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

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

Singapore Airlines Operates First Boeing 737-800 Flight

On Thursday, Singapore Airlines operated its first flight using the Boeing 737-800. The aircraft was used on a flight from Singapore to Phuket.  The flight is the first narrowbody flight for the Singaporean carrier in over 40 years. 

At the time of writing, the flight, SQ736, was scheduled to depart at 4:20 p.m. and arrive in Phuket at 5:15 p.m.  Next, the airline plans to debut the aircraft on flights to Brunei and Phnom Penh on March 15th and March 17th respectively.

Passenger Experience

Due to the inaugural flight, Singapore Airlines offered an upgraded experience including food, beverages and an amenity kit.  For example, a menu of signature Singapore and Thai dishes will be available to business class and economy class passengers until the end of March.  Passengers in business class will also receive a celebratory cocktail named Tropical Sunrise specially prepared for the event, though available on all Boeing 737 flights.

Furthermore, a Penhaligon’s amenity kit will be available exclusively for each inaugural flight using the narrowbody aircraft, which features a variety of cosmetics, including a limited-edition perfume.

The Boeing 737-800 was acquired as part of the airline’s merger with SilkAir, its regional subsidiary.  In 2018, Singapore Airlines announced the move, with the goal of a consistent experience throughout its network.  At the time, the airline intended to invest $100 million in seat-back entertainment and flat-bed business class seats.

Currently, there are no major changes in the hard product, with 12 business class seats in a 2-2 configuration and 150 seats in a 3-3 configuration.  Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, investments in product upgrades like seat-back entertainment and flat-bed business class seats were postponed. However, changes in branding will be prevalent on the aircraft, including the signature Singapore Airlines livery.  Also, entertainment will be streamable via in-flight wifi. Overall, customers can expect a higher level of service up to standard with regular Singapore Airlines flights.

In January, Goh Choon Phong, Singapore Airlines’ CEO, stated, “The introduction of the SIA 737-800 NG will bring about a more comfortable and seamless travel experience for customers on our regional routes. Integrating Silkair with SIA also allows us to be nimble and flexible in aircraft deployment, and supports our fleet and network growth strategy.”

Fleet and Route Network

Singapore Airlines operated the Boeing 737-100 at one point, though the type exited the fleet in 1980, according to data from planespotters.net. The Singaporean carrier plans to integrate nine Boeing 737-800s into its fleet, slated for completion sometime between 2021 and 2022.  Also, the airline plans to sell seven former SilkAir Boeing 737-800s.  To fill the regional network, Singapore Airlines intends to add 37 Boeing 737 MAX 8s to its fleet, with some stored in Alice Springs, Australia.

The airline will absorb a portion of SilkAir’s route network, along with low-cost carrier subsidiary Scoot.  However, the capacity will not come in full force.  With the COVID-19 pandemic, increased travel restrictions have driven demand down.  Hopes of a quick vaccine rollout will allow Singapore Airlines to reach 25% of pre-COVID-19 capacity by the end of May.

Many similarities with the introduction of the Boeing 737-800 can be seen with Asian-rival Cathay Pacific.  That carrier is shuttering its regional subsidiary, Cathay Dragon, for similar cost-cutting reasons.  This decision caused the introduction of Cathay’s first narrowbody type into its fleet, the A321NEO.  

Winston Shek
Winston Shek
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