Airlines around the world are utilizing innovations in aircraft technology and the lower price of fuel to open up long-distance routes previously unavailable to travelers.
United Airlines is the latest U.S based carrier to start an ultra-long route, announcing its intention to begin a service between Los Angeles and Singapore. This would replace United’s existing San Francisco to Singapore service as the longest flight currently operated by a U.S carrier. "We are proud that United Airlines will set a new record for the longest nonstop route by a domestic carrier right here at LAX. This historic route to Singapore will bring more flights, tourists and economic growth to Los Angeles," said Deborah Flint of Los Angeles World Airports.
This service would also surpass many long-haul flights operated by non-U.S airlines, such as Qantas’ direct route from Dallas to Sydney. Both of these are still well behind the longest commercial flights available globally, that distinction going to Qatar and Emirates services from Auckland to Doha and Dubai respectively.
All of these offerings are part of a growing trend in commercial aviation for long-haul services. Enabled by new and upcoming fuel-efficient aircraft such as the Airbus A330neo and the Boeing 787, airlines are experimenting with longer routes that fly direct between major commercial and metropolitan centers without stop-overs in between. These new aircraft, and the lower price of the fuel that powers them have opened possibilities like the speculated Qantas direct routes from Sydney to New York, or even Perth to London. "Hopefully we'll be able to fly direct from Sydney to London - we do believe that aircraft technology is going to be our friend into the future," said Qantas chief executive Alan Joyce.
Not only are there now chances to link large hubs like Los Angeles and Singapore, but there is growing interest in what are being dubbed ‘long and thin’ routes. These link smaller airports further afield that would previously have been uneconomical to service without a stop-over in a major hub, like routes direct between Boston and Beijing or Tel Aviv and San Francisco.
New aircraft such as the A350-900ULR are also allowing old and discarded routes to be resumed, like Singapore Airlines old route from their base in Changi International to New York JFK, previously suspended after it proved unprofitable.
These new routes give travelers more control over how they get to their destination, allowing them to avoid long waits at stopovers and the frustration of missed connections. It’s also allowed new budget long-distance carriers such as Norwegian Air and WOW to enter the marketplace, increasing competition and giving consumers more choice.