The reintroduction of narrowbody aircraft is rarely anything to get excited about, but this week’s news from Singapore Airlines is of note. As the carrier finally folds its regional subsidiary SilkAir into the main brand, Singapore Airlines will restart flying narrowbody aircraft, something it has not done since the late 1980s.
The assimilation of SilkAir into Singapore Airlines has been on the drawing board for several years. However SilkAir aircraft are currently being reliveried, crew changing uniforms and the passenger experience is being aligned to match the superior offering of the parent carrier.
While narrowbody aircraft will always struggle to match the comfort delivered by a widebody aircraft, Singapore Airlines is taking several steps to converge that experience. SilkAir was a full service airline, but never quite to the same level as its parent. Initial improvements include newly upholstered seats, food & beverage matching that passengers already receive on the larger aircraft and cabin crew dressed in the iconic Singapore Airlines sarong kabaya.
Singapore Airlines had originally planned to coordinate the integration of SilkAir with the introduction of brand new seats in both Business and Economy Class.This process was delayed due to the grounding of the new Boeing 737-8 MAX, followed by the COVID-19 pandemic. The first nine narrowbody aircraft joining Singapore Airlines will now be Boeing 737-800s, featuring the same seats as offered by SilkAir, although newly upholstered. Business Class features 12 seats with an 8” recline in a 2-2 configuration across three rows.
Although the first narrowbody aircraft to join the Singapore Airlines fleet will not offer new seats, they are still planned to arrive later when new aircraft are delivered, and existing aircraft may still be reconfigured to offer a consistent product. Once introduced, Business Class passengers will enjoy flat beds, and all passengers will have access to the carrier’s renowned KrisWorld inflight entertainment system – accessed from individual screens in every seat. On the first aircraft with the older seats, KrisWorld will be available by connecting personal devices such as mobile phones or tablets to the onboard wi-fi network. Perhaps somewhat surprisingly, the first aircraft are not wi-fi enabled, so the network is only used for streaming entertainment from onboard servers.
From a food & beverage perspective, passengers will enjoy the same experience as on larger aircraft in the fleet. Business Class passengers can pre-order their main courses from the popular «Book the Cook» menu and expect it to be served on fine Narumi porcelain. Fresh fruits and cheeses will be offered at the end of the meal on flights over 3.5 hours. The signature satay canapé will be offered before lunch and dinner on flights lasting more than 5 hours, such as from Singapore to Cairns or Kathmandu.
One of the positive but less obvious consequences of the SilkAir integration into Singapore Airlines, is that many more regional flights will now be Star Alliance flights. Singapore Airlines has for many years offered through-fares and seamless connectivity with SilkAir, but Star Alliance loyalty program members have been missing out on points and benefits. Gold Card holders can now look forward to enjoying benefits such as priority check-in, lounge access and additional baggage to destinations previously served by SilkAir. A range of new and exciting destinations will also become available for passengers eager to earn or burn loyalty points.
The first Singapore Airlines Boeing 737-800 will be taking off from Changi Airport to Phuket, Thailand on March 4th, 2021 with Bandar Seri Bagewan following on March 15th. Additional destinations will be introduced as the integration proceeds over a 12-month period.