Singapore Airlines has lifted the lid on its first route for the Boeing 737-800s joining its fleet as part of the merger with regional subsidiary SilkAir, with confirmation that the carrier will take over flights between Changi and Phuket from 4th March 2021.
SilkAir is restarting twice weekly flights to the popular Thai holiday island next week, but it will only operate eight return services before handing over the baton to its mainline parent.
This will be followed on 15th March 2021 by flights linking Singapore and Brunei, which are currently being operated by SilkAir on behalf of Singapore Airlines using the same aircraft type.
This transfer of aircraft will mark the final stage of a three-year transition to fully integrate SilkAir into the SIA fold.
SilkAir is now Singapore Airlines
SIA is marking 28th January 2021 as the date it is formally finalising the integration of SilkAir into Singapore Airlines.
From 28 January 2021, SilkAir will start its integration into Singapore Airlines – part of a planned merger announced in 2018. You can now enjoy a world class experience, no matter how short your journey.Singapore Airlines
The airline has released a short promotional vide on its social media pages marking the occasion.
The national carrier has not flown a narrow-body passenger aircraft type since its small fleet of Boeing 757-200s left for pastures new in 1990, over 30 years ago.
“The introduction of the SIA 737-800 NG will bring about a more comfortable and seamless travel experience for customers on our regional routes. Integrating SilkAir with SIA also allows us to be nimble and flexible in aircraft deployment, and supports our fleet and network growth strategy.”Goh Choon Phong, CEO Singapore Airlines
How will the aircraft be configured?
As we revealed in October last year, the Boeing 737-800s moving across from SilkAir to Singapore Airlines will not be configured with flat-bed seating in Business Class, despite an original intention for the airline to do so.
Instead they will retain the existing 12 recliner Business Class seats and 150 Economy Class seats, in common with their previous fit.
The airline has not shared any photos of the new cabins at this stage, however SIA has confirmed some changes, including new upholstery, are part of the transitional upgrade.
In-flight entertainment will be “via a web-based platform” according to SIA, with the carrier confirming that it is using a wireless streaming setup to your personal device.
To enjoy KrisWorld entertainment on board the Boeing 737-800, you should bring along your personal mobile or tablet device.Singapore Airlines
That’s the same setup SilkAir was previously using to offer the service on board its aircraft as ‘SilkAir Studio’.
Previously tablets were provided for Business Class passengers on SilkAir, however it’s not clear if this will still be the case as the aircraft operate under the SIA banner.
Unfortunately, the Boeing 737-800s will not be Wi-Fi enabled.
Be careful when redeeming
Once travel opens up again, SIA’s operation of these ex-SilkAir Boeing 737-800s in effectively the same cabin layout as they had before means you’ll have to be careful which aircraft type you book or redeem on for routes with both narrow-body and wide-body aircraft in use.
For example, between Singapore and Bali it always cost 19,000 KrisFlyer miles for a saver Business Class award whether you flew on a SilkAir Boeing 737 or a Singapore Airlines Airbus A350, though the difference in cabin product plus the food and beverage selection was significant.
Unfortunately this disparity looks unlikely to go away in the short term, so for routes that see multiple aircraft types operating in future the Boeing 737-800 will be one to avoid.
Food and beverages
Singapore Airlines has confirmed that its new Economy Class meal concept, revealed in November 2020, will be rolled out on these Boeing 737-800 flights of up to 3.5 hours duration.
That means meals on these shorter flights “in an all new sustainable paper box that is deep enough for gravy dishes and comforting congee”.
In Business Class, SIA’s ‘Book the Cook’ option will be offered for advance selection, plus you can look forward to the airline’s premium wine selection on board including Champagne.
How many aircraft are moving across?
Singapore Airlines has confirmed that nine of SilkAir’s former Boeing 737-800s will be joining its fleet. We already know of five aircraft that have now been repainted in SIA colours and are therefore inevitably joining the mainline fleet in the coming weeks and months.
Edit: Thanks to the SQTalk gurus, there are now seven confirmed repaints completed (9V-MGB and 9V-MGD added).
SilkAir Boeing 737-800 fleet
|9V-MGA||7.0||Transfer to SIA|
|9V-MGB||6.9||Transfer to SIA|
|9V-MGD||6.7||Transfer to SIA|
|9V-MGK||5.7||Transfer to SIA|
|9V-MGL||5.5||Transfer to SIA|
|9V-MGM||5.4||Transfer to SIA|
|9V-MGN||5.4||Transfer to SIA|
Once we have details of the additional
four three aircraft moving to SIA in addition to those listed above, we’ll be sure to share them with you.
Additionally, an unspecified number of Boeing 737 MAX 8 aircraft (up to six) are due to join the SIA fleet this year, though the timescale for these remains unclear.
The first of SilkAir’s Boeing 737 MAX aircraft was returned to Changi in late December 2020, though the type is still pending approval for reintroduction into passenger service from the Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore.
Cabin crew will don the Kebaya
As you would expect, female cabin crew on board the Singapore Airlines Boeing 737-800 will be wearing the Kebaya in common with those flying the wide-body operation.
Mainly Miles understands the Boeing 737-800 flights will be staffed by one green kebaya / tie (Leading Steward / Stewardess), for former SilkAir senior crew members, and a blue kebaya / tie (Flight Steward / Stewardess) for three other cabin crew on board.
Star Alliance benefits
Since Singapore Airlines is a full Star Alliance member carrier while SilkAir was not, this merger, first announced in May 2018, will open up a much wider network for Star Alliance partners in South East Asia.
That’s good news for frequent flyers in a Star Alliance programme and should lead to even greater transit passenger demand through Singapore for SIA once travel resumes.
It will also allow members of other Star Alliance frequent flyer programmes, like Turkish Miles&Smiles, to redeem on these narrow-body services, which are likely to add a number of former SilkAir-only destinations like Medan to SIA’s route network in the coming months.
SIA’s message with its SilkAir merger and this Boeing 737-800 introduction is about “greater consistency”, though of course this latest transfer of aircraft will actually result in a lot less consistency than customers had before.
That’s not particularly the fault of Singapore Airlines – these Boeing 737-800s are only joining the fleet due to the worldwide grounding of Boeing 737 MAX aircraft, the only ones originally set to join SIA from SilkAir.
That was supposed to mean the advent of flat-bed seats in Business Class and integrated seat-back in-flight entertainment from tip-to-tail, both missing from these older 737-800 aircraft.
On a positive note, the Boeing 737 MAX should be signed off for service again this year and SIA’s reluctance to spend too much money on cabin refurbishment of these Boeing 737-800s suggests it will not only induct those aircraft in the months to come, but also intends to take delivery of its remaining order of 31 such jets in the future.
With the MAX’s promised enhanced cabin products, including Thompson Vantage flat-bed seats in Business Class, perhaps then we will benefit from “consistency”.
According to SIA, “[t]he full integration of SilkAir into Singapore Airlines is scheduled for completion in the 2021/22 financial year.”
That means we’ll be saying goodbye to a significant part of Singapore aviation history by early 2022, with SilkAir first formed in 1976 as Tradewinds Charters, gaining its current name in 1991.
It’s good to see the food and beverage service will be brought up to par with the usual Singapore Airlines experience, including Champagne in Business Class, but for many of the other “consistency” enhancements, like flat-bed seats and seat-back IFE systems, we’ll have to wait for the Boeing 737 MAX to take over from these older planes.
Singapore Airlines has provided further details of the SilkAir – SIA merger and its narrow-body operations at this dedicated page on its website.
(Cover Photo: Singapore Airlines)