Non-stop San Francisco-Singapore flights from June

United Airlines 787 Dreamliner jets are seen parked on the tarmac at George Bush Intercontinental Airport.
United Airlines 787 Dreamliner jets are seen parked on the tarmac at George Bush Intercontinental Airport. PHOTO: REUTERS

Travellers here will have a non-stop flight option to the United States from June, after a three-year hiatus.

United Airlines is starting a non-stop service from San Francisco to Singapore, cutting up to four hours' flight time for travellers and giving Singapore's air hub status a significant boost.

This is the first non-stop service to the US since 2013, when Singapore Airlines (SIA) pulled the plug on its non-stop flights to Los Angeles and New York. High oil prices and poor take-up had made the services unviable.

United, which announced its plans yesterday, also said it will stop flying from Singapore to Tokyo - currently the stopover point for customers flying to the US.

The new ultra-long-haul flight - a 151/2- to 16-hour journey - will be operated with the airline's Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner.

At 13,592km, it will be the longest commercial B-787 flight by any airline.

The American carrier's planned launch comes two years before SIA expects to resume its non-stop flights to Los Angeles and New York in 2018.

Mr Marcel Fuchs, United's vice-president of Atlantic and Pacific sales, said the long-awaited service will offer unique benefits to customers. "Those arriving in San Francisco will have dozens of options to connect to other cities across the Americas," he said.

Changi Airport Group's senior vice-president for market development, Mr Lim Ching Kiat, said: "We are delighted with United Airline's new non-stop service to San Francisco. It will bring greater convenience, especially to business travellers, who can use United's hub in San Francisco to connect to 25 major US cities, such as Seattle, Las Vegas and Denver."

The move could also potentially bring more US tourists to Singapore, he said.

Changi Airport will continue to work with airlines and other partners to launch more non-stop flights between Singapore and the US, Mr Lim said.

This will strengthen Changi Airport's position as the preferred gateway between South-east Asia and North America, he added.

The demand for Singapore-US flights is growing strongly.

Between 2010 and 2014, total passenger traffic between the two markets grew by an average of 4 per cent a year.

When SIA pulled out of the non-stop market in 2013, the gap provided an opportunity for other carriers, including Middle Eastern airlines such as Emirates, to add flights from Singapore to their home base and from there, carry passengers to the US.

United's new service and SIA's impending return to the market will go some way in helping Singapore claw back market share, analysts said.

Lecturer Gary Ho, 41, who flies to the US six to eight times a year, mainly to San Francisco, New York and Dallas, said: "A non-stop option is definitely preferred. On a long, uninterrupted flight, you get to have your meals, get some sleep and do some work. I find the one- stop services very inconvenient.

"I was really quite upset when SIA stopped its non-stop US service so I am thrilled United has stepped in. I'm also looking forward to SIA resuming its flights in 2018."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 30, 2016, with the headline 'Non-stop San Francisco-Singapore flights from June'. Print Edition | Subscribe