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World's longest flight to land for the last time

Nov. 25, 2013 at 7:39 PM ET

Video: Find out which airline clocked in at 19 hours – almost a full day in the air. NBC’s Brian Williams reports.

This weekend, Singapore Airlines will terminate its iconic, nonstop all-business-class service to New York - also the world's longest flight - as the aviation sector grapples with high fuel prices and subdued demand for premium travel.

The cancellation of the direct route, which shuttles passengers between Changi and Newark within 18.5 hours and costs around $8,800, has come as a disappointment to business travelers who now face an additional six hours or so in travel time.

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"It's disappointing that a direct flight to the U.S. is no longer available. I feel that it was decently full every time we were on it. The timing of the direct flight works best for business travelers," said Singapore-based Sheena Mahtani, who travels to New York for work multiple times a year.

Singapore Airlines aircraft
Vivek Prakash / Reuters
Singapore Airlines aircraft takes off from Changi Airport in Singapore.

"The SQ flight via Frankfurt would probably be the only other Singapore-New York option that would work," she added, referring to the flight with duration of over 24 hours.

Operating exclusive, nonstop flights to the U.S. has brought about intangible benefits for Singapore's flag carrier, including helping it to win and maintain key corporate accounts, according to Centre for Asia Pacific Aviation (CAPA).

"There was also the glamour and prestige associated with operating the world's longest nonstop routes. But ultimately the incredible cost of operating an ultra-long-range service could not be ignored," CAPA said in a recent report on long-range travel.

According to industry experts, despite opting for an all-business configuration and charging a premium over its one-stop services in the same market, the yields were not high enough to offset the high operating costs.

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In 2008, the airline re-configured its A340-500 aircraft used on the nonstop route to 100 business class seats from 117 premium economy and 64 business class seats. During that year, premium accounted for over 9.5 percent of total passengers, compared with 8 percent currently, according to data from International Air Transport Association (IATA).

"At the current high price of fuel, making a profit off such long flights became nearly an impossible mission even when filling the plane with premium passengers," CAPA said.

Timothy Ross, analyst at Credit Suisse says while the nonstop flight was a "differentiator" for the airline, the natural inclination for passengers will be to switch to the airline's one-stop service.

"There's a high level of loyalty to Singapore airlines. I don't think the impact is going to be anything other than marginal," Ross said. "People attracted by a lower price point are already flying competitors, such as Emirates," he added.

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Meantime, Singapore Airlines, which also ended its nonstop service to Los Angeles at the end of October, says that it remains "very committed" to the U.S. market.

"Over the past 2-3 years we have increased capacity to both Los Angeles and New York by deploying A380 superjumbos on flights via Tokyo and Frankfurt," a spokesperson for the airline for CNBC via email.

—By CNBC's Ansuya Harjani; Follow her on Twitter: @Ansuya_H

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