SilkAir is the regional arm of Singapore Airlines which had its humble beginnings as Tradewinds Airlines back in 1989. It was incorporated as SilkAir in 1992 and since then it has been operating regional flights spanning South East Asia, East Asia, South Asia and Northern Australia. It operates only narrowbodies (Boeing 737 and Airbus A319/A320). Recently, they have acquired 5 new 737 MAX as part of their fleet expansion programme.
Although fully owned by Singapore Airlines and one can earn/redeem Krisflyer Miles on SilkAir, it is not part of the Star Alliance group. What it means is that Business Class travellers cannot access Star Alliance Business Lounge using SilkAir boarding pass. Nevertheless, they can still access the Silverkris Lounge in Changi Airport Terminal 2 and designated SilkAir Business Lounges abroad.
SilkAir is the only direct means between Singapore and Wuhan. In the past, my options would have been using one of the PRC airlines to transit in Guangzhou, Shanghai or Beijing. The other option would be to transit in Hong Kong using Cathay and Cathay Dragon. I was initially quite happy that my flight was supposed to be on the new 737MAX. 2 months before my travel, I received a notification that the plane has been changed to the older 737-800 instead. The 737-800 is configured into 12 Business Class Seats and 150 Economy Class Seats. The Business Class seats are your typical recliner seats with 38” of pitch (similar to the Premium Economy seats on Singapore Airlines) and 22” width. Economy Class seats comes with a tight 30” pitch (I was clearly uncomfortable in it) with a 17” width.
Unlike Scoot, SilkAir is a full service airline. The gap with the Economy Class of Singapore Airlines is fairly visible. Firstly, one gets the pre-packed cold towel instead of a regular hot towel. Beverage choices are also way less than that on Singapore Airlines. Catering wise, food was ok. Edible but only barely passable. The meal lacks an appetizer which one gets on Singapore Airlines flight. On the soft product, the crew on Silkair seemed less friendly that those on Singapore Airlines. One thing for sure is the air vents are in a serious need of a thorough cleaning.
SilkAir planes has no personal entertainment system. One needs to download the SilkStudio App (available on iPhone and Android phones) to stream the content onto the phone. Although inferior to that of KrisWorld, the selection is still fairly decent. It is certainly much better than my flight with them 3 years ago to Phuket. The one gripe however is the lack of Air Show. Not a big deal to most people, but I do periodically check the Air Show to know my location.
It would certainly be interesting to see how things will change once SilkAir is absorbed by Singapore Airlines. Singapore Airlines have not had any narrow body planes since 1990 when the last 757-200 were discontinued. The interiors certainly need some major revamping.
“The programme will comprise investment of more than $100 million to upgrade the wholly owned subsidiary’s cabins with new lie-flat seats in Business Class, and the installation of seat-back in-flight entertainment systems in both Business Class and Economy Class. This will ensure closer product and service consistency across the SIA Group’s full-service network.”
Personal IFE is certainly welcomed in this day and age of modern flying. I wonder the feasibility of putting in lie-flat seats in Business Class. Having lie flat seats in narrow body is certainly not something novel as this has been done by Qatar Airway’s A320 and US Airlines’ 757-300 (Delta, United and American) as well as Jet Blue’s Mint on A321. These planes are much longer than the 737-800/737MAX SilkAir is using. Nevertheless, such positive changes are more than welcomed to make the airline more competitive.
SilkAir will not be my first choice airlines for regional travel, unless a direct routing is desired or required like my flight to Wuhan. It is certainly not the best way to burn your Krisflyer miles on (probably slightly better than burning it on Scoot). However, things may change once SilkAir is fully absorbed into Singapore Airlines’ branding.