Singapore’s Silkair officially inducted its first Boeing 737 Max 8 on Wednesday at Changi International Airport. The aircraft, registered as 9V-MBA, departed Boeing’s factory in Renton, Washington, on September 28 and arrived in Singapore via Guam on October 1. Silkair signed for 37 Max 8s in November 2012 as part of a 54-aircraft deal including 17 Next Generation 737-800s. The airline becomes the second Asian Max operator after Lion Air Group’s Malindo Air.
Plans call for the 737 Max 8 to make its first revenue flight on October 5 to Kuala Lumpur, followed by Penang and Phuket. Silkair also plans to fly the Max to a new destination in Singapore Airlines’ network, Hiroshima, Japan, on October 30.
“We are SIA’s regional wing and that remains to be our core mission,” said Silkair CEO Foo Chai Woo. “With the 737 Max 8, we are now well poised to seek out new opportunities that are farther afield.” Silkair plans to use the 737 Max 8 to serve some of its more distant destinations, such as Cairns, Kathmandu, Hyderabad and Bangalore. “We have some on the drawing board and we will keep an eye out on the consumer trends,” added the Silkair CEO.
Despite strong competition by regional low cost carriers, Silkair continues to see double-digit passenger growth, close to 25 percent in August. Foo highlighted that a route to Vientiane and Luang Prabang in Laos launched in 2016 has seen numerous inbound interline transfer passengers from the Star Alliance and Singapore Airlines group, especially from Australia and Europe.
“Competition in this region is intense but the growth in demand is even more exciting. Singapore has been tapping on this growth,” said Foo. “We continue to focus on the value proposition Silkair can offer and with the Max 8 having 14 percent better fuel efficiency...it puts us in a strong position."
Silkair’s 737 Max 8s will seat 12 in business class and 144 in economy class. The airline expects to receive its second 737 Max by end of October, the third by November and the rest by 2021. It plans to phase out the remaining fleet of 10 Airbus A320s and three A319s by the end of 2020.