How to Survive United’s New 18-Hour Singapore Flights

While aviation geeks focus on flight distances, real-world travelers must contend with flights’ duration, the time-in-seat. Butt time.

United already enjoys bragging rights for the longest flight to or from the U.S., a distinction it shares with Singapore Airlines for their competing flights between San Francisco and Singapore.

This week, United announced the upcoming launch of a new service that will be even longer.

On October 27, pending government approval, which shouldn’t be an issue, United will begin flying daily nonstops between Los Angeles and Singapore. The flight distance of the new route will be 8,700 miles, edging out the 8,446 miles covered by the current Singapore flights from San Francisco.

Passengers on the new Singapore flights will be in the air for almost 18 hours, mostly confined to one of three types of seat offered on the airline’s Boeing 787-9 Dreamliners.

Of the plane’s 252 seats, 48 will be in United’s plush Polaris business class, 88 will be in Economy Plus, and the remaining 116 will be in regular coach. Eighteen hours in a lie-flat business-class seat is certainly survivable, if not downright pleasurable. With 35-inch pitch in Economy Plus, 18 hours would be manageable, although even with the extra legroom, being stuck in a middle seat for that long would be trying.

In regular coach, the seat pitch will be 32 inches. That’s a smidge more than United offers on most domestic flights, where the norm is 30 or 31 inches. Then again, on an 18-hour flight, every centimeter of personal space takes on extra importance.

The very thought of 18 hours in coach makes my blood pressure spike. But unless I paid in miles, I can’t justify the price of flying business class. For most flights, I’d just tough it out and buy the cheapest available coach seat. But here, looking at the long flight time and the skimpy legroom, I might be able to justify the extra cost of upgrading to Economy Plus.

Economy Plus. A big hit on my bank balance, to be sure. But my blood pressure will thank me, as will yours.

Reader Reality Check

Eighteen hours in a regular coach seat?

After 20 years working in the travel industry, and almost that long writing about it, Tim Winship knows a thing or two about travel. Follow him on Twitter @twinship.

This article first appeared on, where Tim is Editor-at-Large.


  1. Boyd Tomasetti says

    This is the article??? Other than not buying a lie flat and opting for E+ you have told the readers absolutely nothing. Be careful how you title your articles – this smacks of tabloid material. Unless someone has a gun to your head(like your employer), save your $$, look for sales and buy the lie flat

    • Tim Winship says

      Not much to say about UA’s new SIN flights, other than a) the launch date, and b) the argument for spending more to upgrade to a roomier seat.

  2. nat says

    I think the first commenter is complaining because the article doesn’t actually offer any tips on how to survive the flight despite the title.

  3. Tim Winship says

    The story’s main point is that, on a flight that long, the only real solution to the discomfort problem is a more comfortable (more expensive) seat. Neck pillows and eye shades just won’t cut it.

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