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Why the Longest Nonstop Flights Are Ending

Fuel costs are behind the demise of Singapore Air’s 19-hour nonstop
A technician inspects one of the Rolls-Royce engines powering a Singapore Airlines Airbus A340-500
A technician inspects one of the Rolls-Royce engines powering a Singapore Airlines Airbus A340-500Photograph by Bloomberg News

Manpreet Gill, the Singapore-based head of fixed income, currencies, and commodities investment strategy at Standard Chartered’s wealth management unit, is preparing for a loss on one of his most valuable assets: his time. On Nov. 25, Singapore Airlines will stop its 100-passenger daily run from Singapore to Newark, N.J., the world’s longest nonstop commercial flight. After that, Singapore Air passengers such as Gill who are used to making the 19-hour slog in one sitting will have to fly to New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport after a stop in Frankfurt—adding five hours to their journey. The carrier is stopping the all-business-class service on a four-engine Airbus A340-500 after ending the second-longest flight, from Los Angeles to the island city, on Oct. 22. The routes’ well-heeled flyers are not pleased. “The more time you add on the way,” says Gill, “the further it keeps you from either working or being at home.”

The demise of the two signature flights is the latest sign that the airline industry is putting profitability ahead of glamour. With oil prices tripling in the past decade, Singapore Air has struggled to ferry executives like Gill on the ultralong flights profitably for the past nine years. “The plane burns a lot of fuel but carries very few passengers,” says Siyi Lim, an analyst at OCBC Investment Research in Singapore. “It didn’t make sense to continue.”