Singapore Airlines Shelves Seat Refit On 737-800s, For Now

SilkAir 737-800s are being repainted before they resume service with Singapore Airlines.
Credit: Nigel Howarth / Aviation Week

SINGAPORE—Singapore Airlines (SIA) will not refit its SilkAir Boeing 737-800s with new lie-flat business class seats, as the regional unit reintegrates with the parent carrier. 

The flag-carrier confirmed the decision to Aviation Daily following the rollout of the first repainted 737-800 in SIA colors in early September. 

“The Boeing 737-800 aircraft does not have the lie-flat business class seats and they will retain the same seat products as the SilkAir 737-800s,” an SIA spokesperson said. “Specific details will be announced progressively as the program develops and timelines are finalized.” 

That would mean the 737-800 will retain twelve business class seats and 150 in economy, all without inflight entertainment system, although the aircraft are fitted with Wi-Fi streaming capabilities. SIA announced it would install Thompson Vantage lie-flat seats on SilkAir 737 MAX 8, inline with the rebrand, and the 737-800 would be transferred to LCC Scoot, but that plan was derailed following the grounding of the MAX type in March 2019 and SIA turned its focus to the 737-800 instead. 

However, likely because of the COVID-19 pandemic, SIA has tightened its purse strings, deciding against a full refit of the 737-800. Instead it is proceeding only with a repaint and some light retrofitting. All work is being carried out by the SIA Engineering Company. The refit would have started in May 2020 and cost around S$100 million ($72 million). 

The type will enter service in SIA’s final quarter of fiscal 2020/21, between January and March 2021. 

“The operating cabin crew for the 737 will be the existing SilkAir cabin crew, who will be transferred to SIA,” the spokesperson added. “They will undergo a conversion training program to equip them with the necessary skills and knowledge to integrate into the SIA cabin crew.” 

According to Aviation Week Intelligence Network Fleet Data, SilkAir currently has 17 737-800s as well as six 737 MAX 8s with another 31 on order. The MAX are all in long-term storage at Alice Springs. The first of the additional 737 MAX 8 emerged from Boeing’s Seattle plant in December 2019 as the factory continued to churn out the type despite the grounding.

Chen Chuanren

Chen Chuanren is the Southeast Asia and China Editor for the Aviation Week Network’s (AWN) Air Transport World (ATW) and the Asia-Pacific Defense Correspondent for AWN, joining the team in 2017.