600.
chalet 0
Years ago I had a really hellish experience when trying to fly British Airways from LHR to MIA on a 747. Flight time was 10 hours which was OK even it was Economy, but we had to wait 4 hours to board and 3 more hours inside the plane before leaving!!. LHR had been fogged in for the entire week-end and both incoming and outgoing traffic was hell. There was no food at the airport nor BA cared to serve any while sitting down, and I don´t want to describe the situation inside the loo, on the ground and inside the aircraft.
Bob Leapley 0
Used to fly as Russian linguist in RC-135's out of Fairbanks to Barents Sea and do a 6 hour mission and fly back with two aerial refuelings for over an 18 hour flight.
John Hale 0
Well you still have to throw the ORD-HKG flight by UA in there. 15hrs in coach been there done that. It's even worse if it's your first time to fly that far even though I love flying.
Jeffrey Smith 0
That was my first flight overseas. The pilot came over the intercom and said that since we were going to be in the air for 15 hours, and the 747 could only remain airborne for 16 hours on a full tank of gas we had to pull in and top off the tanks after waiting for 15 minutes to receive clearance from Russia to enter their airspace. Thank God I had quit smoking several years prior! It was not a bad flight and even though I am 6ft. 2in tall and weigh well over 240 lbs, I still was in good shape when we landed. You have to get up and walk around often and drink lots of water.
Still, long enough to stop my complaining when I get upgraded from NY to LA!!
Daniel Baker 0
Some of the confusion here may be that I believe SYD-DFW (with coach) is the longest flight in distance, but not by scheduled block duration....that's why there are multiple claims of being the longest (e.g., airtime, etc).
outofh2o 0
Great Resource:
erniekovacs 0
Maybe I have missed seeing it but I don't recall anybody saying there was a pot of gold at the end of the flight. There are such things as phone, tax, teletype, Skype, instant mesaging, "white board"..........etc to conduct business. And as for as personal pleasure..........I haven't heard or read about anything worth 15+ hours of flying. Enjoy the good old USA as far as I am concerned. Yes, I have been to Europe and Asia but......
The world is beautiful, and worth it...
Chris Donawho 0
Chris Donawho 0
Teletype? Dont forget beepers...
Hopefully you don't get faxed on using the tax...
Wingscrubber 0
This should be more than enough reason to demand the return of Supersonic air travel - I love flying but being on a plane for that long sounds like hell to me.


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