One of the world’s longest flights to return


As the coronavirus outbreak spreads, travelers are becoming fearful of flying leading major airlines to cut their flights and change their policies.


One of the world’s longest flights is going to be restored next month, a hopeful sign for Americans anxious for global travel who aren’t deterred by the coronavirus pandemic. 

Singapore Airlines announced Tuesday it is bringing back its nonstop between New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport and Singapore’s Changi Airport, flying three times a week starting Nov. 9. 

At a scheduled 18 hours, 40 minutes, the flight is few minutes shy of the airline’s longest from the U.S., the Newark, New Jersey, to Singapore route, which remains suspended.

But airline officials say the time is right to add an East Coast ultralong counterpart to nonstops it has continued to operate between Los Angeles and Singapore, scheduled at a little less than 18 hours in the air. Only Singapore citizens or those with long-term passes, however, have been allowed into the country.

Though Singapore shut its borders months ago, the Southeast Asian trading center has been gradually easing restrictions to allow foreigners to transit to other countries through its airport, Bloomberg News reported. 

Aside from travel restrictions, there’s also the issue of safety aboard on an ultralong flight when fears still abound about the chances of being infected by the virus. The airline hopes passengers will be reassured by its enhanced cleaning schedules, the air filtration systems it uses aboard the Airbus A350-900 jetliners it uses for the ultralong flights and face mask requirements.

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“There are some early signs of optimism about a recovery in air travel,” Lee Lik Hsin, an executive vice president for Singapore Airlines, said in a statement. “Our customers say that they are increasingly confident about air travel, given the robust health and safety measures that are in place, as well as testing regimes to protect them and our staff.”

A Singapore Airlines Airbus A350-900 lands at Changi Airport in Singapore (Photo: WALLACE WOON, EPA-EFE)

The return of the ultralong flight underscores that consumers are anxious to get back in the air, said Henry Harteveldt, industry analyst for the Atmosphere Research Group in San Francisco.

“People want to travel and our research shows in Europe, the U.S. and Asia, the desire to travel remains strong,” Harteveldt said. He pointed to a survey that his firm conducted in July in which 84% of those participating in the U.S. agreed with the statement, “I can’t wait to travel again.” He said there were similar strong responses in eight other countries, ranging from 77% in Germany to 90% in China.

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The problem, of course, has been the inability for those who want to travel to find a means to do so. And if countries didn’t bar them outright, some have imposed quarantine periods that potentially could ruin any vacation.

“A lot of that has not been accessible to U.S. travelers who want to go abroad,” he said. “The traditional popular destinations over the summer, throughout Europe, throughout Asia, have been closed.”


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