Airbus works on A350 variant to help Singapore Airlines regain record for world’s longest non-stop flight

Airbus is working on a new variant of its A350-900 wide-body aircraft that would allow Singapore Airlines to restore a non-stop US service and regain the record for the world’s longest commercial flight.

The plane maker, which began deliveries of the twin-engined model last year, is working on changes to the cabin layout that would reduce its weight and allow Singapore Airlines (SIA) to reach New York economically by 2018, said Kiran Rao, the company’s executive vice president for strategy and marketing.

SIA halted near 19-hour direct flights from the island state to New York in 2013, adding about five hours to the journey with stopovers. Goh Choon Phong, SIA’s chief executive, said in June that there was no commercially viable aircraft available and that he was pushing both Airbus and Boeing for proposals.

Mr Rao said the A350 should be able to make the trip by using 25 per cent less fuel than older models, at the expense of a less dense layout than the usual 325-seat, three-class A350-900, which could be available “an awful lot quicker than Boeing”.

Several other airlines had expressed an interest in such a variant, Mr Rao said, while declining to identify them.

“I can’t go into details on the type of layouts they’re looking at but it would be a premium service,” he said. When SIA last flew to the New York area directly, it did so with just 100 business-only seats on a four-engine Airbus A340-500, an arrangement that did not prove viable.

The route, to Newark in New Jersey, was the longest non-stop commercial air service offered at 15,344 kilometres.

Boeing’s older 777-200LR – the longest-range jet available today – can span about 17,000km, according to the US company, and Emirates will use it to fly the 13,821km between Dubai and Panama from February. That flight will become the longest single sector currently flown, beating Qantas Airways’ Sydney-Dallas Fort Worth route by about 20km.

The 777-200LR entered service in 2006 and the last delivery to an airline was more than a year ago in April last year.

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