In it for the long haul: An Alaska guide to long international flights

We Alaskans fancy ourselves to be travelers. It’s true — we fly more than the average folks in the U.S.

But when it comes to long-haul flying, there’s more expertise at other gateways: Seattle, Los Angeles and New York. After all, the longest flight from Anchorage is the summer flight to Frankfurt. Whether you’re flying on Condor or Eurowings, it takes about 9.5 hours.

That used to be considered “long haul.” But these days, there are nonstop flights that last more than 18 hours. In fact, Qantas is planning nonstop flights between Sydney, London and New York that could approach 20 hours.

Right now, SIngapore Airlines carries the flag for the world’s longest regularly scheduled flight between New York’s JFK Airport and Singapore at 18 hours, 40 minutes.

Singapore Air also boasts the longest nonstop flight from Seattle. Singapore Air flight 27 operates three times per week to Singapore. The scheduled flight time is 16:10. Runners-up include Seattle-Dubai on Emirates, Seattle-Doha on Qatar Air and Seattle-Istanbul on Turkish Air.

Just the flight time itself was a little intimidating. So, instead of taking a red-eye from Anchorage to Seattle and connecting, I opted to fly down a day early, have dinner with friends and fly to Singapore the following day.

It’s a common strategy, according to Annie, the front desk clerk at the Coast Gateway Hotel by Sea-Tac. “We get a lot of Alaska residents,” she said.


When I opened the drapes in the room, I was looking out at the A gates, and the light rail tracks ran right by the window! But the sound-proofing is really good.

Although the Seattle-Singapore flight is “long haul,” James Boyd of Singapore Air said “the route does not qualify as ultra-long-haul.” That monicker is reserved for the nonstops from JFK, from Newark and from Los Angeles.

It’s a fine mix of art and science to develop and long haul/ultra long haul flight. Airlines need to have the right plane — and then make sure their customers want to pay to fly the route.

As travelers return following the pandemic, many long-haul routes were canceled from Seattle, including Seattle-Bangalore on American and Seattle-Hong Kong on both Delta and Cathay Pacific.

Singapore Air has a mix of aircraft in its fleet: Boeing’s 787 Dreamliners, the double-decker Airbus 380 and the Airbus 350.

For its longest routes, Singapore Air chose the Airbus 350-900. From Seattle, the plane is configured in three classes: economy, premium economy and business. About half of the plane is devoted to lie-flat business class seats. There are three rows of premium economy and the rest is set up for nine-across economy seating (3x3x3).

Because of the length of the flight, two full flight crews and cabin crews are dispatched. The first crew takes off, while the second crew settles into some “crew rest” beds tucked away in a corner of the aircraft.

“Each flight has 131,200 liters (34,660 gallons) of fuel for the trip,” said Boyd. “There are 122 bottles of premium wine and champagne on board,” he said.

There are many different meal combinations, which travelers can order in advance. There’s enough food on board so travelers can get “two and a half” meals throughout the 16-hour flight.

Beyond the food and the fuel, though, there are many different touch-points to keep travelers happy during such a long flight.

Seat-back monitors are loaded up with movies, TV shows, music, live TV news and games. Earphones are provided. The aircraft is configured for high-speed satellite internet. Economy passengers can get two free hours of Wi-Fi access (three hours for premium).

The first meal on the flight is rolled out after about 40 minutes in the air. Then the crew starts working with the mood lighting so it’s “lights out” by the time the aircraft is flying over Alaska on the “great circle” route to Singapore. Ear plugs and eye shades are available on request. Also, everyone gets a pillow and a blanket.

A couple of hours later, somewhere over Japan, the interior lights came up bit by bit and they served the second meal.

In the premium economy cabin, the seats are bigger — close to the size of a domestic first-class seat on Alaska or Delta. The pillows are bigger, too and there’s more room between the seats. The cost was 75,000 Singapore Air miles each way. For 100,000 Alaska Air miles each way, you can snag a lie-flat business class seat. Travelers who pay for their tickets earn Alaska Air miles on Singapore Airlines (8,060 miles each way).

There’s no way to sugarcoat it: This is a long flight. But if you take advantage of the tools at hand, including eye shades, ear plugs (or noise-canceling headphones), blankets and pillows, you can get a nap in.

The movies, the in-flight Wi-Fi and the food can distract you for a few more hours. Then you can hit the ground running on arrival in Singapore, the “Lion City.”

Scott McMurren

Scott McMurren is an Anchorage-based marketing consultant, serving clients in the transportation, hospitality, media and specialty destination sectors, among others. Contact him by email at Subscribe to his e-newsletter at For more information, visit