SilkAir 737 Business Class In 10 Pictures

Hello from Siem Reap, Cambodia! After great flights on Cathay Pacific from Los Angeles to Hong Kong to Singapore, and a couple of nights in Singapore, our next stop is Siem Reap, Cambodia.

Singapore Airlines’ subsidiary, SilkAir, operates flights between Singapore and Siem Reap. The airline is a member of the Singapore Airlines group, though isn’t a Star Alliance member. That means you can’t redeem Star Alliance miles for their flights, other than Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer miles.

Fortunately I managed to redeem miles for this flight through a promotion KrisFlyer is offering, so the cost was just 10,000 KrisFlyer miles one-way in business class. I flew SilkAir several years ago on one of their A319s in business class, though they now have a fleet of new 737s, so I was curious to see how that experience compared.

Our flight was operated by a gorgeous new 737-800.

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The business class cabin consisted of 12 seats, spread across three rows in a 2-2 configuration. The legroom seemed to be similar to what you’d get on a US airline in domestic first class, though the seats had legrests. To me that’s rather puzzling, as there really isn’t enough room to use them — the seats are already really tight if the person in front of you reclines. I think a simple footrest that swings down from the seat in front of you is much more practical.

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I was impressed that SilkAir had “proper” pillows and blankets, even on a sub-two hour flight.

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SilkAir certainly isn’t as full service as their “parent” airline. They don’t have built-in personal televisions, but rather in business class have portable tablets. That’s a non-ideal setup, though they did have Ninja Warriors, which is possibly the best thing I’ve ever seen. How have I not seen that show before?!? I laughed to the point that I had tears in my eyes.

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I was also impressed by the service. SilkAir has six flight attendants on their 737s. As a point of comparison, American has three. They had two flight attendants working business class. There were only two other passengers, so we had a 2:1 passenger to crew ratio.

While the crew was super friendly and attentive, unfortunately they didn’t have much to work with. There was a single menu that the crew passed around when they took meal orders.

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The food was served just minutes after takeoff, but was borderline inedible. The chicken was rubbery as could be, and the salad bland.

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Ford had the veal meatballs, which he said tasted horrible.

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The only redeeming aspect of the meal was the ice cream.

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Unfortunately the coffee was vile, even by airplane standards (which is saying a lot).

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Oddly SilkAir only had small single-serving bottles of wine, with one red and one white choice. I asked if they had champagne, and they said “no, because of how short the flight is.” Hmmm…

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The flight was also really bumpy, though of course that’s not the airline’s fault. About 80% of the flight had chop, with about half of it being so rough that the crew had to be seated.

SilkAir business class bottom line

SilkAir is sort of like Singapore Airlines light. They run a solid operation with great flight attendants and high staffing levels. The planes are clean, modern, and in good condition. Unfortunately otherwise they fail to impress, at least based on my experience. The food was bad, the drink selection was underwhelming, and the tablets for entertainment sort of feel cheap. Who knows, maybe I was just unlucky with the soft product on this flight.

Still, there aren’t exactly many great options for getting to secondary destinations in Asia, so SilkAir is probably the best among them. I’d certainly fly them again.

If you’ve flown SilkAir before, what was your experience like?

Comments

  1. Ever thought of trying Dragonair/Cathay Dragon so you can compare SilkAir with Cathay’s own subsidiary?

  2. Staying at the PH Siem Reap? Do you know if we can do the visa when we land or do we need to do it beforehand? If both are options, what do you suggest is better?

  3. I’m taking this same flight next month, glad to have a review of it since it’s a lesser known brand and destination. Thanks!

  4. I flew silk air to Phuket, silk air is expensive compared to other airlines that fly to its various destinations. And therefore usually pretty empty flight. For my flight to and from Phuket I had an exit row all to myself. See I chose Muslim or Hindu meal I don’t remember and it was great. I think choosing one those meals will get you a spicy or curry option which would be fine with silk air.

  5. @Ang Visa is pretty simple to get online, tho it does take a few days. You dont even need to send in the passport. They’ll email you a PDF file with the visa, just present that on arrival. I’ve done it several times.

  6. Just did Visa on arrival in Phnom Penh the other day. Nothing was set up ahead, I just had my $30 and a passport photo. I filled out some minor paperwork upon landing and I was processed in less than 2 minutes. Only a handful of people were doing the VOA even though we came off a full ANA 787. Lots of staff working the counters. Overall it was quite easy and went way faster than expected.

  7. Just a correct, it’s slightly more expensive to do it online ahead of time, $40 (with the CC fees) versus $30 if you just do it upon arrival. But, it should be faster as you don’t have to wait when you arrive.

    I just did my paperwork online Friday night, which took about 30 minutes total for my husband and I, and got my visas email to me last night, so about 48 hours later. Well worth it to me to have it all settled before I arrive in Siem Reap.

  8. I’ve flown them once in Y, HYD-SIN and back, though this was several years ago. They clearly didn’t leave much of an impression one way or another, as I don’t recall anything particularly remarkable about the flights. I did recall everything being on-time at least. They were considerably cheaper than Jet Airways, though frankly, if I were looking at a LCC/ULCC from India to Singapore or vice versa, I’d probably just go with IndiGo. And at the end of the day, that’s likely the issue with SilkAir. They don’t seem to offer much to choose them over a ULCC when flying Y, while if you’re looking for J class, you can get a better product on other full-service carriers.

  9. In the case of Indonesia:

    Silkair flies to destinations that
    – can’t support a widebody SQ flight (JOG: yogyakarta for central java’s classic buddhist/hindu ruins, its runway is to short and no room to expand)
    – first tapping into a market before SQ resumes/starts flying again (SUB: surabaya before/during/after the indonesian monetary crisis)
    – are primarely tourist leisure destinations filled with Y travellers (LOP unspoilt backpackers favorite lombok island)
    – have no airlinks internationally but are subsidized (DIL: Dili capital of Timor Leste -now independent state)
    – ferry indonesian workers for construction/healthcare/maids employed in singapore (or other asian countries) or to visit their relatives (Used to fly SOC: solocity/surakarta when JOG was still domestic only
    – have appeal to Singaporeans for a weekend trip away (MDC: Manado for its food and beaches)

    I have travelled extensivly monthly from AMS to Central Java and the combination Singapore Airlines and Silkair works fastest in schedule and timing. Quality in C and Y is constant and Singapore’s Changi Airport pleasent to be in transit.

    Bad thing is prices can be high and as Lucky mentions MI is not a staralliance member so star alliance gold accrual and benefits dont apply. They will tag suitcases with a priorty tag if your onwards flight is in business.

    Weirdly redeeming on MI in combination with SQ codeshare flight numbers and SQ onwards flight works perfectly. However at checkin MI is capable of checking through luggage between MI/SQ to star alliance partners on different tickets/pn. free of charge and hassle. (No BA-stunts of no-through checkin) I have flown for milleage runs 1ticket MI:JOG-SIN SQ:SIN-BKK then 2nd ticket OS BKK-VIE-AMS or LX BKK-ZRH-AMS and luggage came all right through priorty and all. Even more surprising that they could print on another occassion my LH: SIN-FRA-AMS boarding pass aswell.

    MI’s stationmanagers are all from Singapore. If you have time Lucky, visit MI’s office in REP and share your opnions. I have shared mine with the station manager of JOG and we had very good talk about the airlines ground/flight operations ex-JOG. So well, that some suggestions were visible when i departed ex-JOG again. Tell them how you feel and they will listen and improve.

  10. @ tiffany – you are right: if you have you visa in advance you can disembark and beat the crowds going straight to the immigration desks, they will stamp your passport and are done.

    If you need to queue with 100 others coming from your aircraft it’s kinda of a waste of vacation time

    Also there are reports that those paying for visa upon arrival not in USD (like GBPetc) get smaller change back due to “exchange rates”. So if you decide on visa upon arrival have exact notes ready for avoiding any confusion/misconduct.

    (I have been to REP workwise archeology expat too just like JOG)

  11. @ Ang — On arrival worked great for us. Took all of five minutes, and that was even though we were in the back of the line for our flight. They charge you an extra $2 if you don’t have passport photos (which we didn’t), but oddly they don’t actually make you take a picture then. The visa has to be paid for in USD, so make sure you have cash on arrival.

  12. Long time reader but posting for the first time. Background: my parents live in SUB (one of MI’s destination) and I fly to visit them from the US once a year.

    I used to regularly fly SIN-SUB back in 2006-2008 when the choices were merely MI, GA, and low cost carrier Valuair (now bought by Jetstar?). I used to bring lots of luggage so I would try to fly MI if I could (GA wasn’t as awesome as it currently is now), but then as a cheap Y flyer I would pay for whatever is the cheapest in a heartbeat. Still, at that time, I thought that MI is this premium choice.

    Now that SQ operates the daily morning SIN-SUB-SIN flight on an A333, GA is great, and the low cost carriers have stepped up their games due to competition, MI (which is still flies SIN-SUB-SIN in the evening) hasn’t made any improvements other than changing the crew’s uniforms and updating the J upholstery. It is clear that they can’t win competing against its parent company – they have the same ground experience but smaller plane, no entertainment screen, and no hot towel 🙁 It makes the customers in SUB wish that they can get twice daily SQ flights instead like we used to.

    By the way, last August I got to redeem Thank You points for the first time for SFO-SIN-SUB round trip on SQ and MI. I took the same J promotion on MI and flew premium economy on SQ to SFO. Thanks Lucky!

  13. Get the same things on AA or UA and you would complain how horrible they are. Mmm… I guess that foreign carriers get automatically extra points 😉

  14. For someone who paided next to nothing for the flight your a very ungrateful person.

    Seriously you have no right unless you pay with cold hard cash to complain.
    At least you didnt have to rub shoulders with the peasants in economy.

  15. Usually I’d never fly MI if I were paying my own way. Much, much more expensive than the LCCs and sometimes even other regional legacy carriers, and nothing memorable – hard to differentiate when flights are so short. Also have seen their flights cancelled more than once *probably* due to very low yields on certain routes. They are caught in between SQ (can’t one-up the parent) and Scoot (can’t undercut their LCC) – that’s just within their own group – and there are many, many other choices out there, so very non-ideal situation.

  16. I fly Asiana to Siem Reap. Deplaning from business class and beating back the Korean economy class hordes of highly aggressive tour group ladies, I can get the visa in a couple minutes.

    Beware of dengue fever from mosquitoes.

  17. “Who knows, maybe I was just unlucky with the soft product on this flight.”

    Well, on your last trip with them, the food was average at best. This time it wasn’t good. It seems like their food isn’t their strongest selling point.

  18. AA staffs the 737 with 4 FA’s, not 3. Back when they offered food in main cabin, it was 5. Staffing with 3 was only for a few years around the time of the recession, when the 737 had 10 fewer seats.

  19. Silkair is a bit of a strange one. It’s definitely not a full-service airline (although service and comfort levels are comparable with domestic and regional flights on legacy carriers in the US and Europe), even though it competes with full-service airlines on many regional routes (e.g. Garuda, Malaysia Airlines). At the same time, fares are much higher than the LCCs in the region.

    I wouldn’t pay the premium to fly Silkair over an LCC unless getting there on time was an important factor or if I was taking advantage of a codeshare with Singapore Airlines. Silkair has much better reliability than the LCCs.

  20. Well, SATS Food (SIN catering) started to produce its own ice cream and load onto a SilkAir flight? I’ve never seen that before, Even SQ Y receive Häagen-Dazs out of SIN (For example, SIN-BKK)

  21. I flew Dragonair (Y) into REP, Vietnam Airlines (J) to Hanoi, and Dragonair (Y) back to Honk Kong. All flights were excellent and the food was very good. Alcohol was even provided in cattle on Dragonair.

    So it sounds like Silk Air is to be avoided at all cost.

    @baltia – your comments about ungrateful points fliers are amusing – have you not noticed that this web site is about using miles for travel? Why would you complain about Lucky using miles and comparing the product (Silk Air) to other airlines? I suspect you either are dense or have another objective.

  22. Unfortunately, SQ itself has a much weaker product on their regional routes. In particular food is often barely edible. Today, GA is arguably the best airline in the region – but they don’t serve REP, I’m afraid.

  23. @ Andy SQ is better in terms of short haul catering. What does CX offer between HKG-TPE/MNL? You’ll be shocked, a hot pastry or wrap plus a boxed drink. Also @ LSG Sky Chefs AKL I don’t know the whole SATS system, maybe ask our colleagues at where does SQ flies (They fly to IAH instead of DFW).

  24. @Alan Dragonair are marginally better than CX in shorthaul catering. @Andy From my own experience, CX only has a hot pastry or wrap plus a boxed drink for HKG-TPE/MNL flights. SQ does better here.
    @LSG Sky Chefs AKL I don’t know, since SQ cater ex-HKG with Cathay Pacific Catering Services.

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