It’s been almost two years year since Singapore Airlines first introduced its Boeing 737-8 MAX aircraft to passenger service, which happened back in late November 2021 between Changi Airport and the Thai holiday resort island of Phuket, including the latest flat-bed Regional Business Class and Economy Class seats for the narrow-body fleet.
More MAXs and more routes have been progressively added since then, with 16 of the jets now in the regular operating fleet.
While a further 21 MAXs were set to join in the years ahead, SIA recently announced a 20% cut in its total order for the type, meaning only a further 13 will eventually be delivered, none of which will enter service before mid-2024 at the earliest.
With the IATA northern winter 2023 / 24 schedules now confirmed, it’s a good time to revisit where the MAXs are flying on the network, whether you’re trying to snag an experience with the new cabin products, or simply avoiding the type altogether!
The MAX already represents the majority of the SIA narrow-body fleet, with last year’s confirmation that the older Boeing 737-800s (NGs) with recliner seats in Business Class now number only seven aircraft (down from nine), all of which will eventually leave the airline by late 2025.
In total, nearly one in five SIA flights (17%) will be operated by a Boeing 737-8 MAX aircraft during the upcoming winter timetable season.
The 737 MAX network has expanded considerably since inaugural routes to Phuket, Phnom Penh, Kuala Lumpur, Siem Reap and Brunei started in late 2021.
The fleet now flies to 21 destinations, including Cairns in Australia which clocks in at up to 6 hours 55 minutes of flight time, and Busan in South Korea which takes over 6 hours.
That list will expand this coming winter season with the addition of three cities, including a reinstatement of Phuket flights (the type’s original launch route), Ho Chi Minh and Kuala Lumpur.
However, some routes – Davao and Penang – will no longer receive the MAX, while Kathmandu already lost the type from its schedules, for a new total of 22 destinations.
Here’s how SIA’s Boeing 737-8 MAX route network looks.
The MAX has mostly replaced the airline’s older Boeing 737-800s on the network, which have retained the former SilkAir recliner seats in Business Class and lack any Wi-Fi connectivity or in-built entertainment systems.
Operation of the MAX vs. the 737-800s has now shifted firmly to the strategy outlined by SIA’s EVP commercial Lee Lik Hsin at the new product launch in November 2021, where he stated that the -800s would be put on shorter routes where the newer cabin products were less important.
You can expand the schedule boxes below for each of SIA’s confirmed 737-8 MAX destinations, to see which flights the new aircraft is operating on, including timings and days of operation through to the end of the northern winter schedule on 30th March 2024.
We have also noted whether there is an alternative to the MAX on these routes, for those wishing to avoid the type.
By March 2024, SIA will have 191 weekly departures from Changi using the Boeing 737 MAX, out of a total of 1,071 weekly departures across all fleets, meaning over 17% of the airline’s flights (nearly one in five) will be flown by the type.Fun fact: The Boeing 737-8 MAX will be used on 30% of all Singapore Airlines flights under 5 hours duration this winter.
Additionally 98 weekly departures (9%) are operated by the Boeing 737-800, meaning a total of 26% (1 in 4) of the airline’s flights will be flown by a narrow-body aircraft during the October 2023 to March 2024 period.
How to tell if your flight is on the MAX
Aside from the schedule tables above, Singapore Airlines identifies the Boeing 737-8 MAX in its booking engine when you search for a flight or award redemption, either through the website or mobile app.
Simply click ‘More details’ for the flight(s) displayed in the search results to reveal the aircraft type.
Note that a different identification is given for the older Boeing 737-800 aircraft, which are labelled “Boeing 737-800 NG” by SIA.
If you’re using a search tool like ExpertFlyer, you can identify the Boeing 737-8 MAX in the search results by its IATA aircraft type designator “7M8”.
If you’re checking for the Boeing 737-8 MAX on a flight tracking site like FlightRadar24, you may see it referred to by its ICAO aircraft type designator “B38M”.
Most third-party booking sites like Kayak will also clearly show if your flight is operated by the MAX.
The current SIA MAX fleet
The current Singapore Airlines fleet of 16 Boeing 737-8 MAX aircraft is as shown in the table below.
|Singapore Airlines Boeing 737 MAX Fleet|
|9V-MBA||6.0 yrs||28 Nov 2021
||6 Dec 2021
||23 Nov 2021
||17 Dec 2021
||4 Dec 2021
||24 Nov 2021
||1 Feb 2022
||22 Mar 2022
||10 Apr 2022
||30 Apr 2022
|9V-MBK||4.1 yrs||2 Jun 2022
|9V-MBL||4.0 yrs||25 Apr 2023
|9V-MBM||3.8 yrs||20 Nov 2022
|9V-MBN||3.8 yrs||7 Jul 2022
|9V-MBO||1.2 yrs||15 Sep 2022
|9V-MBP||0.9 yrs||22 Dec 2022
9V-MBL, first delivered in February 2022, was repainted from SilkAir colours into the Star Alliance colour scheme in April that year, but was not brought into service until a full year later – on 25th April 2023, following a long wait for its cabin refit.
It’s now in service, meaning all 16 of the MAX fleet are plying the network each day.
However, SIA will not receive any new 737 MAX jets from Boeing during the current financial year – between now and 31st March 2024, despite an outstanding order for 13 more of these aircraft.
It’s therefore unlikely the MAX network will be changing much, prior to mid-2024.
New cabin products
This big advantage when you fly on SIA’s 737 MAX rather than the 737-800 is the latest cabin products, including a flat-bed seat in Business Class, two “throne” seat options, and an upgraded experience in Economy Class including seat-back in-flight entertainment.
Wi-Fi is also available in both cabins (and remember, it’s now an ‘all-you-can-eat’ allowance in Business Class, and even in Economy for KrisFlyer members).
Here’s a to-scale representation of the cabin layout from the excellent aeroLOPA site, clearly showing the extended consoles at the two “throne” seats.
Here are our dedicated articles covering the new cabins, to help you know what to expect on board.
Do bear in mind that on routes with both MAXs and wide-body aircraft operating, like the Boeing 787-10s on Bali and Chennai, you’ll get a better experience in both cabins on the larger aircraft compared to the 737 MAX.
The differences here include direct aisle access regardless of your seat allocation in Business Class, plus a wider seat, while in Economy Class there’s more legroom and recline, plus AC charging sockets, on the wide-body jets.
These aspects may not make a huge difference on shorter routes, but as the MAXs will no doubt stretch their legs to even more distant cities in the coming years, the differences will certainly be worth noting where you have a choice on your route.
Don’t confuse the 737 MAX with the 737-800
Singapore Airlines has decided against any further cabin upgrades on its fleet of nine (now seven) Boeing 737-800s inherited from SilkAir, which will remain in the fleet until leases on those aircraft expire in 2024/25.
Where you have a choice between the MAX and the -800 on a route, it will therefore be preferable to go for the MAX where possible, especially on longer flights.
That’s because the 737-800s retain 12 recliner seats in Business Class, with little privacy between them, and a more basic Economy Class cabin with no built-in IFE system or Wi-Fi.
Here’s how the Business Class experience stacks up, based on our review in December 2022.
Passengers can stream entertainment content onto their personal device from an onboard server (when it works!), but it’s no match for the full KrisWorld system on the MAXs.
There’s further route potential for the MAX fleet
As we mentioned earlier, SIA’s Boeing 737 MAX fleet will almost double from its current level when all 13 outstanding orders have been delivered over the coming years.
Due to the predominantly short-haul and regional nature of the 737’s operation, somewhere close to half of all SIA flights may to be operated by the 737-8 MAX once the fleet is fully delivered and in service.
Singapore Airlines will certainly be playing to the versatility of the 737-8 MAX, with its 6,500km range allowing it to comfortably serve thinner routes of up to 7 hours, or be deployed seasonally on less busy city pairs in place of wide-body aircraft.
Batik Air Malaysia has recently been operating its Boeing 737-8 MAX between Kuala Lumpur and Melbourne – a non-stop flight of 6,300km, which is around 700km further than Singapore – Mauritius or Singapore – Muscat, so the capability is clearly there.
We wouldn’t be surprised to see cities as far afield as Adelaide and Fukuoka join the roster for the 737-8 MAX as the fleet continues to grow, so watch this space for future route announcements.
Singapore Airlines is keeping its Boeing 737-8 MAX narrow-body fleet at 16 aircraft until at least mid-2024, but nonetheless the type is to operate almost one in five of the carrier’s departures out of Changi each week this winter season.
The network will span 22 cities by then, with further destinations undoubtedly on the way in the years ahead as 13 more aircraft join the fleet.
As the MAX fleet expands within Singapore Airlines, it is becoming increasingly difficult to avoid the type (if that’s your strategy), with 11 routes seeing exclusively 737-8 MAX operation this winter, including Cairns, Darwin, Medan and Siem Reap.
Ultimately the final fleet of 37 MAX aircraft could see the airline branching out to even longer routes than Cairns and Busan, potentially including cities that formerly saw only wide-body operation, as far afield as Adelaide, or even former SIA destinations like Mauritius.
(Cover Photo: Shutterstock)