Singapore Airlines has announced its financial results for the full year 2022/23, with a record annual operating profit of S$2.6 billion for the carrier, which has recovered strongly from the COVID-19 pandemic thanks to an almost complete removal of the country’s travel restrictions since April 2022.
As part of the announcement, SIA has also revealed some tweaks to its 100-strong aircraft order book, which will see more wide-body aircraft than expected join the mainline carrier, at the expense of Scoot, while eight single aisle jets are axed from the list – the troubled Boeing 737-8 MAX model.
Boeing 737-8 MAX order cut by 20%
The most interesting part of SIA’s future fleet shuffle is to reduce its order for Boeing 737-8 MAX aircraft by more than 20% – from an ambitious 37 down to 29 jets – a reduction of eight.
That represents over a fifth of the order (22%), with these aircraft originally destined for SilkAir as the regional carrier’s fleet replacement, though that airline has since been fully merged into SIA.
Singapore Airlines first introduced the aircraft back in late November 2021, which became its smallest by passenger capacity with only 154 seats – 10 in Business Class and 144 in Economy.
The introduction also showcased the carrier’s new flat-bed Regional Business Class and Economy Class seats for the narrow-body fleet, though these won’t become quite as prominent as first predicted, now the order has been significantly reduced.
Many will be happy with this news
The order reduction will be good news for those who dislike the concept of flying on a narrow-body Singapore Airlines aircraft, or have misgivings about travelling on the 737 MAX family, following its tarnished entry into commercial service – marred by two fatal crashes that were caused by a design flaw.
That’s now happily been fixed, but many of our readers do still avoid the type regardless – something that’s increasingly difficult to do on the SIA network as the fleet has expanded.
The aircraft’s cabin products also fall short of those on the wide-body jets, despite SIA’s best efforts, with no guarantee of direct aisle access in Business Class and poorer legroom, seat width and IFE systems in Economy.
Based on May 2023 schedules, the MAX is currently used on 30% of all Singapore Airlines flights lasting under five hours, while 12 cities on the network are now only served by the type.
Nonetheless SIA’s MAX fleet will still almost double in the years ahead, from 16 now to 29 by the time the full order has been delivered (assuming it doesn’t get trimmed further!).
Where the MAX is flying
As we reported in February this year, Singapore Airlines is currently flying its Boeing 737-8 MAX fleet to and from 21 cities on the network, with Busan also joining the fold from late August this year.
That network now looks unlikely to change much over the next 12 months, since no new MAXs are being introduced to the fleet until April 2024 at the earliest, though longer-term there will clearly be a wider range of routes for an ultimate fleet almost double the current size.
No new MAXs for SIA this year
Singapore Airlines currently operates 16 Boeing 737-8 MAX aircraft – having finally brought 9V-MBL into service.
That aircraft was delivered to Changi on 26th February 2022 (not a typo!), then was repainted from SilkAir colours into the Star Alliance colour scheme in April 2022, but for some reason was not brought into service until a full year later – on 25th April 2023.
Despite still having an order for 13 of the type, even following this recent cancellation of eight aircraft, this week the airline has made another surprising announcement regarding its 737-8 MAX fleet.
SIA will not receive any new 737 MAX jets from Boeing during the current financial year – between now and 31st March 2024.
That means it’s unlikely we’ll see the airline’s MAX fleet grow at all, from the current 16, until mid-2024 at the earliest.
Again, that’s good news if you’re actively avoiding the aircraft for whatever reason. The move also appears to reiterate the group’s apparent shift towards higher-capacity aircraft to align with the COVID-19 recovery trajectory over at least the next year or two, since there’s news on the wide-body front too…
More Boeing 787-10s
Singapore Airlines has also confirmed that as part of the same agreement with Boeing, three of the manufacturer’s 787-9s originally destined for low-cost subsidiary Scoot will instead be swapped for the larger Boeing 787-10, and be delivered to the full-service carrier instead.
This comes nearly two years after the group made more or less the opposite move, by switching two SIA Boeing 787-10 orders to across to the low-cost division in the midst of the pandemic.
That decision, which appeared to favour a post-COVID wide-body recovery for Scoot ahead of SIA, has now been reversed (and then some).
As you may recall recently, SIA’s low-cost subsidiary will be adding nine 112-seat Embraer E190-E2 jets to its fleet between late 2024 and the end of 2025, ideal aircraft for thinner regional routes, and a far cry from the 375-seat Boeing 787-9 slots they are giving up in favour of SIA 787-10s.
The switch means that Singapore Airlines will ultimately take delivery of 31 Boeing 787-10s. With 337 seats, these have the highest capacity in its fleet, after the Airbus A380.
Alongside 24 Airbus A350 Medium Haul models, this will ultimately give the carrier 55 wide-body regional jets, for use on flights typically not exceeding 8 hours from Singapore, complemented by the future 29-strong Boeing 737-8 MAX fleet.
The current SIA Boeing 787-10 fleet stands at 16 aircraft, but a further seven will be delivered between now and the end of March 2024, bringing the fleet to 23 by the end of this financial year alone.
That will leave only another eight of the type to be delivered the airline, from April 2024 onwards, and again is a stark contrast to the narrow-body fleet, which won’t expand at all this year.
Discussing the reshuffle at a media briefing earlier this week, SIA’s EVP Finance summarised the reasoning for this latest decision.
Three Boeing 787-10s (1,011 seats) does not replace the capacity of eight cancelled Boeing 737-8 MAXs (1,232 seats), nor can three aircraft replicate the flight frequencies of eight, but in terms of Business Class capacity the trio of wide-body jets will actually provide a 35% boost for the airline (108 seats vs. 80 seats).
Anecdotally, demand for premium cabins like Business Class has been particularly strong during the COVID-19 recovery – something many of our readers can resonate with, given struggles to redeem miles in this cabin on popular routes for the last year or more.
SIA Group’s latest order book
Here’s how the Singapore Airlines and Scoot order book for new aircraft now looks, following these changes.
SIA Group Orders
|Aircraft Type||Firm Orders|
|Boeing 737-8 MAX||13||—||13|
Scoot will now take delivery of only four Boeing 787s (three -8s and one -9) following the shift of three 787-9 orders to SIA as the 787-10.
Among the 104 orders, 10 are pure freighters – seven Airbus A350Fs for Singapore Airlines Cargo and three Boeing 777Fs, which are operated by Singapore Airlines Cargo in partnership with DHL.
The most anticipated addition is of course the upcoming Boeing 777-9, which will replace Boeing 777-300ERs and ultimately Airbus A380s in the SIA fleet, with brand new cabin products that even this week the CEO was still lauding.
These aircraft have sadly been significantly delayed in the design and production stage, but are now expected in 2025, or potentially 2026.
Singapore Airlines is trimming its order for Boeing 737-8 MAX aircraft by a fifth, from 37 aircraft down to 29, and won’t take delivery of any new examples of the type until April 2024 at the earliest.
That will come as good news to many of our readers, who aren’t enamoured by the slightly inferior cabin products and comfort this aircraft offers compared to the carrier’s wide-body jets, or who remain deterred due to the type’s unfortunate safety record.
At the same time, three additional Boeing 787-10 aircraft will be part of the mix, upgraded from Boeing 787-9 orders for Scoot, as the group recalibrates its capacity based on COVID-19 recovery predictions.
(Cover Photo: Plane’s Portrait Aviation Media / Malcolm Lu)