With the pandemic slowly turning into an endemic, Singapore Airlines (SIA) is taking this valuable opportunity to deploy its narrowbody planes on low-volume flights while slowly ramping up its widebody operations.
- Long time obsession with Widebody aircraft
- Absorption of SilkAir
- Upgrading of cabin interiors to match widebody products
- Adapting to market conditions
Long time obsession with Widebody aircraft
Singapore Airlines has operated an almost widebody fleet since its formation in 1972, with the exception of the five Boeing 737-100 which the airline acquired from the defunct Malaysia-Singapore Airlines.
With its intention to operate long-haul high capacity routes, SIA delegated its narrow-body operation to short-haul destinations to its sister airline, SilkAir (Then known as Tradewind Airlines).
Having covered the market with two airlines covering different markets, SIA was able to capitalize on its prestigious position to purchase widebody aircraft from the Boeing 747 to the Airbus A380.
Absorption of SilkAir
With the COVID-19 pandemic slowly emerging, airlines around the world felt the brunt of the virus. Passengers began to stay away from traveling, governments shut off their border to the outside world, and airlines had to suspend operations from weeks to months.
All this equates to airlines posting their biggest losses in history.
In 2018, SIA was considering merging SilkAir under them to consolidate resources and manpower. The sister airline was already in the midst of merging into SIA, with aircraft registration being transferred to under SIA and the fleet repainting into SIA’s familiar blue and gold livery when it hit.
SIA, undoubtedly, played its hands right when regulators around the world started to ground the Boeing 737 MAX 8 after two crashes. With SilkAir having a large fleet of Boeing 737-800NG and just a handful of Boeing 737-8, SIA was able to fully utilize the former to fly on thinner routes where cargo demand is weak while waiting for the latter to be recertified (which eventually took almost three years).
Upgrading of cabin interiors to match widebody products
SIA’s intention all along was only to take SilkAir’s Boeing 737-8 and dispose of the rest of the fleet.
Having no choice but to absorb the Boeing 737-800NG due to the MAX groundings, SIA had to upgrade SilkAir’s inferior hard product to match SIA’s standards.
At the same time, with its Boeing 737-8 aircraft idling on the ground, SIA spent $230 million to upgrade its interior with an all-new Business Class with lie-flat seats and IFE installed at every seat including Economy Class which was recently unveiled.
Based on the pictures, I was pretty impressed with the product, with the two throne seats in Business Class and Economy Class having IFE at every seat. This undoubtedly is miles better than what SilkAir was offering with a mismatched product that confuses every single passenger transiting from a Singapore Airlines flight to a SilkAir flight while expecting the same product across.
No doubt the throne seats will be in demand for those single travelers like me.
Adapting to market conditions
With Singapore Airlines now having a mixed widebody and narrowbody fleet, SIA can deploy the right aircraft on the right route without having restrictions due to regulatory requirements.
This is very well-known with one particular route between Singapore and Brunei where Singapore Airlines would operate its Boeing 777-300 on certain days and SilkAir operating its Boeing 737-800 on other days pre-pandemic.
With the Boeing 737-8 being introduced, the aircraft is capable of flying as far as Muscat from Singapore, opening up an unserved market that may be beneficial to SIA.