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Singapore Airlines Limited (SIA) (SGX: C6L) is the flag carrier of Singapore which operates from its hub at Changi Airport and has a strong presence in the Southeast Asia, East Asia, South Asia, and "Kangaroo Route" markets.

Singapore Airlines was the launch customer of Airbus A380, currently the world's largest passenger aircraft. SIA has diversified airline-related businesses, such as aircraft handling and engineering. Its wholly owned subsidiary SilkAir manages regional flights to secondary cities with short-haul aircraft. Subsidiary Singapore Airlines Cargo operates SIA's dedicated freighter fleet, and manages the cargo-hold capacity in SIA's passenger aircraft. Subsidiary Scoot operates in the low-cost carrier sector, along with minority-owned Tigerair.

It ranks amongst the top 15 carriers worldwide in terms of revenue passenger kilometres,[1] and 10th in the world for international passengers carried.[2] On 15 December 2010, Singapore Airlines was announced by the International Air Transport Association as the second largest airline in the world by market capitalisation with a worth of 14 billion US dollars.[3] Singapore Airlines utilises the Singapore Girl as its central figure in its corporate branding.[4]


An Airspeed Consul (VR-SCD) – the first aircraft type operated by Malayan Airways, which was the forerunner of Singapore Airlines
Singapore Airlines began with the incorporation of Malayan Airways Limited (MAL) on 1 May 1947, by the Ocean Steamship Company of Liverpool, the Straits Steamship Company of Singapore and Imperial Airways. The airline's first flight was a chartered flight from the British Straits Settlement of Singapore to Kuala Lumpur on 2 April 1947 using an Airspeed Consul twin-engined aircraft.[5] Regular weekly scheduled flights quickly followed from Singapore to Kuala Lumpur, Ipoh and Penang from 1 May 1947 with the same aircraft type.[6] The airline continued to expand during the rest of the 1940s and 1950s, as other British Commonwealth airlines (such as BOAC and Qantas Empire Airways) provided technical assistance, as well as assistance in joining IATA.[citation needed] By 1955, Malayan Airways' fleet had grown to include a large number of Douglas DC-3s, and went public in 1957. Other aircraft operated in the first two decades included the Douglas DC-4 Skymaster, the Vickers Viscount, the Lockheed 1049 Super Constellation, the Bristol Britannia, the de Havilland Comet 4 and the Fokker F27.

When Malaya, Singapore, Sabah and Sarawak formed the Federation of Malaysia in 1963, the airline's name was changed, from "Malayan Airways" to "Malaysian Airways". MAL also took over Borneo Airways. In 1966, following Singapore's separation from the federation, the airline's name was changed again, to Malaysia-Singapore Airlines (MSA). The next year saw a rapid expansion in the airline's fleet and route, including the purchase of MSA's first Boeing aircraft, the Boeing 707s, as well the completion of a new high-rise headquarters in Singapore. Boeing 737s were added to the fleet soon after.

Incorporation and growth[edit]
[icon] This section requires expansion. (September 2011)

An MSA Boeing 707 at Zürich-Kloten Airport. (1972)
MSA ceased operations in 1972, when Singapore wanted to develop its international routes but Malaysia wanted to develop its domestic routes before moving on to international routes, resulting in the formation of Singapore Airlines and Malaysian Airlines System.[7][8][9] Hence, Singapore Airlines kept all of MSA's Boeing 707s and 737s, retained the international routes out of Singapore as well as the existing corporate headquarters in the city, with J.Y. Pillay, former joint chief of MSA as its first chairperson. Female flight attendants continued to wear the sarong kebaya uniform, which had been first introduced in 1968. A local start-up advertising company, Batey Ads was given the right to market the airline, eventually selecting the sarong and kebaya-clad air stewardesses as an icon for the airline and calling them Singapore Girls.

SIA DC-10-30 at Zurich in 1979.
SIA expanded almost overnight after the split from MSA in 1972, adding cities in the Indian subcontinent and Asia, and adding Boeing 727s, Boeing 747s and Douglas DC-10s to its fleet. The 1st two 747s arrived in the summer of 1973 and were deployed on the lucrative Singapore-Hong Kong-Taipei-Tokyo (Haneda Airport) run. As additional 747-200s arrived they were placed on routes to London, Paris and Rome, Australia and the long cherished USA with service to Los Angeles. The DC-10s lasted only a couple of years in the SIA fleet. In 1977, Singapore Airlines took delivery of its first Boeing 727-200 Advanced, flying it on its inaugural service from Singapore to Manila. The B727 was Singapore Airlines' successor to the B737-100s that it had inherited from MSA.

Concorde in Singapore Airlines livery at Heathrow in 1979.
In 1977 British Airways and Singapore Airlines shared a Concorde for flights between London and Singapore International Airport at Paya Lebar via Bahrain. The aircraft, BA's Concorde G-BOAD, was painted in Singapore Airlines livery on the port side and British Airways livery on the starboard side.[10][11] The service was discontinued after three return flights because of noise complaints from the Malaysian government;[12] it could only be reinstated on a new route bypassing Malaysian airspace in 1979. A dispute with India prevented Concorde from reaching supersonic speeds in Indian airspace so the route was discontinued in 1980.[13]

Revenue Passenger-Miles/Kilometers, in millions
Year Traffic
1972 1413 RPMs
1973 2944 RPKs
1975 5104 RPKs
1979 12041 RPKs
1985 21676 RPKs
1990 31270 RPKs
1995 48400 RPKs
2000 70795 RPKs
Source: Air Transport World

A Singapore Airlines Airbus A300 seen at the Farnborough Airshow in 1980.
The 1980s saw expanded services to United States, Canada, and additional European cities with Madrid becoming the first Hispanic city to be served by SIA. Boeing 747-300s were leased and introduced into the SIA fleet in the early 1980s and named 'Big Tops'. The 747-300s replaced the 747-200s on all trans-pacific routes as well as the prime European destinations. Again a short term affair was begun with a few Boeing 757s later followed by the addition of Airbus A310s and Airbus A300s The A310s became the Asian regional workhorse of the fleet, with the small A310-200 fleet serving until the late 1990s, and the much larger A310-300 fleet serving into the 2000s. In 1989, the first of 50 B747-400s was added to the fleet. The Airbus A340-300s augmented the 747-400s on long-range routes to Spain, Zurich, Copenhagen, San Francisco and cities not suitable for 747 service. Services extended to southern Africa in the 1990s when the airline began flights to Johannesburg in South Africa; Cape Town and Durban were later added. The 1990s also saw the opening of Terminal 2 in Changi Airport in 1991; all flight operations later moved to the new terminal.

In 2003 SIA obtained 5 long range Airbus A340-500 aircraft and started the two longest nonstop flights in aviation history, Singapore – Newark and Singapore – Los Angeles. In winter 2007 SIA saw its first double decker Airbus A380-800 join the fleet. Today Singapore Airlines is the world's 2nd largest operator of the type after Emirates of the UAE. SIA employs the A380 on routes to London, Zurich, Frankfurt, Paris, Mumbai, Sydney, Melbourne, Los Angeles and New York. SIA is also currently a far reaching global carrier and is a cornerstone member of Star Alliance.

Modern history[edit]

A Singapore Airlines Boeing 747-400, dubbed Megatop, at Auckland Airport, New Zealand. The Megatop was the flagship of the airline from 1989 until the introduction of the Airbus A380 in October 2007
In 2004, SIA began non-stop trans-Pacific flights from Singapore to Los Angeles and Newark, utilising the Airbus A340-500. These flights marked the first non-stop air services between Singapore and the USA. The Singapore to Newark flight held the record for the longest scheduled commercial flight, with a flying time of about 18 hours each way. Singapore Airlines has converted its five Airbus A340-500 aircraft from a 64 Business Class/117 Premium Economy Class configuration to a 100-seat all- Business Class configuration for its routes to Newark and Los Angeles.

At a Cabinet meeting on 22 February 2006, the Government of Australia decided not to grant fifth freedom rights to Singapore Airlines on flights from Australia to the United States.[14] Singapore Airlines had argued that transpacific flights from Australia suffered from under-capacity, leading to limited competition and relatively high air fares.[14] The move was seen as a measure taken to protect Qantas from increased competition.[14] SIA had encountered such protectionist measures in the past when SIA was shut out from the Toronto market after complaints from Air Canada, and was forced to stop flying Boeing 747-400s into Jakarta in the wake of protests from Garuda Indonesia when it could not use similar equipment to compete.[15]

Singapore Airlines, along with Star Alliance partner South African Airways, was fined 25 million South African Rand (S$4.1 million) as an administrative penalty to partially settle a price-fixing investigation against the airline by the South African Competition Commission from 2008 to 2012.[16]

On 6 April 2012, Singapore Airlines phased out the last 747 in its fleet after 40 years of service. A final round-trip commemorative flight was operated from Singapore to Hong Kong with flight numbers SQ747 and SQ748 respectively. As well as an extended flying time, special meals, performances and inflight celebrations, passengers were given well stocked 747 goody bags.

The airline announced that it will end its flights from Singapore to both Newark and Los Angeles from 23 November 2013 and 20 October 2013, respectively. However, Los Angeles will continue to be served from Singapore via Tokyo-Narita.[17]

Airbus A380[edit]

Singapore Airlines Airbus A380 taking off at Zürich Airport in March 2011.
On 29 September 2000, SIA announced an order for up to 25 Airbus A3XX (as the A380 was known at the time). The US$8.6 billion order comprised a firm order of 10 aircraft, with options on another 15 airframes.[18] The order was confirmed by Singapore Airlines on 12 July 2001. In January 2005, the airline unveiled the slogan "First to Fly the A380 – Experience the Difference in 2006", to promote itself as the first airline to take delivery of the A380-800, which was expected to take place in the second quarter of 2006.[19] In June 2005, Airbus confirmed that due to unforeseen technical problems, initial deliveries of the Airbus A380 would be delayed by up to six months,[20] with the first delivery now slated for November 2006. The announcement was met with fury by SIA's chief executive officer, Chew Choon Seng, who threatened to sue Airbus, saying: "Airbus took some time to acknowledge the delay in the timetable for the A380's entry into service...I would have expected more sincerity."[21]

He further stated that SIA will be turning its attention to Boeing instead, since it would be receiving the Boeing 777-300ER before the A380. Nevertheless, SIA has indicated that this would not affect its promotional campaign. In February 2006, the first A380 in full Singapore Airlines livery was flown to Singapore, where it was displayed at Asian Aerospace 2006. On 14 June 2006, Singapore Airlines placed an initial order for the Boeing 787 Dreamliner as part of its future aircraft expansion. The order consisted of 20 787-9s and rights for 20 more. This order came one day after Airbus announced that the A380 Superjumbo would be delayed by another 6 months. A third delay was announced on 3 October 2006, pushing the initial delivery of the first A380 to October 2007.[22]

On 25 October 2007, the first commercial A380 service, SQ 380,[23] carried 455 passengers from Singapore to Sydney, touching down in Sydney Airport at 3:24 pm local time, where it received significant attention from the media.[24] The airline donated all revenue generated from the flight to three charities in a ceremony the next day in Sydney. SIA began regular services with the A380 on 28 October 2007.

Fleet reductions[edit]
On 16 February 2009 the airline announced that it would remove 17 aircraft from its operating fleet between April 2009 and March 2010, as part of a cost-saving initiative to help counter falling passenger and cargo demand, having originally planned to phase out only four aircraft. The airline stated that it could not rule out delaying deliveries on aircraft already ordered.[25][26]

Main article: Scoot
In May 2011, Singapore Airlines revealed plans to launch a low-fare airline subsidiary within a year. The wholly owned subsidiary, New Aviation, was incorporated on 17 June 2011 with an issued and paid up capital of S$1.[27]

On 1 November 2011, it was announced that the low-cost airline would be named Scoot and would begin flights from mid-2012 with a fleet of four Boeing 777-200 wide-body aircraft.[28][29] focused on medium- and long-haul routes. The airline will be wholly owned but operated independently and managed separately from Singapore Airlines.[30]

Main article: Vistara
In 2013, Singapore Airlines announced a formation of a joint venture with Tata Sons, which was named Vistara. The airline will be based out of New Delhi, India and has hoped to start operations in the second half of 2014. The airline has ordered up to 20 Airbus A320s and will compete with full service carriers Air India and Jet Airways.[31]

Corporate management[edit]

Robinson 77 (Formerly known as SIA Building) was the flagship building for Singapore Airlines, before it was sold in 2006

Airline House, the corporate head office of Singapore Airlines, is in the background
The airline is majority-owned by Singapore government investment and holding company Temasek Holdings which holds 56% of voting stock.[32] The Singapore government, which holds a golden share via the Ministry of Finance, has regularly stressed its non-involvement in the management of the company, a point emphasised by Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew when he declared that the aviation hub status of Singapore Changi Airport will be defended, even at the cost of SIA.[33] However, he was personally involved in defusing tensions between the company and its pilots,[34] warned the airline to cut costs,[35] and made public his advice to the airline to divest from its subsidiary companies.[36] Still, independent research typically rates the airline as practising sound corporate governance policies in accordance with national regulations.[37] In the lead up to the conclusion of the Open Skies Agreement with the United Kingdom on 2 October 2007, the Singapore aviation authorities referred to the airline's audited annual reports to dispel the notion that SIA receives state funding, subsidies or preferential treatment from the government, despite being a Government-linked company.[38] Singapore Airlines is headquartered at Airline House, by Changi Airport in the Changi area of Singapore.[39] Marie Bordet of Le Point said that the head office was "un tantinet décrépit" ("a little decrepit").[40]

Singapore Airlines has diversified into related industries and sectors, including ground handling, aircraft leasing, aviation engineering, air catering, and tour operations. It has also restructured itself by hiving off operational units as fully owned subsidiaries to maintain its core business as a passenger airline. The Singapore Airlines Group comprised 25 subsidiaries, 32 associates, and two joint venture companies in the financial year ending 31 March 2007. SIA sold all its equity share of 35.5% in a joint venture, Singapore Aircraft Leasing Enterprise, to the Bank of China for US$980 million on 15 December 2006.[41]

There were suggestions to divest SIA Engineering Company and Singapore Airport Terminal Services, two of SIA's largest subsidiaries. Former Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew, for one, voiced his opinion in December 2005 that Singapore Airlines should divest these two companies to focus on its core business of air transportation.[42] Singapore Airlines has evaluated the divestment opportunity and Singapore Airport Terminal Services (which was renamed as SATS Group) was diversified from the group on 1 September 2009.[43][44]

Companies in the Singapore Airlines Group include:

Company Type Principal activities Incorporated in Group's equity shareholding
(31 March 2013)
SIA Engineering Company Limited Subsidiary Engineering Singapore 78.6%
Aircraft Maintenance Services Australia Pty Ltd Subsidiary Aircraft Maintenance and Handling Australia 78.6%
Nexgen Network (1) Holding Pte Ltd Subsidiary Investment Singapore 78.6%
Nexgen Network (2) Holding Pte Ltd Subsidiary Investment Singapore 78.6%
SIA Engineering (USA) Inc Subsidiary Aircraft Maintenance and Handling United States 78.6%
SIAEC Global Pte Ltd Subsidiary Investment Singapore 78.6%
SIA Engineering (Philippines) Corporation Subsidiary Engineering Philippines 51.6%
Singapore Jamco Pte Ltd Subsidiary Engineering Singapore 51.1%
Singapore Airlines Cargo Pte Ltd Subsidiary Cargo Airline Singapore 100.0%
Cargo Community Network Pte Ltd Subsidiary Marketing Singapore 51.0%
Cargo Community (Shanghai) Co Ltd Subsidiary Marketing China 51.0%
SilkAir (Singapore) Private Limited Subsidiary Airline Singapore 100.0%
Scoot Pte Ltd Subsidiary Airline Singapore 100.0%
Tradewinds Tours & Travel Private Limited Subsidiary Tour wholesaling Singapore 100.0%
Singapore Aviation and General Insurance Company (Pte) Ltd Subsidiary Insurance Singapore 100.0%
Singapore Flying College Pte Ltd Training Subsidiary Singapore 100.0%
Abacus Travel Systems Pte Ltd Marketing Subsidiary Singapore 61.0%
SIA (Mauritius) Ltd Subsidiary Recruitment Mauritius 100.0%
International Engine Component Overhaul Pte Ltd Joint venture Engineering Singapore 39.3%
Singapore Aero Engine Services Pte Ltd Joint venture Engineering Singapore 39.3%
Operational investments[edit]

Boeing 747-400 arriving at London Heathrow Airport
The airline has invested in other airlines in a bid to expand beyond its Singapore base, although the results are often financially negative. In 1989, it went into a tripartite alliance with Delta Air Lines and Swissair,[45] but terminated their partnership in 1999 after divesting their 5% equity stake in each other's company. The airline purchased 25% of Air New Zealand in 2000. However following the near collapse of Air New Zealand the New Zealand government bought into the airline to rescue it from bankruptcy, reducing Singapore Airlines' stake to 4.5%. This was subsequently sold in October 2004 at a substantial loss.

SIA bought a 49% stake in Virgin Atlantic Airways on 30 March 2000 worth £600 million in cash[46] in the hope of leveraging on it on the lucrative transatlantic market, but by 2007, there has been reports of underperformance and the possibility of divesting its stake.[47] On 14 May 2008, the company formally announced an invitation for offers for its Virgin Atlantic stake, and publicly acknowledged that its stake in the airline has "underperformed".[48] In September 2004, the airline entered the low-cost carrier market by establishing Tiger Airways with a 49% stake, in partnership with Indigo Partners LLC, the investment firm founded by Bill Franke, (24%); Irelandia Investments Limited, the private investment arm of Tony Ryan and his family, (16%); and Temasek Holdings Pte Ltd (11%). Tiger Airways was eventually listed on Singapore Exchange in Feb 2010, reducing SIA shares to 34.4%.

SIA also purchased a 10% stake in Virgin Australia on 30 October 2012 worth A$105 million.

On 12 December 2012, Singapore Airlines sold its 49% stake in Virgin Atlantic for US$360 million.

The Singapore Airlines Group employed a total of 21,534 staff members at the end of the fiscal year on 31 March 2011.[49] The parent airline itself employed 13,942 (47.3%), of which there are 2,174 pilots and 6,914 cabin crew. The group's employees are represented by five labour unions, namely the Singapore Airlines Staff Union (SIASU), the SIA Engineering Company Engineers and Executives Union (SEEU), the Singapore Airport Terminal Services Workers' Union (SATSWU), the Air Transport Executives Staff Union (AESU) and the Air Line Pilots' Association Singapore (ALPA-S).

Relations between the labour unions and the group management has been testy at times, particularly after a series of wage cuts, retrenchments, and early retirement affected staff morale during and after difficult economic conditions such as the SARS outbreak in 2003.[50] The ALPA-S alone has been involved in no less than 24 disputes with group management since its registration in May 1981 (itself formed after its predecessor, the Singapore Airlines Pilots Association had 15 EXCO members charged and convicted for initiating illegal industrial action in 1980 in the wake of disputes with management and the SIAPA was deregistered on 26 February 1981) up to 30 November 2003, when the Ministry of Manpower (Singapore) amended the Trade Unions Act to overrule an item in ALPA-S's constitution requiring formal ratification from the general membership for negotiation agreements involving the executive committee.[51] In 2007, the airline was in the spotlight again when ALPA-S disagreed with the management's proposed salary rate for pilots flying the Airbus A380,[52] and the case had to be settled by the Industrial Arbitration Court.[53] The salary ranges of SIA's pilots were made public during the first day of the hearings, and the press noted that the airline's 935 captains who fly the Boeing 777 received higher salaries (over S$270,000) at the midpoint of their salary brackets compared to the company's 36 vice-presidents (S$233,270).[54]

Disputes have also affected the unions, some so severe that they have attracted the intervention of the government. The internal feuding in ALPA-S which led to the ousting of the entire 22-member executive committee on 17 November 2003 was attributed to "internal politics" and theories that it may involve former pilots, including those involved in the deregistration of SIAPA.[55] In January 2008, NTUC secretary-general Lim Swee Say spoke up against legal action by parties involved in an internal dispute in SIASU.[56]

On 2 April 2007 the airline group and its unions jointly launched the "Singapore Airlines Group Union-Management Partnership" and the Labour Movement 2011 (LM2011) in a bid to improve their relations, each pledging to be "pro-worker" and "pro-business" respectively.[57] In April 2008, the airline's chairman Stephen Lee described the relations between management and the unions as "stable and cordial" in the last two years, with better communication between them. He alluded that several government figures, including Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew, has intervened to help alleviate differences, and that there has been more regular meetings and exchanges between the two sides


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