Singapore Airlines is going big on business class, with the Star Alliance member planning to roll out lie-flat beds across its entire aircraft fleet: not only for business travellers taking longer and perhaps overnight journeys, but even those venturing on short hops like Singapore-Kuala Lumpur.
Centred around the integration of SilkAir into the Singapore Airlines brand – SilkAir currently being the regional arm of Singapore Airlines, operated as a separate carrier – the move aims to provide consistency in business class, wherever each passenger is headed.
“We’ll have lie-fiat business class even on the shortest flights, even on the narrow-bodies!” Singapore Airlines CEO Goh Choon Phong proudly shares with Executive Traveller on the sidelines of the International Air Transport Association (IATA) AGM in Seoul.
“We’re investing quite a bit on this – SG$100 million at least – but one of the considerations is when that flatbed becomes available for the Boeing 737,” which makes up the majority of the current SilkAir fleet, “and that’s not until 2020,” Goh continues.
Once that prized seat can start to make its way onto the airline’s fleet next year, Singapore Airlines plans to transfer some of its existing SilkAir Boeing 737s over to low-cost arm Scoot, “to expedite our upgrade of the narrow-body fleet… so that SilkAir – Singapore Airlines – can simply take new Boeing 737 deliveries” with flatbeds already installed.
The forward-facing regional business class seats, supplied by Thompson Aero, will follow an alternating layout which will provide direct aisle access for most passengers plus a handful of 'throne' seats for solo flyers.
While the airline plans to begin that transition process in 2020 when the first lie-flat bed is scheduled to take flight aboard a SilkAir Boeing 737 jet, the current grounding of the Boeing 737 MAX could delay the airline’s planned roll-out of its flatbed fleet.
Goh shares that as airlines don’t yet know when the Boeing 737 MAX can safely resume flying – SilkAir having six of these jets in its current fleet, with more on order – any delay to its cabin upgrade program is too early to establish.
Meanwhile, Singapore Airlines continues to upgrade its own fleet with jets toting fully-flat beds taking over from previous-generation seats on a variety of routes, including between Australia and Singapore.
Following the introduction of Airbus A350s (with flatbeds) on flights from Brisbane and Adelaide to Singapore, Perth is next in line for a flatbed reform with its daily SQ226/SQ213 flight pair switching from an older Boeing 777-200 to a factory-fresh A350 from June 3 2019, as the airline moves towards its goal of having lie-flat beds on every flight, however long – or short.
Chris Chamberlin is attending the IATA AGM in Seoul as a guest of IATA.