Unsure when the Boeing 737 MAX 8 will return to service, Singapore Airlines (SIA) will retrofit subsidiary SilkAir’s 737-800 aircraft instead as it moves ahead with integration into the parent airline.

Speaking at a press briefing, SIA CEO Goh Choon Phong and SVP-finance Stephen Barnes said the airline has already selected the vendor for the new cabin product but has not yet identified a timeframe, as the situation is “still very fluid” and could happen in either the fourth quarter of FY2019/20 or the first quarter of FY2020/21.

SIA initially selected Thompson Aero Seating’s Vantage seats for the  MAX 8 business class, to align with SIA’s branding, but the plan was derailed following the grounding. As a result, SilkAir’s 737-800s could not be transferred to Singapore LCC Scoot for the latter’s expansion. It is likely that Thompson Aero will still be the supplier, although the company is unsure how many 737-800s will undergo the refit.

SilkAir has 14 737-800s.

In preparation for the integration, SilkAir has transferred seven routes to the LCC, with 10 more to go by July 2020. However, Goh said that has been challenging as Scoot is currently working to re-aggregate demand on the LCC model. The swap also meant additional capacity as the Scoot’s Airbus A320s are configured with more seats than the 737-800s, resulting in a poor yield. SIA added that Scoot’s 787 Rolls-Royce Trent 1000 engines have given the carrier some issues, reducing aircraft utilization to “improve operational resilience.”  

Scoot had a S$77 million ($55.7 million) loss for 1H FY2019/20. Goh is optimistic the airline will return to profitability once demand returns on the transferred routes and the Trent 1000 issues are resolved.

Chen Chuanren, chuanren@purplelightvisuals.com