Singapore Airlines and SilkAir to Merge Next Year

SIA’s newly repainted Boeing 737-800s will take to the skies in the first few months of 2021.

A recently unveiled Singapore Airlines Boeing 737-800. (Photo: Singapore Airlines)

First announced in 2018, the upcoming merger between Singapore Airlines and its regional arm SilkAir will go ahead as planned next year. Its timetable has not been pushed back by the Covid-19 pandemic, and senior figures from SIA say the phasing-out process for SilkAir is currently making good progress, with the full merger expected to be complete sometime in early- to mid-2021. SilkAir’s existing routes will be distributed between Singapore Airlines and low-cost subsidiary Scoot, while a large-scale overhaul of ex-SilkAir aircraft is also in the pipeline.

SIA plans to upgrade the interiors of former SilkAir 737s to the tune of US$100 million, installing PTVs throughout the aircraft and retrofitting business-class cabins with lie-flat seats to bring them in line with the premium offerings on SIA’s widebody jets.

Singapore Airlines has also recently unveiled its first Boeing 737 to be flown in more than 40 years. The last time the carrier operated the narrowbody aircraft was in the 1970s, when SIA added five Boeing 737-100s to its growing fleet. Those were used for less than a decade before being sold to other aviation companies around the world. SilkAir’s outstanding order for the Boeing 737 MAX 8 is being absorbed by Singapore Airlines, though it is not yet known whether the carrier will take the full order of 31 aircraft.

The merger will give SIA some much-needed flexibility, which has become even more important in the past few months thanks to the impact of the current crisis. Singapore Airlines will soon have the choice to operate either narrowbody or widebody aircraft depending on the demand for each route. In response to the pandemic, SIA retired another seven of its Airbus A380s this quarter, and the airline has expressed no intention of bringing any of its remaining 12 superjumbos out of long-term storage to fly the “travel bubble” flights between Singapore and Hong Kong, due to begin on November 22.

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