San Francisco to Singapore: What it's Like to Fly an Inaugural Flight

It's not as bumpy as you'd expect.

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San Francisco to Singapore: What it's Like to Fly an Inaugural Flight

On June 1 at 10:55 p.m. PST, United Airlines’ inaugural direct flight from San Francisco to Singapore’s Changi airport (UA1) took off, launching the longest scheduled flight operated by any North American carrier as well as the only direct flight currently operational from the United States to Singapore (Singapore Airlines plans to relaunch its direct route in 2018).

We were onboard the route’s inaugural journey and were able to experience everything from the pre-flight celebration to its arrival in Singapore more than 16 hours after its departure. Most of the included videos in this post are shot in 360-degrees, so you can use the controls at the top left or drag your mouse to top of the video to get a different view, or strap on a pair of VR goggles to really get a feel for the space.

The Flight


To earn the status as “longest flight” you can imagine that this particular route is a bit of a doozy. SFO to SIN clocks in at 8,446 miles, a trip that’s scheduled to take 16 hours and 20 minutes.

Singapore is 15 hours ahead of San Francisco, which means that while you spend just 16 hours on the plane, you also end up losing a day in the air. Our flight left at 10:55 p.m. on Wednesday night in San Francisco, but didn’t arrive in Singapore until it was technically 6:15 a.m. on Friday (although it didn’t feel like it to us).

The Celebration

One of the advantages of being part of a route’s inaugural journey is the celebration. For UA1, there were two parties, one in downtown San Francisco, and one at the gate at SFO. Both were attended by His Excellency Ashock Mirpuri, Singapore’s Ambassador to the United States and Jim Compton, Vice Chairman and Chief Revenue Officer of United Airlines. The pre-party downtown had a bar with Singapore Sling’s available.

The gate celebration at SFO was a little bit more festive, see above. There were Singapore-themed snacks including mango pudding, Pandan cake, and Tah Tarik Tea. And of course, an official ribbon cutting (not 360).

Once we boarded, each passenger received a kitschy inaugural flight certificate.

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