News Singapore Airlines

Singapore Airlines shrinks 737-800 fleet to 7 aircraft

There's less chance of boarding a Singapore Airlines flight with recliner seats in Business Class, as the carrier removes two more ex-SilkAir jets it now deems "surplus to requirements".

There’s some good news regarding what’s probably the least popular aircraft in the Singapore Airlines fleet among most of our readers, with the carrier confirming that it is trimming its Boeing 737-800 fleet by 20%, reducing the chance of suffering older cabin products on the network, including those basic recliner seats in Business Class.

ADVERTISEMENT

The mainline carrier originally introduced nine Boeing 737-800s into its operation as part of a merger with SilkAir, but has now identified that two of these aircraft are “surplus to requirements”, according to a full-year financial update.

These two aircraft appear to have been withdrawn from operations already, meaning only seven leased Boeing 737-800s will be part of the fleet going forward.

Furthermore, the remaining 737-800 jets are gradually set for return to their lessors between mid-2024 and late 2025, meaning flat-bed Business Class fleet-wide is finally in sight, even on Singapore-KL sectors.

Why is the 737-800 disliked?

Singapore Airlines retained the original 12 SilkAir Boeing 737-800 recliner Business Class seats, in a 2-2 configuration across three rows, when it brought these older aircraft across to mainline operations.

Here’s how the seats looked in the original SilkAir fit.

SilkAir Boeing 737-800 Business Class seats. (Photo: MainlyMiles)

And here’s how they look now.

Singapore Airlines Boeing 737-800 Business Class. (Photo: Martin Memo via Executive Traveller)

As you can see apart from new upholstery and cushions there’s no major change to the hard product, with little privacy and no flat-bed function, both features of the airline’s other Business Class products, including those fitted to the new Boeing 737-8 MAX.

ADVERTISEMENT

In Economy Class the 737-800s have no seat-back entertainment screens, but instead there is a wireless streaming setup to view KrisWorld on your personal device from an onboard server (not connected to the internet, however).

That’s the same setup SilkAir was previously using to offer the service on board its aircraft as ‘SilkAir Studio’.

Boeing 737-800 Economy Class. (Photo: Singapore Airlines)

The Boeing 737-8 MAX aircraft, on the other hand, feature all-new seat products in both cabins, including in-flight entertainment systems at every seat and Wi-Fi connectivity.

On the plus side SIA did upgrade the catering and service standards on board the 737-800s to mainline levels, including Champagne in Business Class, but for many that doesn’t outweigh the poorer seats themselves compared to the rest of the fleet.

Where the 737-800s are flying

When Singapore Airlines began introducing the Boeing 737-800s the network became quite extensive, even including flights as far afield as Male in the Maldives and Cairns in Australia.

A Singapore Airlines Boeing 737-800. (Photo: Singapore Airlines)

Thankfully as more Boeing 737-8 MAX aircraft have been introduced, the network for the 737-800s has mostly focused on shorter routes:

  • Chennai (until 29th May)
  • Da Nang
  • Darwin
  • Hanoi
  • Kathmandu
  • Kuala Lumpur
  • Medan
  • Phuket (until 31st May)
  • Surabaya

Darwin is still an oddball – at 4 hours 45 minutes each way this is a long trip with the older cabins whether you’re flying Business or Economy. Hopefully with more MAXs arriving in the months ahead this route will also switch away from the 737-800 soon.

ADVERTISEMENT

It’s worth noting that on Chennai, Hanoi, Kathmandu, Kuala Lumpur, Phuket and Surabaya routes, the 737-800 can be avoided by picking alternative SIA flights, or days of the week.

Click to expand the seat guides below to see how the aircraft’s operation fits in with better Business Class cabin products (i.e. on different planes) operating alternative services on these routes.

Singapore to Chennai
FlightAircraftSeat TypeDates
SQ5247M8MAX RJ03JUN22 - 29OCT22
SQ5287872018 RJ27MAR22 - 29OCT22
Chennai to Singapore
FlightAircraftSeat TypeDates
SQ5257M8MAX RJ03JUN22 - 29OCT22
SQ5297872018 RJ27MAR22 - 29OCT22

Singapore to Hanoi
FlightAircraftSeat TypeDates
SQ192359 MH2018 RJ27MAR22 - 29OCT22
SQ194738738 RJ28MAR22 - 02JUL22
(Mon, Tue, Thu, Sat)
738MAX RJ04JUL22 - 29OCT22
(Mon, Tue, Thu, Sat)
359 MH2018 RJ30MAR22 - 28OCT22
(Wed, Fri)
359 MH2018 RJ27MAR22 - 31JUL22
(Sun)
359 LH2013 J07AUG22 - 23OCT22
(Sun)
Hanoi to Singapore
FlightAircraftSeat TypeDates
SQ191359 MH2018 RJ27MAR22 - 29OCT22
SQ193738738 RJ28MAR22 - 02JUL22
(Mon, Tue, Thu, Sat)
738MAX RJ04JUL22 - 29OCT22
(Mon, Tue, Thu, Sat)
359 MH2018 RJ30MAR22 - 28OCT22
(Wed, Fri)
359 MH2018 RJ27MAR22 - 31JUL22
(Sun)
359 LH2013 J07AUG22 - 23OCT22
(Sun)

Singapore to Kathmandu
FlightAircraftSeat TypeDates
SQ4407872018 RJ29MAR22 - 25OCT22
(Tue)
738738 RJ30MAR22 - 28OCT22
(Wed, Fri)
SQ442738738 RJ06MAY22 - 31JUL22
7M8MAX RJ01AUG22 - 29OCT22
Kathmandu to Singapore
FlightAircraftSeat TypeDates
SQ4397872018 RJ29MAR22 - 25OCT22
(Tue)
738738 RJ30MAR22 - 28OCT22
(Wed, Fri)
SQ441738738 RJ06MAY22 - 31JUL22
7M8MAX RJ01AUG22 - 29OCT22

Singapore to Kuala Lumpur
FlightAircraftSeat TypeDates
SQ1047M8MAX RJ27MAR22 - 29OCT22
SQ1067M8MAX RJ07MAY22 - 29OCT22
(Sat, Sun)
359 LH2013 J09MAY22 - 28OCT22
(Mon - Fri)
SQ108738738 RJ04MAY22 - 28OCT22
(Mon - Fri)
359 LH2013 J09JUL22 - 29OCT22
(Sat, Sun)
SQ114738738 RJ01JUN22 - 29OCT22
SQ1167M8MAX RJ01AUG22 - 29OCT22
SQ122359 MH2018 RJ01JUL22 - 28OCT22
SQ126359 LH2013 J16MAY22 - 27OCT22
Kuala Lumpur to Singapore
FlightAircraftSeat TypeDates
SQ1037M8MAX RJ27MAR22 - 29OCT22
SQ1057M8MAX RJ07MAY22 - 29OCT22
(Sat, Sun)
359 LH2013 J09MAY22 - 28OCT22
(Mon - Fri)
SQ107738738 RJ04MAY22 - 28OCT22
(Mon - Fri)
359 LH2013 J09JUL22 - 29OCT22
(Sat, Sun)
SQ113738738 RJ01JUN22 - 29OCT22
SQ1157M8MAX RJ01AUG22 - 29OCT22
SQ121359 MH2018 RJ01JUL22 - 28OCT22
SQ125359 LH2013 J16MAY22 - 27OCT22

Singapore to Phuket
FlightAircraftSeat TypeDates
SQ7267M8MAX RJ27MAR22 - 29OCT22
SQ7287M8MAX RJ27MAR22 - 29OCT22
SQ7327M8MAX RJ01OCT22 - 29OCT22
SQ7367M8MAX RJ27MAR22 - 29OCT22
SQ7407M8MAX RJ01JUN22 - 29OCT22
Phuket to Singapore
FlightAircraftSeat TypeDates
SQ7257M8MAX RJ27MAR22 - 29OCT22
SQ7277M8MAX RJ27MAR22 - 29OCT22
SQ7317M8MAX RJ01OCT22 - 29OCT22
SQ7357M8MAX RJ27MAR22 - 29OCT22
SQ7397M8MAX RJ01JUN22 - 29OCT22

Singapore to Surabaya
FlightAircraftSeat TypeDates
SQ922738738 RJ10JUN22 - 12AUG22
359 MH2018 RJ13AUG22 - 29OCT22
SQ926738738 RJ11APR22 - 27OCT22
SQ928738738 RJ27MAR22 - 25OCT22
Surabaya to Singapore
FlightAircraftSeat TypeDates
SQ923738738 RJ10JUN22 - 12AUG22
359 MH2018 RJ13AUG22 - 29OCT22
SQ927738738 RJ11APR22 - 27OCT22
SQ929738738 RJ27MAR22 - 25OCT22

That really leaves only Da Nang, Darwin and Medan as routes where the 737-800 is currently unavoidable.

For a network-wide list, see our continually updated page of Business Class seat types by route for the latest information on what seats to expect when you next travel.

You can also spot if the 737-800 is operating your flight at the booking stage on the Singapore Airlines website or mobile app, with the airline referring to the aircraft as “Boeing 737-800 NG”.

The MAX network is now extensive

Lately there’s been a significant increase in the network for SIA’s new Boeing 737-8 MAX aircraft, especially on longer flights of up to 6 hours 45 minutes in the case of Cairns (which was a 737-800 route when it first restarted).

ADVERTISEMENT

Indeed there are already more Boeing 737-8 MAX aircraft operating in the Singapore Airlines fleet, 10 in total, compared to the seven Boeing 737-800s, so even if you do find yourself flying on one of the airline’s narrow-body aircraft chances are you’ll already be on a MAX, with the newer cabin products.

SIA Boeing 737-8 MAX route network
(click to enlarge)

That means much nicer cabin products already await for the majority of the airline’s 737 operations, and that situation should only improve as the operational MAX fleet grows to 16 aircraft by March 2023.

The Business Class cabin on SIA’s Boeing 737-8 MAX. (Photo: MainlyMiles)

The 737-800s will remain until the end of 2025

Despite SIA’s Boeing 737-800 fleet remaining small over the next few years, the bad news is that the remaining aircraft aren’t set to leave the airline anytime particularly soon.

At a media briefing this week, SIA’s Executive Vice President for Finance Tan Kai Ping confirmed that leases on the remaining Boeing 737-800s in the fleet will expire between September 2024 and January 2026.

“These [737 NG] leases will end between September 2024 and January 2026. At the end of the lease, the plan is that the airplanes will be returned to the lessor.”

Tan Kai Ping, EVP Finance, Singapore Airlines

Typically leased aircraft are taken out of service a month or two before the actual lease expiry date, for return-to-lessor preparations in the hangar, so we would expect the operating 737-800 fleet to start reducing (from seven) in mid-2024, with the last aircraft likely bowing out by the end of 2025.

That’s still quite a long time to potentially need to avoid these substandard cabin products, so let’s hope the seven-strong NG fleet continues to be mostly dedicated to shorter regional flights like Kuala Lumpur and Medan for the next couple of years or so!



 


 

Summary

Singapore Airlines is reducing its Boeing 737-800 fleet sooner than expected, with two of the nine aircraft now removed from service, as the newer MAX jets rapidly expand their flying programme across the narrow-body network.

This is good news for customers, since these older ex-SilkAir jets have basic recliner seats in Business Class and lack in-built entertainment screens and Wi-Fi connectivity.

Thankfully by the end of 2025, it looks like we won’t even need to worry about these planes at all, with full flat-bed Business Class seats on all SIA jets finally a reality, no matter how short your flight.

(Cover Photo: Plane’s Portrait Aviation Media / Malcolm Lu)

ADVERTISEMENT

2 comments

Leave a Reply