2020 vision: long-haul flights to get even longer

It's just another week in the year 2020, and yet another business trip looms.

You grab your iPhone 9 and large-screen iPad Pro 4, loaded up with Game of Thrones series 10 (yeah, they're milking it for all it's worth).

And you'll need all those hours of entertainment, because the flight ahead of you will stretch for some 20 hours.

There are still flights with stop-overs, for those who want that break – be it a few hours in an airport lounge, or a few days for some business or relaxation en route.

Dallas dazzler

But direct flights – from A to B with plenty of snoozing in between – will become the new norm on some of the world's longest journeys.

Anybody who's flown with Qantas from Sydney to Dallas has already had a taste of what's to come.

At around 15 hours, that Airbus A380 service is no picnic unless you're sitting at the pointy end of the plane.

Now get ready to spend another five potentially bum-numbing hours in the air.

Fuel for thought

Fuel-efficient aircraft from Airbus and Boeing are helping airlines draw straight lines between major cities.


Singapore Airlines plans to fly non-stop from Singapore to Los Angeles and New York from 2018 using a new 'ultra-long range' version of the new Airbus A350.

The airline previously ran non-stop flights to both cities on an old gas-guzzling Airbus A340 fitted with just 100 business class seats, but axed the service in 2013 due to rising fuel costs.

The more parsimonious Airbus A350 will carry some 170 passengers – compared to around 300 in SQ's standard mid-range A350 jet – in what's likely to be an 'all premium' cabin.

That could thankfully mean no economy seats, although we'd not be surprised if premium economy found its way into the mix.

But in a win for common sense, most of the cabin will be given over to spacious and super-comfortable business class seats (and perhaps a handful of exclusive first class suites up front).

Dream run

Qantas CEO Alan Joyce has also flagged the possibility of direct flights from Sydney to New York and Perth to London on its new Boeing 787 Dreamliners.

The first of those is due for delivery in late 2017, but with the initial batch of Dreamliners slated to replace the ageing Boeing 747 jumbo jets, don't expect those long-legged routes to open up in a hurry.

Meanwhile, Boeing is said to be working away on an extended range version of its next-gen Boeing 777-X – due around 2020 – which could fly even further again than Singapore Airlines' ocean-striding Airbus A350.

There's clearly a time-saving factor working in favour of these long non-stop flights, although it's not just about shaving four or five hours off the flight.

Does it save time?

Take Singapore Airlines' current Singapore-New York flight, which tacks via Europe (rather than the Pacific Ocean) and makes a stop at Frankfurt.

"When you actually measure the total time (between Singapore and New York) – let's say you transit through Frankfurt – there's not much of a difference (between non-stop and transit)," suggests SQ senior vice-president Mr Tan Pee Teck.

"The only thing is that you can have a longer sleep. Instead of 13 hours and then 7 hours, you'd fly non-stop."

This all leaves one question lying on the table: do travellers want to fly for upwards of 19 hours without pause?

Ensconced in the cushiest first class suite with French champagne and Black Sea caviar on tap, the answer is probably "Hell yes!".

But more realistically: could you imagine sitting in business class for that long trek? Or would a decent menu, a massive library of movies and boxed sets of TV shows plus an in-flight bar or lounge turn a stop-over into the 'old' way to fly?

Few people spend more time on planes, in lounges or mulling over the best ways to use frequent flyer points than David Flynn, the editor of . His unparalleled knowledge of all aspects of business travel connects strongly with the interests of 51698009 readers.