SilkAir Merging With Singapore Airlines & Getting Flat Beds In Business Class

SilkAir is Singapore Airlines’ wholly owned regional subsidiary. They operate a fleet of 33 narrowbody aircraft, including Airbus A320 family and Boeing 737 aircraft, though over time they plan to switch to an all Boeing fleet, as they have a further 32 Boeing 737 MAX 8 aircraft on order.

SilkAir operates many regional routes that are either high frequency or lower demand, where it wouldn’t make sense to operate a Singapore Airlines plane. That’s because Singapore Airlines’ fleet consists exclusively of widebody aircraft, which can’t operate to many markets (it’s similar to the situation between Emirates and FlyDubai in the UAE).

There’s a pretty significant change coming to SilkAir’s branding and business. Singapore Airlines has announced that the SilkAir brand will be completely folded into the Singapore Airlines brand over the next few years.

With these changes, Singapore Airlines will invest more than $100 million to upgrade SilkAir’s cabins with lie-flat seats in business class, as well as seatback entertainment in both economy and business class. This will ensure that there’s more consistency across the entire Singapore Airlines fleet.

At the moment, SilkAir’s 737 MAX 8 aircraft have generous seat pitch and recline, but they’re far from being fully flat.


SilkAir’s 737 MAX 8 business class

The aircraft cabin interior upgrades are expected to start in 2020 (this delay is due to the lead time required by seat suppliers), and the official merger will only take place after a sufficient number of aircraft have been fitted with the new cabins, so that’s still a few years down the road. Further details are expected to be announced over the coming months and years.

What type of flat bed business class Singapore Airlines will install hasn’t yet been announced. My first thought is that they may introduce something similar to FlyDubai’s new business class (since they also have 737 MAX 8 aircraft), which are seats arranged in an alternating 2-2 and then 1-1 configuration, similar to JetBlue Mint.


FlyDubai’s 737 MAX 8 business class


FlyDubai’s 737 MAX 8 business class

Here’s what Singapore Airlines’ CEO, Goh Choon Phong, had to say about this move:

“Singapore Airlines is one year into our three-year Transformation Programme and today’s announcement is a significant development to provide more growth opportunities and prepare the Group for an even stronger future.”

“Importantly, it will be positive for our customers. It is another example of the major investment we are making to ensure that our products and services continue to lead the industry across short-, medium- and long-haul routes.”

It’s really cool to see this development. SilkAir planes will feature a much better onboard experience, and as an aviation geek it will be really cool to see 737s in the Singapore Airlines livery.

Otherwise the implications of this move are fairly limited for passengers. That’s to say that since SilkAir was a wholly owned subsidiary, their operations were already largely integrated with Singapore Airlines. The one area where we should see a change is that SilkAir isn’t part of the Star Alliance, so those flights becoming Singapore Airlines flights are good in terms of earning and redeeming miles, as well as receiving alliance-level elite recognition. However, this is likely to only be a few years down the road.

What do you make of Singapore Airlines eliminating the SilkAir brand and installing flat beds in business class?

(Featured image courtesy of Venkat Mangudi)

Comments

  1. Sounds better for the long term. SIA will have the best products for both regional and long haul markets. Their competitors should be worried.

  2. Wondering what will happen with the SIN-DIL flight.
    That MI flight is currently not integrated in the rest of the SQ/MI network. Only bookable point to point.

  3. I admit I’m a layman regarding the specific issue of airplane seat fabrication, so I’m always surprised when I read something that suggests a supplier is having a hard time meeting demand or they’re having production issues (as we’ve seen with United’s Polaris seats). What about the airplane seat production process makes it so prone to delays and complications? Of course some of the newer seats incorporate electronics and complex mechanicals for the beds, but it still doesn’t seem like a product that would require huge lead times. What am I missing?

  4. That’s more a negative than positive development really. Right now Silk flies short 1-3 hr hops which really have zero need for full flat bed.
    Seems with the MAX more 737 super-narrow bodies will replace wide bodies on 5h+ flights. That’s what this really means.

  5. I’m flying MI later today (codeshare with SQ as they don’t operate HKT flights) and have just attained *A Gold. Called them up last week about *A Gold benefits and they just flatly said “we’re not a *A airline so there’s no benefits unless you’re KF Gold and above”. Guess I’m two years too early 🙁

  6. You suggest that current silk air routes (I would like to use United miles to fly from Canada to Siem Reap, the last segment Singapore to Siem Reap is a current silk air route) won’t be bookable as star alliance flights for some time — are we talking years?

  7. Koh Samui sees x2 daily service on a SilkAir A319. Runway classification (and Bangkok Airways) prohibit anything larger to land here. Should be interesting if SilkAir keeps their tiny 319 fleet alive or terminate service altogether to USM, like TG is doing this September.

    —JRL

  8. Upgrading the entire Silk Air fleet is great news. Last year I flew Silk Air between Singapore and Kuala Lumpur. I think it was an Airbus on each segment. Well, anyway, the seats and interiors were dirty and worn. I couldn’t believe this company was in any way related to SQ. The interior was truly shabby.

  9. My city is serviced only by SilkAir to SIN. I for one, will be glad to see it go and hopefully be replaced by SQ levels of service.

  10. Good news. Product consistency. MI becoming SQ and therefore Star Alliance member. MI should definitely consider flat bed and not lie flat seats! If it is a herringbone seat or the Thompson Vantage seat, it is a very good move on the SQ group. This puts pressure on the competitors like CX, TG, GA, MH etc..

  11. @CS Silk Air also flies to a number of places in excess of 3 hrs eg. Cairns 6hrs 30mins+, Hiroshima 6hrs 15mins, Darwin & Changsha 4rs 40 mins each, Kolkata 4hrs+, etc

  12. @Myles wait, we’re talking about a regional fleet. Not a flagship one. I don’t know your obsession with flat bed for such a short flight. GA wouldn’t need that kind of luxury, for their narrowbody fleet was intended for domestic flight.

  13. @J Dee. Thank you. I didn’t realise Cairns was Silk Air too. 6h30min is indeed ridiculous on their equipment. Seat upgrade definitely useful!

  14. I’ve flown silk air a couple of times. Although not SIA standard, the soft product was very good. Better than any US carrier.

  15. My Silk Air flights have always been credited back to my SQ Kris Flyer account – presumably points that can be redeemed on Star Alliance? (I get that the reverse isn’t currently possible).

  16. @ Emily — That’s correct, KrisFlyer members have long received full benefits on SilkAir, but it hasn’t been possible to receive other Star Alliance benefits, or to earn and redeem other Star Alliance miles on SilkAir.

  17. @Zie

    Why just be satisfied with simple recliners? Do not you aspire better for your life? Or are just a follower which do not have any aspirations for your life or money?? SQ will be launching or has already launched the new regional seatings with flat bed! So why not install flat beds with MI? I want the best for my money and for me! And I am certainly not here to please the airlines but expecting from them the service which I have paid for!! ..so you are saying!!

  18. Everybody seems to think it is a sensible move. Sure, but what’s not sensible is installing lie-flat beds on 737s that fly routes such as Singapore-Jakarta.
    Is that society nowadays where you need a flat bed to fly for 2 hours? It’s just a waste of money and customers will of course pay for it. Let’s not be naive.

  19. To everyone who thinks a flat bed is too much for regional routes, than fly Economy and LCC and feel free to restrain yourself!
    The Asian market have huge portions of pax who are willing to pay the premium price..just to have more space, luxury/exclusivity and most of all DISTINCTION!
    Do not let me start with class distinction within the Asian society! This might invoke some inferiority complexe on your side! European/North American egalitarian attitude is a whole different world.
    Sensible enough or not..the airlines want those yields! They want revenue from pax and not only cheapos or redemption vultures!

  20. Ben-as you mentioned towards the end of your post, the big issue/question/need is the ability to earn and credit miles to other *A carriers. I just completed the 1st of many Biz class flights from SFO to Hyderabad, India via Singapore on a tix bought from, marketed and with SQ flight numbers, with the connecting flight codeshare on Silk. I was surprised to find out that those flight miles aren’t credited to United despite being the regional carrier for SQ.

    Why do you think they are waiting for the cabin retrofits to happen before the merger, and thus the ability to earn *A miles? Couldn’t that be initiated beforehand? Thanks.

  21. It means more Star Alliance awards being made available to SilkAir (but not Singapore’s) destinations. Looking forward to more destinations and seats served using other *A FF programs.

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