It was the ultimate test for the much-hyped Singapore Airlines’ new breed of super jets that promise a dramatic reduction in jetlag.
Perth to Los Angeles and return in just four days!
The magic carpet? Singapore Airlines new Airbus A350-900ULR.
The airline is using this Ultra-Long-Range model of the Airbus A350 for its new Singapore to Newark and Singapore to Los Angeles nonstops but also uses the standard model for a host of routes to Europe and into Australian cities.
Airbus has used an all carbon fibre composite fuselage for the A350 as well as the wing and this brings a raft of benefits to the economics of the flight as well as passenger and crew well-being.
Carbon fibre composite is almost a magic material for aviation and is about three times stronger yet half the weight of aluminium and it doesn’t corrode which begs the question of why it hasn’t been used so widely previously.
It has in fact for military aircraft but the cost of working the composite material has been prohibitive for commercial aviation until recent manufacturing breakthroughs.
Because a “composite aircraft” is lighter and stronger the operating costs plunge which means lower fares and its properties allow for a lower pressurization cabin altitude and higher humidity virtually eliminating the worst of jet lag.
Most aircraft are pressurised to 2500m, which can give some passengers altitude sickness which manifests itself in a mild headache but because of its immense strength carbon fibre composite aircraft are pressurised to just 1,800m, which eliminates that issue.
So, if you are travelling on a long flight, seek out an Airbus A350 or Boeing 787.
Now for my test.
The launch pad was Perth and an easy 5-hour flight to Singapore on a standard Airbus A330. One hour in transit Changi, arguably the world’s best airport, and I was sitting in 23A, champagne in hand, on SQ38 ready for push back.
Singapore Airlines really prepares you for the long journey ahead with a menu booklet laying out all the details of the culinary indulgence that is before you.
You can also opt for Book the Cook which offers seemingly endless options.
Departure from Singapore is – and was – 8.45pm with a banquet served after take-off.
Canape was the traditional Singapore Chicken and Lamb Satay with onion, cucumber and spicy peanut sauce.
A delicious starter of salad of crab followed and the main event was my Book the Cook choice of oven-roasted, corn-fed chicken breast, with tarragon jus and creamy polenta, served with cauliflower, edamame and carrot batonette.
Slumber was easy with the A350 much quieter than comparable aircraft and the Singapore Airlines business suite the perfect bed, even for a tall (194cm) traveller like me.
Everything was effortless. The cabin quiet, the flight attendants, always there with water and snacks yet almost invisible.
This was technology and experience working perfectly in harmony.
About three hours from the arrival which, thanks to a strong tailwind, was going to be 90 minutes ahead of schedule, another meal service commenced.
Smoked Salmon Caesar Salad was impossible to reject as was the main of Seared Chilean bass with creamy saffron sauce, baby vegetables and wild rice.
The arrival time of 7.20pm was perfect for hotel check-in and a good night’s sleep.
Two days of meetings and it was back on board SQ37 for the return flight to Singapore and Perth.
Departure is scheduled for 11.25pm and with Singapore Airlines’ precision, so it was.
The Airbus A350 effortlessly reached for the night sky and Singapore – 16 hours and 51 minutes away.
Once again, the flight was silky smooth with only the hum from the engines reminding one that you were flying.
The food and wine selection were superb and it seemed no matter what you wanted, or when, the cabin crew delivered without the slightest hesitation.
I selected again from Book the Cook grilled free-range chicken with fettuccine pasta and wild mushroom sauce. Superb!
And with some careful planning, the flight crew avoided the strongest of the headwinds and the A350 touched down in Singapore almost an hour ahead of schedule.
An uneventful flight to Perth had me back home just a whisker under four days.
Now for the acid test. How would I sleep?
Typically for me, a trip to the US West Coast is a major disruptor of the body clock but not this time.
Both in LA and back in Perth I was able to get a perfect night’s sleep as thou I hadn’t set foot on an aircraft.
Certainly, I was in business class, however, the A350-900ULR has an excellent premium economy section and some fellow passengers spoke well about the sleep they were able to get in that zone.
Singapore Airlines has seven of the A350-900ULRs and the configuration is 67 business class suites and 94 premium economy seats in a 2-4-2 layout.
The airline also has 25 of the basic model with another 35 on order and these are used on a variety of routes.
On the longer-range routes to Europe, the configuration is 42 business class suites, 24 premium economy and 187 economy seats.
The A350 is without a doubt a quantum leap forward and a superb addition to the Singapore Airlines’ fleet.
Geoffrey Thomas was a guest of Singapore Airlines.