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My Experience on One of the World's Longest Flights

San Francisco to Singapore Flight Time: 17 hours

For the second leg of my trip around the world, I flew from San Francisco to Singapore, direct, on one of the world's longest flights. The flight is 8,446 miles or 13,593 km. This is just shy of the top 10 list, a mere 200 miles/330 km shorter than what is currently the 10th longest flight. (It used to be number nine on the list, when it debuted in 2016, but no more.)

Singapore only has one commercial airport, Singapore Changi Airport or SIN. The main airline there, Singapore Airlines, makes the Top Ten list three times, with flights from New York (JFK) and Newark (EWR) getting the number one and two spots, and Los Angeles (LAX) clocking in at number eight. We'll call my flight number eleven, I guess. I'll be on an Airbus A350-900, which is the same plane as these other Singapore Airlines flights. I obviously paid to reserve myself a non-middle seat (I'm an aisle kind of guy).

My Point of Reference/Expectations

My longest flight experience so far is flying to Sydney, Australia from San Francisco in one direction and then back via Los Angeles. That westward journey was 14 hours, and it was a bit of a doozy. It was in 2018, but I remember getting a full night's sleep (we left in the evening) and then still having half the flight to go.

I read, I watched a couple of movies, and I tried to remind myself that the excruciating boredom and back pain of sitting on a plane for 14 hours would be worth the 3-week vacation in Australia. It definitely, absolutely was. On the flight back, I wasn't tired. I watched four movies (four!) and still had hours to kill. I do remember the discomfort of trying to sleep in a sitting position and thinking that I would give my life savings to be able to sleep flat at that moment. This time, maybe I will try to sleep sooner so I don't get to that point of exhaustion. Maybe some prophylactic pain meds will be in the mix. Maybe some sleepy meds, too.

On this flight, I feel like I know what to expect. I'm sure I'll sleep a lot and catch some movies that I missed in theaters. Making crossword puzzles is a time-suck kind of hobby... maybe that will help. I have some e-books downloaded on my phone, and I'm hoping to get some blogging done. We'll see!

Journaling During the Flight

Note: These are live thoughts, no editing after the fact.


Okay, I'm sitting in the airport waiting for my flight to board and thought I'd jot down a status update. I'm excited for my trip. I'm a little tired because I only slept six hours last night. I just had a coffee, so I wouldn't fall asleep and miss my flight, but I am definitely looking forward to a long nap once I board. Whenever I wake up, I have some work I can do, some crossword ideas to maybe construct, three books I can read, and some games to play. My back is also hurting a little, but when is it not? I'm going to stretch and pray that it survives, but I'm not feeling hopeful.

Hour 5

Well, I watched the incredibly long and not-my-cup-of-tea film Oppenheimer. I will credit it at least for being a great waste of three hours. The food has been good and plentiful, I enjoyed the hot towel at the beginning of the flight, and the provided lumbar pillow means my back only normal-hurts, for now...

Hour 10

I got some work done and then watched a second movie (the Hunger Games prequel), which was pretty good. I haven't sleep yet. Surprisingly, time has gone by okay. Work on the computer is uncomfortable (because the person in front of me is super reclined), so movies it is. Onto the third one and then I'll try for a few hours of sleep. It's a little wild that it's been ten hours so far and I still have the length of a regular flight to go lol.

Hour 14

Very uncomfortable, can't fall asleep. Leg muscles tight, sinuses inflamed, generally malcontent.

Hour 15:30

Well, I've found my low point. I gave up trying to sleep after 2.5 failed hours, so I've asked for a coffee at what is 3:00 am in San Francisco. I find the inability to sleep on a plane excruciating. I can't stretch or recline or roll over. I can hardly sleep on normal length flights, much less ones that have me cooped up for 15 hours. It's truly a blessing that this was mostly a day flight. While I didn't get much work in, I at least was able to enjoy most of the flight. Now I'm just over-tired, waiting in silence and darkness to finally make my way, slowly and still hours and hours away, to an actual bed. I never expected to tolerate any length of the flight, so I'm proud of myself (and my recent efforts to strengthen my back muscles) for surviving 15+ hours. The first ten sort of flew by (no pun intended) thanks to all the movies. May the last 1.5 feel equally brief because I know it won't be painless.


So glad to be standing and soon walking. Spent the last two hours reading and being hyped on coffee. Looking forward to dinner, a shower, and a nice (flat!) bed.

Post-flight Thoughts

It's a couple days later, and I wanted to round this out with some final thoughts. I slept wonderfully once I finally got in: I'd been awake for 25 hours and I was so relieved to be lying down. I slept through the night and had no experience of jet lag - despite a 15 hour time difference - so that's impressive.

The flight was mostly tolerable, except for when I was attempting to sleep. I think the early flight, rather than making most of it a red eye, is definitely the way to go. Other than that, it was great: there was a lot of food, and it was all decently edible, it was a quiet flight, and you know I have no reason to complain about leg room. Plus, now I'm in Singapore, and what a cool place it is! Definitely worth the flight to get to experience these new countries I'll see.


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