The first ever nonstop flight from Seattle-Tacoma International Airport to Southeast Asia took off on Tuesday. Covering 8,010 miles in 15 hours and 50 minutes, the flight to Singapore’s Changi Airport is now also the longest nonstop flight from Sea-Tac.
Tuesday’s inaugural flight was sent off with a ceremonial ribbon cutting, a lion dance, and remarks by Lance Lyttle, Sea-Tac Airport’s managing director and Campbell Wilson, the senior vice president of sales and marketing for Singapore Airlines.
With the launch of the Sea-Tac-to-Changi route, Seattle becomes the fourth U.S. destination for nonstop Singapore Airlines flights. Beginning this week, Singapore Airlines will offer nonstop service between Sea-Tac and Changi three times per week, with plans to expand to four days per week in October.
Campbell Wilson, Singapore Airlines’ senior vice-president of sales and marketing, said he hopes the airline can eventually expand to service seven days per week from Seattle.
So, why Seattle?
“It’s a fantastic balance of strong corporate traffic, strong leisure traffic,” said James Boyd, vice president of public relations for Singapore Airlines. “We know that there’s a lot of interest in travel not just to Singapore but beyond Singapore to all throughout Southeast Asia, even markets like Western Australia. This will be the fastest way to get to places that were previously really far-flung, like Perth. Now you have a faster, more efficient way of getting there that brings the destination a little bit closer.”
This isn’t the first time Singapore Airlines has operated out of the Pacific Northwest.
According to Wilson, the airline used to fly from Vancouver, B.C. to Singapore with one stop in Seoul, South Korea, but the service was stopped in 2009 due to government restrictions that limited the service to three times per week.
The cancellation of the Vancouver-to-Singapore route opened up the opportunity for nonstop service from Seattle instead. The longer haul and more fuel efficient capabilities of the Airbus A350-900 made the 16-hour nonstop route a viable option.
“We were just waiting for an aircraft technology that could do it nonstop and that could do it with a cost of operation that would make the route viable,” said Wilson.
“We knew that Seattle was an up-and-coming destination. We knew that it was an up-and-coming business center, but we weren’t quite sure it was ready until recently. Now everything’s really come together — the constraint of Vancouver, the right technology aircraft, the readiness of Seattle as a business center.”
Previously, travelers like Donny Kwan, an owner of a software start-up in Seattle, traveled to San Francisco International Airport for a nonstop flight to Singapore.
Now, Kwan, who travels to Singapore two to three times a year for business and to visit family, can save a few hours and a little inconvenience which he said is significant for his elderly mother-in-law who joins him on some of his trips to visit family.
“From here is the shortest distance from the continental U.S. to Asia. So this should be the gateway rather than San Francisco,” said Kwan. “I think it will be good for Washington state and for business people. …There are a lot of Singaporeans working for Amazon, Microsoft in Seattle.”