Airlines are not shying away from new ultra long haul flights these days and United Airlines is the most recent entrant into that field. The carrier will be launching nonstop service between its hub in San Francisco and Singapore as flight UA 1 starting 1 June 2016. The 8,446 mile flight will operate on a 787-9 with a block time of 16:20 westbound and 15:30 eastbound. The new route is the fourth major service to be added at the SFO hub this year, joining Xi’an, Tel Aviv, and Auckland.
The route will be the only non-stop service between the US and Singapore, shaving up to 4 hours off travel time from the west coast. It will also be the new longest 787 route in the world, besting two other United routes (LAX-MEL & LAX-SYD) which currently sit atop that ranking. It will also be the longest flight operated by a US carrier, a whopping 7 miles longer than Delta’s JNB-ATL and with a block time which nearly matches (they trade depending on the day of travel). It will remain shorter than the Qantas service between Dallas and Sydney and also shorter than the recently announced Emirates service between Dubai and Auckland and also Emirates’ Panama City service, should that ever launch.
Along with this move United will drop its service between Singapore and Tokyo-Narita, leaving that market to its joint venture partner ANA similar to when it pulled out of Bangkok. United will keep its flights between Hong Kong and Singapore.
While this route has been rumored on and off again for some time I have to think that the steep drop in fuel prices helps to make this new route viable. It also helps to free up a 777 for another new route, though it will consume a minimum of 1.5 787-9 frames to make the turn. United continues to press the 787s into the “long, thin” routes they were targeted to when they were built. And low fuel costs help keep that viable. The flights – especially westbound – will be flying fuel tanks for the most part, pressing the limits of the 787-9 type.
This also means 16+ hours in economy on United’s 787. Even with the AVOD and in-flight internet that’s a long time to spend in the 9-abreast seats found in the back of the plane.