Review: SilkAir Boeing 737 MAX business class

Overall Rating

By David Flynn, November 15 2017
SilkAir Boeing 737 MAX business class

Singapore - Changi

Aircraft Type

Boeing 737 MAX 8





Cabin Class




The Good
  • Exceptional legroom and recline
The Bad
  • Ceiling-mounted video screens
  • More comfortable than SilkAir's Airbus jets


Singapore Airlines' regional arm SilkAir is now flying new Boeing 737 MAX 8 jets, a fuel-efficient evolution of the popular Boeing 737-800 series (and which Virgin Australia will take up from late 2019, with Qantas also mulling the MAX from the 2020s).

And taking pride of place at the pointy end of the new jet, SilkAir has also rolled out a new business class seat.

While in Singapore for the launch of Singapore Airlines' new Airbus A380 first class suites and business class seatsAustralian Business Traveller hopped onto SilkAir's first Boeing 737 MAX – which still had that delightful 'new plane smell' (it's like a new car smell, only a lot more expensive) - to check out its premium seating.


SilkAir's first Boeing 737 MAX jet has already opened up a new non-stop route between Singapore and Hiroshima, which is the flight we took for this review.

With two more MAX 8s slated for delivery by the end of 2017 and 34 more to follow as replacements for SilkAir's ageing Airbus 319 and 320 jets, expect to start seeing these aircraft popping up on other relatively long-range flights including Cairns and Darwin.


SilkAir's Boeing 737 MAX features 12 leather-clad business class seats, in a familiar 2-2- layout across three rows.

The palette of vanilla and dusky chocolate makes for a smart-looking cabin which conveys a premium look without shouting for your attention.

Each seat is 22 inches wide and offers plenty of support from the adjustable headrest down to the lower back.

Need a little extra width? Choose an aisle seat and you can push the armrest down to gain a smidge more space around the hips.

Seat pitch is an exceptionally generous 49 inches (up from the 39 inches of SilkAir's Airbus A319 and A320 fleet) – compare that to the 37 inches of the Boeing 737s flown by Qantas and Virgin Australia!

The seat's recline is a lazy 12 inches – a 50% increase over the 8 inches of SilkAir's Airbus jets – but thanks to the pitch, even if the passenger in front of you decides to push all the way back it won't impinge on your legroom or 'personal space'.

Recline the seat, swing up leg and extended footrest and you're well into snooze mode, although a light slumber is about as far as you'll get with any standard recliner seat.

Although as is often the case, there's more room to stretch your legs if you're in the rows behind other seats (rows 2 and 3) rather than in row 1, which faces the bulkhead wall.

I'm of average height (around 1.78 metres, or 5'9" by the old Imperial measure) and even so, when I moved into row 1 my feet were uncomfortably angled against the wall without the legrest extended.

SilkAir ticks the rest of the business class boxes with a recessed side pocket where you can stow items such as your phone, reading glasses, a small tablet or a notebook.

That same nook is also where you'll find AC and USB sockets. The later is a high-power version with plenty of juice to quickly recharge your smartphone or tablet.

The armrest above this flips up so you can more easily access this cubby, especially for getting large bits of kit in and out again.


On flights departing from Singapore, SilkAir allows business class passengers to preselect their meal from a series of 'All Time Favourites' spanning 20 Singaporean, Asian and Western dishes – a similar approach to Singapore Airlines' popular Book The Cook service.

However, for the sake of expediency on this short-notice flight I ended up choosing from the standard inflight menu following the obligatory drink-and-nuts.

On the morning flight from Singapore to Hiroshima this meant an appetiser of cold soba noodles...

... and for the main meal,  a Japanese dish (chicken soboro and salmon donburi, which was my choice) or something for western tastes (baked egg with cheddar cheese, chicken sausages and potatoes).

The daytime return leg from Hiroshima to Singapore offered the same appetiser, with the main choices of chicken curry udon or nasi lemak, accompanied by a slice of light pandan chiffon cake for dessert.

Entertainment & Service

None of the seats in SilkAir's Boeing 737 MAX have their own video screens. Instead, the airline's SilkAir Studio system beams movies, TV shows and music over WiFi to each passenger's own smartphone or tablet as long as you have the necessary app installed.

Business class passengers will find a iPad in their seat pocket, which comes with a simple stand and a very basic pair of earbuds.

Of course, serious business travellers will be packing their own noise-cancelling cans (for short 'hand-luggage only' trips such as this I bring along a pair of Bose QuietComfort 20s as they take up very little space in my carry-on bag).

The streaming system runs smoothly and SilkAir's selection of content is more than adequate for even this seven hour jaunt.

Less impressive are the small LCD screens which automatically fold down from the ceiling of the business class cabin and show a series of looped 'silent viewing' videos such as those "Let's play practical jokes on the unwitting public" TV shows, cooking clips and some animated shorts.

My issue with these is that the screens bring a lot of brightness into the cabin, and even with your eyes closed that light shines through and makes it hard to sleep unless you've got an eye-mask, which SilkAir doesn't offer to passengers.

It's particularly ill-suited to the Singapore-Hiroshima leg, which is a red-eye with a 1.45am departure – so everybody has their window-shades down and is trying to sleep.


SilkAir's new Boeing 737 MAX business class offers comfortable domestic-grade seats which are fine for short hops and daytime legs on longer trips, but for an overnight flight you should expect to lightly doze rather than getting a sound and refreshing sleep.

David Flynn flew as a guest of SilkAir


David Flynn is the Editor-in-Chief of Executive Traveller and a bit of a travel tragic with a weakness for good coffee, shopping and lychee martinis.

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

13 Jan 2015

Total posts 588

jeez i wouldn't wanna do that 7hrs in Y on a 737

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

17 Jul 2013

Total posts 19

With 49ins of seat pitch. A lay flat option would have given long haul flight suitable.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

08 Sep 2012

Total posts 240

Nice review. Thanks!

Malaysia Airlines - Enrich

01 Jun 2015

Total posts 28

Nice report of Silk Air. Very informative. Since you brought your Bose Quiet Comforts 20s, then i will bring my Bowers & Wilkins P9 Signature headphone ;)

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