I was more than a little disappointed to hear that Singapore Airlines (one of the good things about living in Disneyland-with-the-death-penalty) is pulling the plug on SQ21-SQ22, its 18-hour nonstop over-the-top flight between Singapore and Newark (the best airport in the world and the worst? Quite possibly!).
I’ve flown that route a couple of times, and sometimes – if you’re lucky – it will take you further north than any other regularly scheduled flight in the world. The universe has to cooperate for this to happen: you can’t go too far north in the northern winter because nobody wants to ditch on the icecap in minus-40-degree twilight; you can’t go too far north if there are storms over the North Pole; and you can’t go too far north if the sun is too active (as it’s been for the last year or so), because your passengers will get fried by solar radiation.
But if you’re flying in summer, on a clear day, with no storms (terrestrial or extraterrestrial) to get in your way, your track can go as far as 89 degrees north, less than 200 miles from the North Pole, and if you have a window seat you can look down on Severnaya Zemlya from above:
And, three hours later, you look down on Greenland’s unearthly northern coast, utterly devoid of anything but rock and ice – a part of the world that only a handful of people will ever see:
So I get that jet fuel prices are making the route uneconomical, and I get that Singapore Airlines would rather focus on its lower-cost routes and its one-stop intercontinentals instead of its marquee nonstop flights. But I’ll still miss SQ21/22 – the most impractical and most spectacular airline route in the world.
(The new winner for “longest regularly-scheduled nonstop”, incidentally, is Qantas’s daft Sydney-to-Dallas nonstop. It’s a comparatively quick 15-hour flight, but the route only works one way: the return flight from Dallas to Sydney fights headwinds the whole way, and has to stop in Brisbane for fuel before the final one-hour hop to Sydney. Sometimes, if they cock up the headwind calculations, it even has to stop in Noumea as well as Brisbane – which really stretches the definition of a “non-stop” flight.)