AIR TRAVEL IN SINGAPORE
Airports:9 (2012), Airports - with paved runways: total: 9: over 3,047 meters: 2; 2,438 to 3,047 meters: 2; 1,524 to 2,437 meters: 3; 914 to 1,523 meters: 2 (2012). [Source: CIA World Factbook =]
Singapore’s nine airports are mostly for military use. The main international airport is Singapore Changi Airport, whose major passenger and air cargo facilities are located on the northeast side of Singapore, about 20 kilometers from the city center. Changi served 35 million passengers in 2006. The number of flights per week that year was 4,199. Seletar Airport, 13 kilometers from downtown Singapore, also handles some commercial traffic. [Source: Library of Congress, 2006 **]
Singapore’s main airline is Singapore Airlines (SIA), a scheduled international carrier serving 90 destinations in 37 countries throughout the world. SIA provides both passenger and cargo service, using 117 relatively new Airbus and Boeing aircraft. Originally SIA was 100 percent state-owned, but the government’s stockholding in SIA has decreased to 56 percent. **
Silkair, with a fleet of 11 Airbus 13 aircraft, provides service to numerous Southeast Asian cities plus selected destinations in China and India. Two other Singapore private airlines, Tiger Airways and ValuAir, provide short-trip regional service. Singapore handled some 1.8 million tons of air cargo in 2005. **
China Aviation Oil Scandal
In December 2004, China Aviation Oil, a Singapore-based company controlled by the Chinese government, declared bankruptcy after losing $550 million in derivative trading, the biggest derivative trading loses in Singapore since Nick Leeson list $1.4 billion. Chen Jiulin, the chief of executive of the company, was arrested in connection with the case. Other executives were required to surrender their passports.
China Aviation controls most of China’s jet fuel imports and has a virtual monopoly an jet fuel sales in China. It lost in the derivative trading mainly by betting that the price of oil would go down in 2004. Instead of revealing the losses the company tried to sell shares of the company to European and Asian investors. Deutsche Bank bought a 15 percent share of the company. As was the case Leeson affair it is unclear how such large losses were able to mount. Some called the whole affair China’s Enron scandal. Ironically in 2002, China Aviation Oil was named Singapore’s most transparent company.
In 2005, Wayne Arnold wrote in the New York Times, Authorities in Singapore moved to prosecute the Beijing-appointed executives of the fuel trader China Aviation Oil of Singapore over an investigation into its collapse after $550 million in derivatives losses. Police rearrested the former chief executive of China Aviation, Chen Jiulin, along with four other top executives. As the executives were being detained by the Singapore police department's white-collar crimes unit, the company's creditors met and approved a sweetened offer on restructuring the company's debt. Chen faced 15 charges, including accusations of criminal activity and violations of Singapore's securities and corporate law. News reports here said that the charges were likely to focus on insider trading, disclosure violations and forgery. [Source: Wayne Arnold, New York Times, June 9, 2005 <>]
“Two reports by the accounting firm PricewaterhouseCoopers, which Singapore authorities assigned to investigate the company's collapse, provided details about what went wrong at the company. In its second report, investigators blamed Mr. Chen for committing the company to its disastrous trading strategy and then concealing its losses, saying evidence suggested that he had been motivated by personal ambition and "a need to surpass his past achievements as C.E.O." Before its collapse, China Aviation was responsible for filling virtually all of China's jet fuel requirements. China Aviation first began trading oil-related derivatives to hedge its jet-fuel purchases against fluctuations in the price of oil, but moved to using the derivatives to bet on market trends, the report said. China Aviation never altered its risk management rules to reflect this more aggressive derivatives trading strategy, but traders exceeded even the company's existing limits on such trades. The report described the company's handling of the trades as a "grave failure of controls." "They essentially got into trouble. They took a position and rather than follow their own rules, they chose to ignore them," said Chris Sanda, an analyst at the Singapore brokerage, DBS Vickers. <>
“The company said that creditors representing $539 million, or 97 percent of its debt, had voted to accept a restructuring plan proposed in May, when China Aviation offered to pay them $275 million over five years. It needed creditors representing at least 75 percent of its debt to accept the plan.In January, China Aviation offered to pay $220 million over eight years to settle with creditors. Analysts say the case highlights the risks of investing in Chinese companies wherever they list, given the country's poor culture of transparency and corporate governance.” <>
Singapore Airlines (SIA) is Asia’s third largest airline and regularly places very high in customer satisfaction surveys. It was voted the world's best airline by Condé Nast Traveler nine out of ten years between 1988 and 1998, chosen best airline for seven years in a row by Traveller Asia-Pacific. It was also selected by Business Traveler magazine as the best airline for business travelers and by Fortune as the world’s admired airline company.
Singapore Airlines is Singapore’s main airlin. began humbly enough in 1972 as a local carrier with 10 aircraft serving 22 destinations. Now it is regarded as one of the world’s leading passenger and cargo carriers. It had 90 aircraft delivering more than 550 flights a week to 73 cities in 40 countries in 2000. Singapore Airlines has traditionally had a very good safety record. The crash in Taiwan in 2000 was its first. In 2005 it served 90 destinations in 37 countries throughout the world, using 117 relatively new Airbus and Boeing aircraft. Originally SIA was 100 percent state-owned, but the government’s stockholding in SIA has decreased to 56 percent.
Singapore Air is controlled by Singapore state-investment company Temasek Holdings Pte.. Bloomberg reported: “In an industry that has suffered almost 200 bankruptcies since 1979 in the U.S. alone, it can boast of having never made a full-year loss since it first sold shares to the public in 1985. Like the iconic, demurely smiling “Singapore Girl” stewardess who adorns the carrier’s marketing material, its performance harks back to an age when aviation was more glamorous -- and even profitable. [Source: David Fickling, Bloomberg, April 27, 2012]
Top airlines ranked by Condé Nast Traveler in 2013 (score): 1) Singapore Airlines (72.4); 2) Emirates Airlines (69.8); 3) Virgin Atlantic (69.2), Etihad Airways (69.2); 5) Air New Zealand (65.6); 6) Cathay Pacific (65); 7) Qatar Airways (64.6); 8) Korean Air (64.3); 9) Thai (64.1); 10) Swiss (63.8).
Top airlines in Travel and Leisure survey in 2006: 1) Singapore Airlines; 2) Emirates; 3) Cathay Pacific; 4) Virgin Atlantic; 5) Thai Airways; 6) Japan Airlines; 7) Malaysia Airlines; 8) Qantas Airways; 9) Silk Air; and 10) Air New Zealand. Singapore Airlines was ranked the No. 1 international airlines in the Travel and Leisure readers survey in 2004.
Singapore Airlines as a Business
Singapore Airline is also known for its profitability and profit margins. In the 1990s it annually posted profits of around $700 million. At the year ending March 1998, Singapore Airlines announced an after tax profit of $575 million. This was a two percent increase at the height of the Asian economic crisis. In 2000, it made a profit of $1.14 billion in a period of just six months. For the 1999-2000 fiscal year it made $1.46 billion on ticket sales of $2.3 billion.
Singapore Airlines made a profit of S$1.09 billion in the year to March 2011 on revenues of S$14.5 billion, reinforcing its status as one of the world's most profitable airlines. It flew 16.65 million passengers during the period. Airline analysts estimate that 40 percent of SIA revenues come from first- and business-class travellers who demand high levels of service, so nothing is left to chance during the 13-week training course for new cabin crew.
In the early 2000s, Singapore Airlines employed about 30,000 people. It get about two thirds of its revenues from passengers and a third from freight. It also ran an engineering and airport catering units and owns 49 percent of Virgin Atlantic and 25 percent of Air New Zealand. Singapore Air had a deal with Lufthansa where Singapore Air used Frankfurt as its hub for Europe and Lufthansa used Singapore as its hub for Asia.
Singapore Airlines was hit hard by the SARS outbreak in 2003 and for the first time in its history recorded a loss. During the outbreak half of its flights were canceled, some planes were grounded. Others were empty. The airline lost hundreds of millions of dollars and was forced to lay off pilots and flight crew and delay deliveries of new planes. Employees that kept their jobs had the wages slashed or had to take unpaid leave. The down turn was only temporary. A few months later it returned to profitability. Much of the money workers lost in pay cuts was returned to them. To attract customers Singapore Air offered fares of $99 each way between New York and Europe.
In the early 2000s, Singapore Airlines charged up to $8,000 for first class tickets on its trans-Pacific flights. In recent years it has been pressured by lowcost Asian airlines such as Malaysia’s AirAsia in Asia and competition from other large internationally-known carriers on its long-distance routes. In the mid 2000s, Singapore Airlines began embarking on a cost-cutting campaign.
Singapore Airlines was the first airline to use Boeing 747-400 Megatop long-haul airliners. Over the years it was among the first to introduce ticketless travel, self-check-in, in-flight gambling and video shopping and was one of the first to have in-seat video games, telephones and faxes and high-speed Internets ervice.
New Airbus A300-500s have business class seats that change to beds, a snack bar which passengers can help themselves to, power outlets and video system for each seat. First class meals costs as much as $45 a piece to prepare and feature things like Cornish game hens in mushroom and wine sauce, asparagus with garlic, Cajun-spiced scallops, red snapper baked with spaghetti and chili oil, mixed berries in champagne jelly prepared by gourmet chefs. Even in economy class, passengers are offered things like sesame-coated prawns, perch roasted in potatoes, Kalamata olives and capsicums.
Singapore Airlines Hurt by the 2008-2009 Global Financial Crisis and High Fuel Prices
In 2009, Geoff Easdown wrote in news.com.au, “One of the world's biggest airlines reported a devastating decline in passenger numbers, underscoring the severity of the industry's global crisis. Singapore Airlines said its passenger and cargo loads across all routes in March averaged just 62.6 percent – 7.4 points below break-even, The Herald Sun reports. SIA's March numbers showed why it slashed long-haul fares two weeks ago, starting a savage price war. The figures indicated that most of SIA's jets would have operated at a loss last month. Freight volumes were also in negative territory, with total loads falling 21 million tonnes and filling just 58.5 percent of available space. [Source: Geoff Easdown, news.com.au, April 17, 2009]
“SIA, Qantas, Emirates and Cathay Pacific have been at “war” for the past two weeks after Singapore slashed Australia-London fares by at least 50 percent. SIA's price cutting, seen as a last resort, followed an earlier range of measures after it reported a 42.8 percent fall in net profit in its third quarter to December. Flights to Europe, where SIA has sought to stimulate ticket sales with its new fleet of six A380 super jumbos, were worst hit. European traffic fell 18.4 percent to 69.2 percent compared with March last year.
SIA told the Singapore Stock Exchange yesterday the global economic downturn had weakened travel demand and capacity would be cut 11 percent over the next year. The airline will remove 17 aircraft from service for at least a year. SIA has ordered staff to take paid and unpaid leave and early retirement SIA is particularly vulnerable to downturns because it has poured a lot of resoruces into business and first class travel and dveotes large sections of their airplanes to so-called premium traffic.
In 2012, Singapore Airlines profits and stock prices tumbled as a result of higher fuel prices and waning demand. The airline struggled to pass on fuel costs that jumped 40 percent over two years as the economic slowdown damps demand for passenger and freight flights. “Passenger demand remains weak, fuel prices keep rising and there is no sign of a pick-up in cargo,” Jim Wong, an analyst at Nomura Holdings Inc., told Bloomberg. Singapore Air slumped to a surprise loss of S$38.2 million ($31 million) in the quarter ended March 31, 2012. It had been expected to make a profit of S$119 million. Goh Choon Phong, Singapore Air’s chief executive officer, said a “high fuel price and weak economic environment are particularly challenging to long-haul airlines.” [Source: David Fickling & Kyunghee Park, Bloomberg, May 10, 2012]
Singapore Airlines Slumps
In 2012, David Fickling of Bloomberg wrote: “Singapore Airlines is missing the party in its own home. Tourist spending in the city jumped by half since 2008, aided by two new casinos and a 23 percent rise in passenger traffic through Changi Airport. That growth hasn’t been reflected in the carrier’s passenger numbers, which are down by 2.2 million in the period. The 12 percent drop is the largest of the 12 biggest publicly traded full-service airlines in the Asia Pacific, data compiled by Bloomberg show. Persian Gulf rivals are vying for premium passengers and low-cost operators are poaching budget travelers. [Source: David Fickling, Bloomberg, April 27, 2012 /*\]
“Singapore Air’s slide contrasts with Cathay Pacific Airways Ltd. (293), whose passenger numbers have risen 11 percent since 2008 because its Hong Kong base and a tie-up with Air China Ltd. help it sell tickets in the world’s most populous nation. Singapore Air, overtaken by Air China in 2009 as the biggest airline by market value, will probably report a sixth straight decline in quarterly profit when it announces fiscal full-year earnings May 9, according to analyst estimates. “The fact is that they’re hurting,” said Peter Harbison, executive chairman of CAPA Center for Aviation, a Sydney-based company that advises airlines in the Asia Pacific. “There’s good cause for a fundamental review of Singapore’s strategy.” “The economic downturn slowed some of our growth plans but we take a long-term approach,” said Nicholas Ionides, a Singapore-based spokesman for the airline. “We invest in both good and bad times.”/*\
“The analysts’ forecasts suggest a net margin this year of 3.25 percent. In the airline’s first decade as a public company its average net margin was 16 percent, sliding to 12 percent in the following 10 years and 5.8 percent in the past three years. The price of jet fuel in Singapore has risen 38 percent since April 26, 2010, to $132.75 a barrel. Fuel now accounts for 40 percent of Singapore Air’s costs, compared to an average of 27 percent since 2004. The carrier’s stock has tumbled 25 percent in the past year. /*\
“Singapore Air’s management is moving to increase their presence in the low-cost market. The carrier already owns 33 percent of Tiger Air (TGR) and it’s setting up a long-haul operator called Scoot. That new unit will start budget flights to Tianjin in China, Bangkok, Sydney, and Australia’s Gold Coast this year. That may be timely as the business travel market, long the backbone of Singapore Air’s profitability, is trading down. First and business class growth peaked in May 2010 and has been lagging behind the overall market since October, according to the International Air Transport Association. /*\
“Rohit Deshpande, a professor of marketing at Harvard Business School who has studied the airline, cautioned against writing off a carrier that survived the 1997 Asian financial crisis, the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks and the 2002-03 SARS epidemic. “I’m extremely bullish not only about their business model but about how smart they are in difficult times,” he said. /*\
“On Singapore Air’s main routes the focus is on contraction, rather than expansion. The carrier has cut flights since 2008 to cope with the more competitive market, and is offering pilots unpaid leave to seek work with other carriers. Available seat kilometers -- the standard measure of capacity in the airline industry -- have fallen by 5.1 percent since 2008 to 108 billion kilometers. The number of seats occupied by paying passengers has dropped even further, sinking 7.3 percent over the period. “The world has changed for them,” says CAPA’s Harbison. “The days of being able to rely on the Singapore Girl to pull people in are gone.” /*\
Singapore Airlines Slumps as it Faces Increased Competition
In 2012, David Fickling of Bloomberg wrote: “Singapore Air faces greater competition on Europe-Asia routes as Emirates Airline and Qatar Airways Ltd. leverage more convenient hubs and win premium passengers with improved service standards. Regional and economy travelers are being targeted by low-fare airlines such as AirAsia and Qantas Airways Ltd.’s Jetstar. “They’re being squeezed at both ends of the plane,” said Andrew Orchard, an analyst with Royal Bank of Scotland Group Plc in Hong Kong who rates the stock a sell. “They have less growth now and a lot more competition.” [Source: David Fickling, Bloomberg, April 27, 2012 /*\]
“In 2011, Qatar was named the world’s best airline by rating group Skytrax, an award that Singapore Air received in three years out of five until 2008, and has not won since. Singapore Air’s neighbors Thai Airways International Pcl and Malaysian Airline System Bhd. will also both add Airbus SAS A380s this year, rivaling the carrier’s flagship plane. “Clearly the competition in some areas has got a lot better,” Skytrax London-based spokesman Peter Miller said by e- mail, citing Qatar and Seoul-based Asiana Airlines Inc. “We are seeing a more level playing field in product standards as many carriers seek to match Singapore.” /*\
“The change has been noted by Singapore Air’s regular flyers. “They have this arrogant attitude that they’re the best so people will continue to use them no matter what,” said Mark Roberts, 48, a mining metallurgist from Melbourne who flies business class to Asia and Europe about 15 times a year. Having flown exclusively with Singapore Air since 1998, in recent years he has increasingly chosen Thai Air and Emirates. “I felt like I was being taken for a fool” by changes in Singapore Air’s loyalty program and the last-minute swapping of older aircraft on premium-priced routes. “It’s almost a lucky dip whether I get the product I paid for,” he said. The Boeing Co. 747s that occasionally flew the Melbourne- Singapore route were retired from the fleet earlier this month, Singapore Air’s Ionides said. /*\
“At Changi Airport, Emirates and Qatar alone now operate 74 flights a week. Low-cost carriers including Tiger Airways Holdings Pte., part-owned by Singapore Air, have boosted their share of passengers to 26 percent last year, from 5.6 percent in 2005, helped by the opening of a budget terminal. Singapore Air now accounts for about a third of Changi’s passengers, from more than half in 2008.
Singapore Airlines’ Singapore Girl
Singapore Airlines’ Singapore Girl advertising campaign helepd make Singapore Airlines an internationally known brand. It is one of the world's longest running advertising campaigns and features the slogan "Singapore Girl — You're a great way to fly." About 60 percent of SIA's more than 7000 cabin crew are women, mostly from Singapore and Malaysia. In 1993, an image of the Singapore Girl was displayed at Madame Tussaud's in London.
Vivek Prakash of Reuters wrote: “Former flight attendants and many take pride in a profession that lost much of its glamour since air travel became an everyday phenomenon. An ex-Singapore Girl who asked to be identified only as Nancy said the airline should hold on to the campaign and not "put their crew into dull business suits". "When I put on the uniform, I represented Singapore, not just the airline. It made me so proud and we would get a lot of positive feedback," she said. [Source: Vivek Prakash, Reuters, January 23, 2007]
“Nine out of ten of the female cabin crew are Singaporean or Malaysian, while the remainder are hired from China, India, Indonesia, Japan, Korea and Taiwan for language skills. They follow strict rules, down to the way they wear long hair — never loose — and the color of nail varnish or lipstick.” For a long time Singapore Girls were not allowed to color their hair. Ironically, the Southeast Asian airline relied on white European men — advertising mastermind Ian Batey and French designer Pierre Balmain — to come up with the idea of the graceful Asian girl in a batik uniform, known as sarong kebaya. [Ibid]
Singapore Girl' Training, Recruitment and Retirement
Bernice Han of AFP wrote: “A well-groomed young woman gently pours steaming tea into a cup inside a mock-up plane cabin as an instructor urges her to smile and make eye contact. "Okay good job, keep it going, but remember not too much as they might want milk in the tea," trainer Philip Cheong tells her. Nearby, giggles fill a brightly lit room as a cluster of equally-young women carefully wash their faces and settle back in their seats. "Feel your skin, is it softer, smoother? Okay, we are now going to the next step and apply the toner," makeup consultant Shera Begum says as male members of the team watch attentively from the sidelines. “Welcome to the sprawling cabin crew training facility of Singapore Airlines (SIA), where the flight attendants that made the carrier famous for service are drilled in the finer arts of hospitality in the air. [Source: Bernice Han, AFP, August 1, 2011 /+\]
“Each recruitment exercise held in Singapore typically draws 1000 applicants. The airline said it has no fixed quota for each intake and hires cabin crew on merit. Recruits, whose average age is 24, are taught the basics of social etiquette, personal grooming, passenger handling and meal service, including food preparation and wine appreciation. New flight attendants are only given five-year contracts to start with, enabling SIA to refresh the crew based on criteria such as "a customer-oriented service attitude," said Nicholas Ionides, the airline's spokesman. Ionides said those who constantly make the grade can work a total of five five-year contracts during their career. The weeding-out process effectively gives SIA a younger cabin crew than rival carriers, industry watchers say./+\
“According to Singapore's Straits Times, most SIA female flight attendants are grounded between their late 30s and early 40s. Their union is now bargaining for greater job security with a minimum flying career of 20 years, according to a recent report in the newspaper.
The Mile Hi! Club: Sex and the Singapore Girl?
Frankie Chee wrote in The Straits Times, “The rumours of flight attendants’ salacious lives are rumours no more. A Singaporean ex-stewardess has spilled the beans on her profession in a memoir saucily called The Mile Hi! Club. The new book, whose title puns on the term ‘mile high club’, which refers to people who have had sex on a plane, tells of crew members making out with passengers in aircraft toilets and walking around without underwear. But the book written by Janet Chew also brings to light the more mundane, unglamorous aspects of the job, such as one occasion when she had to clean up after an elderly passenger who fell sick and soiled his underwear, pants and shoes. “This is part and parcel of my job, this is what we have to do,” she explains. [Source: Frankie Chee, The Straits Times, May 4, 2009 *-*]
“She admits The Mile Hi! Club’s cheeky title is meant to attract readers and is not filled from cover to cover with juicy details of high-altitude sex romps. “The ‘Hi!’ is representative of the famous smile we have,” she clarifies. “Episodes like the sexual romps do not happen very often. I wanted to keep the book true and didn’t want it to be over-dramatic. It’s not meant to be about the sleaze. “Many people have misconceptions about cabin crew, that we are materialistic high-class waiters and the funny antics that that they think go on among us. “So this is a good opportunity to open their eyes,” says Chew, 35, who quit flying in 2008 to take care of her five-year-old son. *-*
“The Mile Hi! Club is not the first book written by an ex-stewardess about the profession. There are at least 10 others before it, including The Sky Is Crazy: Tales From A Trolley Dolly by Malaysian Yvonne Lee, which was published in 2005.” Chew spent six months working on her book, which is based on her 13 years as a flight stewardess. *-*
According to the New Paper, “Once, she caught an air stewardess under her charge engaging in hanky panky with an Australian passenger in the plane’s toilet. Another time, she claimed, a local ‘leading man’ told her that he had sex with an air stewardess in the crew bunk. All the names in the book have been changed and the airline Ms Chew worked with is also not named, except it is ‘reputably one of the best in the world’. [Source: New Paper, May 2009 ||||]
“There are also tales of good-looking married male attendants who cheat on their wives, one who was seduced by a senior stewardess and a steward with a ‘partner in every port’. She also dished the dirt on the ‘tryers’ among pilots who are tired of their wives and the ‘willing, young impressionable girls’ who surround them.” But Ms Chew insisted that those in the mile high club are a small minority, and that they are not representative of the profession as a whole. She said she has personally encountered only two cases. ‘The majority go home with a clean conscience,’ she added. Not that there is any shortage of temptation in the skies. To fend off unwanted attention, she said, some girls took to wearing ‘wedding bands’ even though they were single. Ms Chew claimed she got around 20 offers, but accepted none of them. ‘The thing is, I don’t know if the passengers were just using a ‘cut-and-paste’ on every girl,’ she said. ||||
“Ms Chew said the book does not just have tales of sex – she could have added a lot more of that if she wanted. It is also full of humorous anecdotes, such as how an airline crew was booted out from a serviced apartment in Adelaide for stealing. Then there is the story of the stewardess who went without panties because she found the uniform ‘inhibiting’. And in case you wonder, the book also reveals the state of a stewardess’ panties after a tough flight of standing and squatting. Ms Chew said she also wanted to dispel the idea that stewardesses were just ‘waitresses’ in the air. The book features many examples of the hard work flight attendants put in. ||||
“So, what do airline crew members think about the book? A 33-year-old air stewardess of 13 years, a friend of Ms Chew’s, who gave her name only as Ms Celestine, said she is glad someone has finally decided to put their experiences on paper. After browsing through the book, she admitted that what it describes does happen, but added that hanky-panky among crew members in the air is not common. ‘With the workload, I’d say that the people up there have no time,’ she said. And such things happen in most workplaces, anyway, she added. ‘People always view it as juicy because it’s up there in the air,’ she said. Former air steward Willy Tan, 33, who flew for three years, said it is ‘quite common’ for flight attendants, pilots and passengers to form relationships. ‘When one is away from home, from friends and family, one tends to get lonely,’ he noted. ‘Friendships and other bonds may form quite naturally, through working, sightseeing and dining together. How far they want to take it is up to the individual.’ He recalled that the closest encounter he had with mile-high clubbing was when a passenger complained about ‘a couple (having sex) in the toilet.’ ||||
Singapore Airlines Battles In-flight Crime and Sexual Offenses Against It Air Hostesses
In 2000, Barry Porte wrote in the South China Morning Post, “The ''Singapore Girl'', with her hour-glass figure and flowing batik sarong, cuts an attractive image 9,000 metres up in the sky far too attractive it would seem for some male passengers. Singapore Airlines reported 22 sexual offences against its air hostesses on board its aircraft last year. ''This is a worrying trend,'' said a senior official from the airline, famous for using pretty, real-life air hostesses in advertisements to lure passengers. [Source: Barry Porte, South China Morning Post, April 29, 2000 *^*]
“The Singapore carrier has also reported a sharp rise in unruly behaviour, especially drunkenness. Crew reported 103 such cases last year, up from 80 the previous year. ''The worrying thing is that the number of incidents just keeps on going up every year,'' Alex de Silva, the airline's vice-president for safety, security and environment told a conference in the republic. There were 50 cases of drunken and disorderly behaviour last year, up from 41 in 1998. Passengers not only laid hands on crew, but attacked fellow travellers. There were 27 such cases last year. *^*
“Singapore courts have regularly jailed, fined or caned passengers for unruly behaviour in the past. However, Mr de Silva called for legal loopholes to be plugged to allow Singapore to deal with such offenders more firmly. Some offenders have escaped without punishment. Australia, Britain, Canada and the United States have introduced laws that allow authorities to use their powers to fight inflight crime whether it occurs on a state-registered or foreign aircraft and regardless of whether the offence was committed in the airspace of the state in which it lands. In Singapore, the maximum sentence for endangering an aircraft's safety is S$5,000 (HK$22,800) and a year in jail. *^*
In 1999, “Sanil Shetty Kumar, 38, was jailed for six months and fined S$1,000 for turning violent on a Singapore Airlines flight and threatening to open an exit door while flying from Los Angeles to Singapore. The carrier said it was working with the International Air Transport Association to find solutions to the increase in air rage and sexual assaults. *^*
What Happens When a Singapore Girl Becomes Pregnant
In 2010, Channel News Asia reported: “The 'Singapore Girl' who leaves SIA after pregnancy will now receive two months' basic salary as ex-gratia payment. Cabin crew were told of the policy, which Singapore Airlines said had been under review for some time following feedback from staff and discussions with the union, said Mr Nicholas Ionides, SIA's vice-president of public affairs. Cabin crew, regardless of nationality, will receive the maternity pay-out. Eligible crew may appeal to the Government for the reimbursement of the government-paid portion of their maternity leave after giving birth, said Mr Ionides. [Source: Channel News Asia, October 14, 2010 ^^]
“Mothers are entitled to 16 weeks of maternity leave in Singapore, subject to conditions, including the child being a Singapore citizen, and the mother having served at her company for at least 90 days before giving birth. As SIA cabin crew must terminate their contracts after the first trimester of pregnancy, they do not automatically qualify for government-paid maternity leave - hence the need to submit an appeal to the Ministry of Community Development, Youth and Sports. A ministry spokesperson said each appeal will be assessed "based on its merit". While female cabin crew welcomed SIA's new policy, one noted that "it is not a lot of money and is long overdue." A local cabin crew member's basic monthly salary starts from $1300 but with allowances, this could amount to about $3500. ^^
“Cabin crew are hired on five-year contracts, and six in 10 of SIA's approximately 7000 cabin crew are female. MediaCorp understands 15 to 20 crew leave to start families each month. SIA had previously explained that crew had to quit after the first trimester of a pregnancy because the job's physical demands could compromise their well-being. Staff may apply for ground postings, with limited vacancies or resume flying after giving birth under SIA's Returning Mothers Scheme. ^^
Changes for Singapore Airlines’ Singapore Girl
Vivek Prakash of Reuters wrote: “She is Asian, wears a figure-hugging uniform, smiles gently, and looks nowhere near her 35 years. Now the Singapore Girl, an airline industry icon, may be about to get a more contemporary look. In one of the world's longest running advertising campaigns, Singapore Airlines' flight attendants have become instantly recognizable corporate symbols and are the focus of the Southeast Asian carrier's advertising. But the advertising firm that created the campaign and the slogan "Singapore Girl — You're a great way to fly", now faces the risk of losing the lucrative deal. [Source: Vivek Prakash, Reuters, January 23, 2007 <<<]
In January 2007, “Singapore Air invited rivals of Batey Ads, which has held the contract since the airline was formed in 1972, to also submit bids and the outcome could change the Singapore Girl. Despite her success, critics complain the Singapore Girl concept is sexist, outmoded and largely intended to serve male passengers' fantasies of desirable, subservient Oriental women. The Straits Times once quoted a Qantas Airways chairman referring to the campaign as "massage parlor in the sky ads". <<<
“Richard Pinkham of the Centre for Asia Pacific Aviation in Singapore said that while the girl image may be outdated, much of the airline's cachet is a result of its cabin crew. "It's possible that they will de-emphasize the name — it is a bit passe to refer to professional women as 'girls' — but maintain the flight attendant image as a central point of focus in their advertising. It certainly does capture attention more than a photo of a chair would." Recent adverts for Singapore Air feature the airline's ultra-modern aircraft, updated seats or in-flight food. But the perfectly groomed Singapore Girl still features prominently, gently covering a sleeping passenger or offering meals. <<<
“The bidding for what is one of the most coveted advertising deals in the industry will be a tough race, particularly in the light of Singapore Air's known focus on costs. Advertising industry experts do not expect her to be canned but merely refreshed. "It's been incredibly successful and you don't just give up such a truly iconic symbol having spent 30 years to build it," one executive at a large international agency said. A spokesman for the airline denied that the review of its ad agency could necessarily put an end to the Singapore Girl. "There's no intention to change what is a recognized representation of our brand internationally. The custodian of our brand is us, the airline, not any ad agency." <<<
Comeback of the Singapore Girl'
Bernice Han of AFP wrote: “Harking back to an earlier marketing strategy, SIA launched a global advertising campaign in February with the "Singapore Girl" as the main theme instead of new aircraft or luxurious amenities like high-tech seats. The airline brushed aside criticism from some quarters that the 'Singapore Girl' campaign is sexist and outmoded. "She represents not just the Singapore Airlines air stewardess, but qualities that all our cabin crew - male and female - possess," SIA commercial vice president Mak Swee Wah said. [Source: Bernice Han, AFP, August 1, 2011]
Adrian Pring, a London-based analyst with business consultancy Brand Union, said the return to the "Singapore Girl" campaign was a strategic move for SIA. "As more airline companies, particularly the up-and-coming Middle Eastern carriers, began taking delivery of the A380, or similar modern aircraft, SIA's ability to differentiate through 'hardware' waned," he added. "So, with costs fluctuating and everyone flying the same equipment, an important place to attempt to differentiate is through the customer experience, underpinned by the people that will facilitate and bring the experience to life," Pring said.
Now that the high-spending passengers are coming back, SIA is going all out for their business by playing up its cabin service. "It reinforces the view that when it comes to premium flying, it is the choice for many business passengers," said Shukor Yusof, an analyst with Standard and Poor's Asian Equity Research. While trying to hold on to its position in the premium segment, SIA is not taking its chances on the other end of the market after watching the spectacular growth of the budget airline sector. SIA announced that it will launch year a separately managed budget airline with different branding to tap into growing Asian demand for low-cost travel over longer distances, a market dominated by Malaysia's AirAsia X. But premium travel is expected to remain SIA's most profitable business for years to come, with the "Singapore Girl" leading the charge.
Singapore Airlines Ends World's Longest Flights
In October 2012, Singapore Airlines announced it was ending the world's longest commercial flight — Singapore to Newark, New Jersey, a distance of about 9,500 miles. A slightly shorter route between Singapore and Los Angeles will also end. The two routes were flown on gas-guzzling Airbus A340-500s.[Source: Scott Mayerowitz, Associated Press, October 24, 2012 ><]
Scott Mayerowitz of Associated Press wrote: “The airline found the only way to make the routes profitable was by configuring the plane with 98 business class seats that sell for about $8,000 roundtrip. Other airlines operate the same plane with about 250 seats in first, business and economy classes. The flight from Newark, right outside New York, to Singapore takes about 18 hours. The trip from Los Angeles is about 1,500 miles shorter but takes 18 hours and 30 minutes. Headwinds over the Pacific Ocean slow the Los Angeles flight while the Newark flight goes over the North Pole and can fly faster. The Newark flight is the longest distance flight in the world and the Los Angeles one holds the record for duration. The flights started in 2004. ><
“The new titles for longest flights will go to a Qantas route between Sydney and Dallas — which at about 8,500 miles is the longest route — and a Delta flight between Johannesburg and Atlanta, which at 17 hours will hold the title of longest duration. Singapore Airlines is selling its five A340-500s back to Airbus as part of a deal. Singapore is ordering five more Airbus A380s and another 20 A350s. The planes have a list price of $7.5 billion but airlines often negotiate steep discounts for large orders. Deliveries are due to begin in 2017. The A340s currently used on the world's longest flights will be retired by the end of 2013. Singapore will continue to serve New York on its existing A380 route which connects in Frankfurt. Los Angeles has existing A380 service via Tokyo, which will also continue. ><
Singapore Airlines Spends $16 Million Upgrading Lounges
In August 2012, Singapore Airlines said it would spend more than Sg$20 million ($16 million) to upgrade its airport lounges worldwide in a bid to stay ahead of the competition. AFP reported: “The announcement of the upgrade came nine days after the airline, facing fiercer rivalry from Asian and Middle Eastern carriers, unveiled plans to introduce revamped seats and cabin interiors as well as improved in-flight entertainment. [Source: AFP, August 24, 2012 ==]
The upgrade of its “SilverKris” lounges will be carried out over five years starting from the middle of next year when the facility at Sydney airport will be fitted with a new design concept, SIA said in a statement.“We hope to replicate that ‘home away from home’ experience in our lounges, along with the warm Asian hospitality that Singapore Airlines is renowned for,”SIA senior vice president for products and services Tan Pee Teck said. The airline has 15 SilverKris lounges at airports worldwide, including one in New Delhi – to be officially opened next month – and in Seoul which is scheduled for completion by the end of the year. ==
“SIA is regarded as a trendsetter in aviation and is famous for its cabin service, but rivals like Cathay Pacific in Asia and Etihad, Emirates and Gulf Air from the Middle East have been closing the gap while offering lower fares. It said last week it had hired BMW Group subsidiary DesignworksUSA and James Park Associates, two renowned design companies, to develop the “next generation of inflight cabin products” expected to be introduced next year.The changes will include revamped seats, redesigned cabins and upgraded entertainment platforms as new passenger planes from Boeing and Airbus begin arriving. ==
Singapore Airlines First to Fly the Airbus A380 Super Jumbo Plane
In 2007, Singapore Airlines became the first airline to operate the Airbus A380, the world's largest passenger plane. It was one of the first airlines to make a bid for the A380, order 25 of the planes for $8.6 billion around the same time it ordered six 747 freighters from Boeing for $1.3 billion. Singapore Air deployed its first two A380 on flights between Singapore and Sydney. It also uses service on flights between Singapore and London and Frankfurt. In 2008, the planes were used to transport people to Beijing for the Olympics. As of 2012, SIA operated 19 A380-800 superjumbos.
In 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. 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. When Airbus confirmed that due to unforeseen technical problems, initial deliveries of the Airbus A380 would be delayed by up to six months, SIA's Chief Executive Officer, Chew Choon Seng was furious, threatening 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." [Source: Wikipedia +]
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 Dreamliners; 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. +
In October 2007, the first commercial A380 service, SQ 380, 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. The A380 now operates daily flights to Tokyo, Paris, Hong Kong, Zurich, Melbourne, Los Angeles, as an extension of the Singapore-Narita service and double daily flights to London and Sydney. An A380 service to Frankfurt and onwards to New York commenced in January 2012. +
Nicola Clark wrote in the New York Times, “Singapore Airlines said the plane’s interior would be configured to seat 471 passengers — 15 percent below the 555-seat capacity that Airbus had marketed for a standard three-class design — to devote more space to seats in business class and a new offering of first-class “suites.” “In the premium cabins, the real estate will be quite spaced out,” said Stephen Forshaw, a Singapore Airlines spokesman. Even with the roomier configuration, the Singapore Airlines A380s will carry 25 percent more passengers than its Boeing 747-400 jets, the largest aircraft in its fleet now. [Source: Nicola Clark, New York Times, August 17, 2007]
“Serious problems with the design and installation of the electrical wiring that controls in-flight entertainment systems in the cabin led Airbus to postpone delivery of the A380 three times since 2005. The troubles led to a management crisis last year at the plane maker and its parent, European Aeronautic Defense and Space, which resulted in the departure of several senior managers at both companies. The industrial debacle also served as the catalyst for a major reorganization of Airbus. [Ibid]
Airliners.net reported: “An Australian businessman placed the biggest bid of U$D 100,380 for seats on the first commercial flight of the Airbus A380 ! Julian Hayward paid that amount for a pair of one-way Suites tickets to be on the inaugural flight on October 25 that will depart Singapore for Sydney. The proceeds raised from the auction, which took place on the eBay online marketplace, will go towards charity organisations. [Source: Airliners.net, September 14, 2007]
In November 2010, Reuters reported: “ Singapore Airlines will replace engines on three of its Airbus A380 planes after finding oil stains on them, almost a week after Australian rival Qantas grounded its A380 fleet due to an engine failure. Qantas's six A380s were grounded after a Rolls-Royce engine partly disintegrated mid-flight, forcing the fully laden Airbus A380 to make an emergency landing. Investigations into that incident have focused on oil leaks inside the Rolls-Royce Trent 900 engines, the same model used to power Singapore Airlines' and German Lufthansa's A380 fleet. But Singapore Airlines stressed the problems on three of its 11 A380s were precautionary and unrelated as the oil stains were different from the oil leakage in the Qantas turbines. [Source: Harry Suhartono and Balazs Koranyi, Reuters, November 10, 2010]
Tiger Airways and Other Airlines Operating Out of Singapore
Silkair, with a fleet of 11 Airbus 13 aircraft, provides service to numerous Southeast Asian cities plus selected destinations in China and India. Silk Air is a unit of Singapore Air. With competition from low-cost carrier Air Asia there has been some discussion of turning Silk Air into a no-frills carrier. Two other Singapore private airlines, Tiger Airways and ValuAir, provide short-trip regional service. Singapore handled some 1.8 million tons of air cargo in 2005. **
Tiger Australia launched in November 2007 and services 16 domestic routes with 11 aircraft. It inaugurated its service between Singapore and Bangkok by offering round trip tickets that cost only two Singapore dollars ($1.16). Tiger Airways Australia, the loss-making local subsidiary of Singapore's Tiger Airways, has a history of poor financial and operational performance. It was grounded by Australia's air safety regulator for six weeks in 2011 in an unprecedented move over concerns about pilot proficiency, training and fatigue management.
ValueAir was set up by a former managing director of Singapore Air. Valuair today only flies to Indonesian destinations - namely Jakarta, Medan, Surabaya and Denpasar. In response to the Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore's rejection of AirAsia-backed airline Indonesia Air Asia's application to fly to Singapore, Indonesia embarked on a policy of protectionism. This prohibited low-cost carriers of Singapore and Indonesia from adding more flights. Jetstar Asia had not yet established routes into Indonesia, so the merger is seen as the airline's strategy to get an early entrance into the lucrative Indonesian market. Valuair flights are operated by Jetstar Asia crew, with the in-flight menu and entertainment virtually the same as Jetstar Asia's. Sometimes, JetStar flights are used with Valuair aircraft.
Singapore has built a special terminal for low-cost airlines.
In May 2013, Virgin purchase of a 60 percent stake in Tiger Airways, AFP reported: Virgin told the Australian Securities Exchange that the Foreign Investment Review Board had green-lighted the acquisition, paving the way for a partnership set to boost its rivalry with major carrier Qantas. "This confirmation satisfies another condition for the proposed acquisition of Tiger Australia, which will enable Virgin Australia to access the budget market segment and expedite the growth of Tiger Australia," Virgin said in a statement. [Source: AFP, May 29, 2013]
Jetstar Makes Singapore New Hub
In 2010, Qantas's no-frills offshoot, Jetstar, decided to use Singapore as its hub for flights in Asia and a launch pad for services to Europe. Matt O'Sullivan of AFP reported: “Jetstar has been considering for three years whether to make Singapore, Bangkok or Ho Chi Minh City in Vietnam its Asian hub. The airline will operate its highest number of services and base its largest number of A320 aircraft in Asia at Changi Airport in Singapore. The expansion in Singapore is likely to mean it will boost its maintenance operations and cabin-crew base there over coming years. The airline and its part-owned Singaporean affiliate, Jetstar Asia, already have about 200 cabin crew based in Singapore.[Source: Matt O'Sullivan, AFP, January 29, 2010]
''The clear operational advantages of Singapore as a hub and primary access point into Asia are clear and can now be further built upon,'' Jetstar's chief executive, Bruce Buchanan, said yesterday. Jetstar Asia also said it would do its own aircraft maintenance rather than outsource the work.
In 2005, Valuair and Jetstar Asia agreed to combine their operations. Kyunghee Park of Bloomberg wrote: “Jetstar Asia said it would operate under the same holding company as Valuair. Competition is becoming intense in Asia, where 16 low-fare carriers began flying in the last two years. The governments of Singapore and India, where most of the region's discount airlines are based, have been urging the industry to combine to survive the competition, as the price of jet fuel surged to records. The merger of Valuair and Jetstar Asia may have been exacerbated by the Indonesian government's rejection of Jetstar Asia and Tiger Airways plans to fly in the country, in a move to protect PT Garuda Indonesia. The ban, combined with the establishment of more budget carriers in China and India, pushed Tiger, Jetstar and Valuair to seek alliances.[Source: Kyunghee Park, Bloomberg, July 24, 2005]
Air Accidents Involving Singaporean Airlines
In November 2000, a Singapore Airlines flight crashed during take off at Taipei’s Chiang Kai-shek Airport after it went down the wrong runway and hit a barrier and some construction equipment. Eighty-one of the 179 passengers on board died. See Taiwan.
In December 1997, a Silk Air 737 crashed in Musi River in Sumatra, killing 104 people. See Indonesia.
Text Sources: New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Times of London, Lonely Planet Guides, Library of Congress, Singapore Tourism Board, Compton’s Encyclopedia, The Guardian, National Geographic, Smithsonian magazine, The New Yorker, Time, Newsweek, Reuters, AP, AFP, Wall Street Journal, The Atlantic Monthly, The Economist, Foreign Policy, Wikipedia, BBC, CNN, and various books, websites and other publications.
© 2008 Jeffrey Hays
Last updated June 2015