Dispatch, Singapore: Time flies in an extra-wide seat

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Senior editor Robert Silk traveled to Singapore on Singapore Airlines' first nonstop service from the U.S. since 2013. His first dispatch follows.

Back in May, when I wrote a Travel Weekly cover story about the emerging new age of ultralong-haul flying, I wondered what it would be like to actually travel on such a route.

Now I know. And the answer is that the time can go pretty fast, at least if you're in business class on Singapore Air.

My first ultralong-haul experience (loosely defined as a flight that lasts at least 15 hours) came Sunday and Monday, flying as a guest of Singapore Airlines on its inaugural service between San Francisco and Singapore. At a distance of 8,451 miles, it's the world's third-longest route, and Singapore Air shares this particular nonstop market with United, which connected the two cities in June. We covered the distance in 16 hours and 11 minutes, landing at Singapore's Changi Airport on a rainy but otherwise comfortable night not long after 7 p.m. local time.

Singapore Air enjoys an exceptional reputation for service, having won Conde Nast Traveler's Readers' Choice Award for best global airline in 28 out of the last 29 years, including the 2016 award that was doled out just last week.

So I shouldn't have been surprised upon entering the new Airbus A350-900 to encounter the widest business-class seats I have seen. At 28 inches, they are among the widest in the industry, the website SeatGuru confirms, leaving plenty space to roll over or even toss and turn.

Along with the extra width and a flat-bed length of 78 inches, the seat offered an 18-inch wide television, the largest I've experienced in the sky, as well as hundreds of selections of movies and television shows.

I watched a couple of movies during my 16 hours in the sky, but mainly busied myself with books, writing, sleep and, of course, eating.

For the early meal, three appetizers and seven main courses were on offer. I opted for prawns accompanied by cauliflower salad for my starter and then a beef filet with balsamic onion for the main course. Both were tasty, especially considering the limitations on food preparation in the tight confines of an airplane galley. Dessert was panna cotta.

Later in the flight, I chose a relatively light meal of chicken broth with rice noodles, chicken and shitake mushrooms, though the full offerings of the earlier meal were still an option.

Six flight attendants staffed the craft's 42-seat business class, and I was surprised that throughout the journey I was addressed by name by whomever served me. It seems like a small touch, but personalization like that matters a lot.

Flying, even in business-class comfort, isn't all fun and games. After all, an aircraft is not a cruise ship or a luxury hotel. In the end, it's merely a conveyance.

But Singapore Airlines made my first ultralong-haul flying experience a pleasant one. And that wide bed, conducive for sleeping, sure helped the time go faster.

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