How The Airbus A350 Is Redefining Long-Haul Travel

how-the-airbus-a350-is-redefining-long-haul-travel

It has been almost ten years since the first Airbus A350 took to the skies on June 14th, 2013. Nearly a year and a half afterward, the jet entered regular passenger service with launch customer Qatar Airways on January 15th, 2015. According to ch-aviation, there are 476 active examples of the airliner between the -900, -900ULR (Ultra Long Range), and -1000 variants, with an additional 63 inactive and 505 waiting to be built or delivered.

Some airlines use the A350 on surprisingly short routes. Take, for example, Singapore Airlines’ flight from Singapore Changi Airport (SIN) to Kuala Lumpur International Airport (KUL). This 182-mile (293 km) journey could be serviced by many aircraft, but given demand and operating cost calculations, it is flown by the non-ULR version of the -900. However, the standard -900 is capable of up to 15,372 km of flight, and the A350 family as a whole has revolutionized long-haul flying.

A history of making new “longest commercial flights”

Aviation has long been chasing after records for speed, distance, and efficiency as an industry. Routes that took passengers from places such as the United Kingdom to Australia have been around for some time but traditionally required stops (one or many depending on how far back you go). But generally, people like traveling point-to-point with no layovers; unless, of course, there’s a deal too good to pass up, you’re an avgeek with the full intention of elongating the trip to experience a new airport or airline, or simply prefer a layover to break up the flight and maybe take a shower.

A Singapore Airlines A340-500 flying in the sky.

Photo: Airbus

Fortunately, over the years, aircraft and engine designs have improved to the point where the former is possible in almost any circumstance, and the A350 plays a significant role. Thanks to predecessors such as the A340, or the lineup of widebodies from main rival Boeing like the 747 and 777, many distance records were set with flights from Sydney to Los Angeles, New York to Johannesburg, and Hong Kong to Newark. However, Singapore Airlines would make history with their fleet of A340s flying non-stop from Singapore to Newark.

Turbulent times for the extensive Asia-North America route

As it happens, this route wouldn’t last for the Singaporean flag carrier. In the early 2010s, SQ21/22 was suspended primarily because of high costs (especially fuel) and a lack of revenue. Even though the A340 could go the distance, the route didn’t make enough money. Until the introduction of the A350 family, that is.

Singapore Airlines signed an agreement in late 2015 to be the launch customer of Airbus’ A350-900ULR, a variant that, as Airbus claims, “can fly further than any other aircraft in commercial service,” a distance of nearly 18,000 km or 11,163 miles. Not only that, it does the job relatively efficiently as well.

A Singapore Airlines A350-900ULR taxiing to the runway.

Photo: Airbus

Compared to the A340, the A350 generation is up to 25% more efficient regarding fuel and emissions, all the while featuring a quieter and overall more comfortable cabin for passengers. And in 2018, SQ21/22 was back on. Except for a Covid related cease of service from 2020 to 2022, SIA’s fleet of A350-900ULRs facilitates the two longest commercial flights you can book today, Singapore to New York-JFK (9,537 miles, 15,348 km), and Singapore to Newark (9,523 miles, 15,326 km).

Find non-stop flights from Singapore to New York here.

Project Sunrise

But that’s not all for the mighty Airbus widebody. It’s impossible to talk about the current frontier of long-haul operations without bringing back a route mentioned earlier, the UK to Australia. Since 2018, Qantas has offered QF 9, a flight that takes passengers from Melbourne to Perth and then onwards to London, a 9,010-mile (14,500-km) affair. There’s also the more recent QF22, with service from Melbourne to Dallas/Fort Worth.

Both use a Boeing 787-9 and are, respectively, the 3rd and 4th longest flights available, after Singapore’s non-stop routes to the New York area. But the Australian flag carrier will soon break all these records with the eventual culmination of Project Sunrise.

A render of a Qantas A350-1000 flying in the sky.

Photo: Airbus

With the addition of 12 Airbus A350-1000s, for the first time ever, there will be non-stop service between Sydney and London, and Sydney and New York. The project was first announced in 2017 when the carrier challenged Airbus and Boeing to deliver an ultra-long-haul jet capable of the feat that has been only dreamed of; in the end, Airbus’ A350 airliner won.

“Now, the A350 and Project Sunrise will make almost any city in the world just one flight away from Australia. It’s the last frontier and the final fix for the tyranny of distance that has traditionally challenged travel to Australia.”

– Alan Joyce, Chief Executive Officer and Managing Director, Qantas Airways Limited

Qantas has not only announced an expected service start in late 2025 but has already revealed the premium cabins for what their -1000s will look like. To no one’s surprise, they appear luxurious and plenty comfortable for the extraordinarily long journey.

However, we have yet to see what they will bring for premium and standard economy classes, which will be much more important given the potential health risks of sitting in such a position for 20 hours. Notably, compared to Singapore Airlines’ -900ULRs which have no economy cabin, Qantas’ -1000s are currently expected to feature 140 economy seats in a 3-3-3 configuration.

Nonetheless, when Project Sunrise lifts off the ground in 2025, the A350 family will prominently be listed for the top four longest regularly scheduled routes, up from the top two today.

Get all the latest aviation news right here on Simple Flying!

Have you flown on the A350 from Singapore to New York? Excited to see what Qantas has in store for 2025? Let us know in the comments below.

Sources: Airbus, ch-aviation, Qantas, OMAAT

  • rsz_airbus_50th_years_anniversary_formation_flight_-_air_to_air

    Airbus

    Stock Code:
    AIR

    Business Type:
    Planemaker

    Date Founded:
    1970-12-18

    CEO:
    Guillaume Faury

    Headquarters Location:
    Toulouse, France

    Key Product Lines:
    Airbus A220, Airbus A320, Airbus A330, Airbus A340, Airbus A350, Airbus A380

  • Qantas has been flying the Boeing 787-9 from Darwin and Sydney to Delhi, India. Photo: Vincenzo Pace | Simple Flying

    Qantas

    IATA/ICAO Code:
    QF/QFA

    Airline Type:
    Full Service Carrier

    Hub(s):
    Brisbane Airport, Melbourne Airport, Sydney Kingsford Smith Airport

    Year Founded:
    1920

    Alliance:
    oneworld

    CEO:
    Alan Joyce

    Country:
    Australia

  • Singapore Airlines Airbus A350-941 (2)

    Singapore Airlines

    IATA/ICAO Code:
    SQ/SIA

    Airline Type:
    Full Service Carrier

    Hub(s):
    Singapore Changi Airport

    Year Founded:
    1972

    Alliance:
    Star Alliance

    CEO:
    Goh Choon Phong

    Country:
    Singapore

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How The Airbus A350 Is Redefining Long-Haul Travel

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