Singapore Airlines



Incorporated on 28 January 1972, Singapore Airlines (SIA), the national carrier of Singapore, is one of the most successful airlines in the world.1 The recipient of numerous accolades and awards including Conde Nast Traveler’s ‘World’s Best Airline’ Award, Wall Street Journal “Asia's Most Admired Company” Award, and ranked 18th in Fortune Magazine’s Top 50 World’s Most Admired Companies,2 the airline is listed on the Singapore Exchange, with Temasek Holdings being its majority shareholder.3

Background
SIA’s origins can be traced to the Malayan Airways Limited (MAL) which was formed on 21 October 1937 by British Imperial Airways (later British Overseas Airways Corporation, or BOAC), Straits Steamship Company, and Ocean Steamship Company of Liverpool.4 With doubts over the commercial viability of a Singapore–Malaya air-route at the time, coupled with the outbreak of World War II, MAL lay dormant. It did not make its maiden commercial flight until 1 May 1947 when a MAL Airspeed Consul took off from Singapore to begin a thrice-weekly scheduled flight to Kuala Lumpur, and then on to Ipoh and Penang.5

Thereafter, Malayan Airways grew steadily, adding more routes to domestic and regional destinations such as Jakarta, Medan, Palembang, Saigon (now Ho Chi Minh City), and Hong Kong. It also increased its fleet size with the acquisition of new jet aircraft: the DC-4 Skymaster, Lockheed Super Constellation, Comet IV, Fokker F27, and Boeing 707 and 737.6

Formation of SIA
Following the formation of the Federation of Malaysia on 16 September 1963, Malayan Airways changed its name to Malaysian Airways. Following Singapore’s exit from the Federation on 9 August 1965, the airline was renamed again to Malaysia-Singapore Airlines (MSA) in May 1966.7 That month, the Singapore and Malaysia governments injected fresh capital into the carrier, bringing their shareholdings to 42.79 percent each. The rest of the shares were held by the Brunei government, BOAC, Qantas, Straits Steamship Company and the Ocean Steamship Company.8

MSA was profitable, but soon differences arose between the Singapore and Malaysia governments over the airline’s corporate direction.9 In January 1971, the Malaysian and Singapore governments announced that MSA would be restructured into two separate national carriers.10 The airline’s assets were divided, with the Malaysian carrier, named Malaysian Airline System (MAS), receiving the Friendship Fleet, Britten-Norman aircraft, equipment in Malaysia, and all the domestic routes in Malaysia.11

Singapore, on the other hand, received all the Boeing aircraft, airline headquarters building, aircraft hangars and maintenance facilities at Paya Lebar Airport, computer reservation system and most of the overseas offices. It also took over MSA’s international route network encompassing 22 cities in 18 countries.12 The Singapore carrier was then incorporated on 28 January 1972 as Mercury Singapore Airlines, which shared the same MSA acronym as the dissolved Malaysia-Singapore Airlines.13 This irked Malaysia who was prepared to seek legal action to prevent the use of the acronym unless Singapore was willing to pay a compensation of S$72.7 million.14 In the end, both sides resolved the issue which saw Singapore renaming Mercury Singapore Airlines as Singapore Airlines (SIA) on 27 June 1972.15 On 1 October 1972, SIA began operations with three flights – one bound for London, the other for Sydney, and a third on its way back to Singapore.16

Expansion and strategies
The lack of a domestic air-travel market meant that, from the start, SIA and the Singapore government had to focus on the expansion of the airline’s international route network.17 Between 1973 and 1997, the government signed air services agreements with the governments of Australia, New Zealand, Indonesia, Malaysia, Japan, India, Taiwan, Korea and the Philippines.18 These agreements helped pave the way for future negotiations for air traffic rights. Other routes were added via code-sharing agreements and strategic alliances.19 Today, SIA’s operations include more than 60 destinations across over 30 countries.20

To complement the expansion efforts, SIA constantly enlarged and renewed its aircrafts to ensure it had a modern fleet.21 In fact, within months of its formation, SIA became the first airline in Southeast Asia to order jumbo jets, when it placed an order for two Boeing 747-200 aircraft.22 This was soon followed by others such as the Airbus 300 Superbus which went into service in February 1981, the Boeing 747-300 in May 1983, the Airbus 310-200 in November 1984.23

In 1989, Singapore Airlines became the first airline to operate a Boeing 747-400 across the Pacific.24 It was also among the first to operate the wide-body Boeing 777 in 1998.25 In 2004, SIA inaugurated its first A340-500 by setting a record for the world’s longest non-stop commercial flight from Singapore to Los Angeles in February, and Singapore to New York in June.26 On 15 October 2007, SIA made history again by taking delivery of the world’s first A380.27 Today, SIA has a fleet of 103 aircraft with an average age of seven years and seven months, making it one of the youngest in the world.28

Other facets of SIA’s strategy include the development of Singapore Changi Airport as an air traffic hub, and the promotion of Singapore as a choice travel destination.29 In 1999, the carrier launched KrisFlyer, its first proprietary frequent flyer programme, to allow First, Business and Economy Class customers to earn mileage credits which could later be redeemed for travel vouchers and discounts.30

Service culture
From the beginning, SIA committed itself to providing impeccable cabin service standards for its customers.31 One of the highlights of the carrier’s service features includes offering economy-class passengers a choice of meals, complimentary drinks and headphone sets for in-flight entertainment.32 These privileges garnered SIA, its reputation as a premier carrier with high standards of cabin service.33

SIA has continued to work at distinguishing itself from its competitors by developing and investing in service innovations and in-flight offerings over the years. In October 2006, it refreshed its cabin products by launching the world’s widest First and Business Class full-flat seats.34 The KrisWorld inflight entertainment system in all three classes was also updated with high-resolution screens, more intuitive controls, and access to USB ports and office applications.35

In 2013, the carrier once again revamped itself by launching its next generation of cabin products. The revamp provided passengers in the first, business and economy cabins with wider, cushier seats, and more personal and storage space. On top of that, passengers were granted a better inflight entertainment system that was equipped with wider LCD screens and touchscreen handsets. Economy-class passengers could also browse through more than 1,000 entertainment options. The cabin upgrades cost around S$188 million, and were the result of two years of research and development involving BMW Group subsidiary, Designworks USA, and James Park Associates. These new features were unveiled in SIA's new Boeing 777-300 ER aircrafts in September 2013.36

To continue the advancement of its service culture, SIA operates seven schools to train staff in the core functional areas of cabin services, flight operations, commercial training, information technology, security, airport services and engineering.37 There is also a Management Development Centre which provides executive and leadership programmes for staff from all sections of the company with the aim of generating effective administrators and farsighted managers.38 The company benchmarks its customer service not only against other airlines, but also against those in the service and hospitality industries such as hotels, restaurants and car rental companies. These measures have helped SIA receive a long list of awards for service excellence from various publications and surveys.39

Branding
From its inception, SIA has invested substantially in its brand by working with advertising partners, Batey Advertising (1972 to 2007) and TBWA (2007 to present) to “portray Singapore Airlines as a competent, modern, international airline of Asian origin, offering the best in-flight service in the world”.40 During its first 21 years, SIA invested up to S$750 million or about S$35 million annually for advertising.41 Today, the carrier spends about S$250 million in advertising and sales.42 It has also widened its branding efforts by expanding into social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter. From 2013 to 2016, the airline’s social media footprint led by Dentsu Möbius and later Zenith Singapore has grown from 529,000 to over 5 million followers.43

One of the most enduring branding efforts of SIA was the launch of the “Singapore Girl” advertisement campaigns. Conceived by Batey in 1972, the advertisements took a soft approach by focusing on the inflight service culture of SIA rather than its hardware and technical features. In the advertisements, the centrepiece was the aesthetic and warm personality of SIA stewardesses who were dressed in the distinct sarong kebaya created by renowned French designer Pierre Balmain in 1968 for MSA. The concept was to project the impeccable and elegant service standards of the airlines. Despite some criticisms of sexism and subservience in the image, the Singapore Girl together with the slogan – "A Great Way To Fly" – is now one of the airline’s most recognisable trademarks.44

Investments, alliances and subsidiaries
SIA has a range of subsidiaries and associate companies in diverse fields of the aviation industry to support its operations.45 For instance, it wholly-owns three airline subsidiaries, namely SilkAir which operates regional flights to secondary cities, and Scoot and Tigerair which operate in the low-cost carrier sector.46 There were also various companies like Tradewinds, SIA Engineering and Singapore Airlines Cargo involved in tour operations, aviation engineering and air cargo services.47

During the 1990s, SIA sought to acquire stakes in other airlines to increase capacity and explore new opportunities. SIA’s first attempt was a failed bid in 1992 to own a stake in Qantas. Following this, potential investments in several airlines reached varying stages, but none came to fruition.48 However, between 1999 and 2000, SIA was able to clinch its first two major investments by taking a 25 percent stake in Air New Zealand and a 49 percent share of Virgin Atlantic.49 In addition to acquiring stakes, SIA entered strategic alliances with Delta and Swissair in 1989, as well as a joint marketing agreement with Air Canada.50 This was followed by link-ups with Ansett, and with Lufthansa between 1997 and 1999.51 In April 2000, SIA joined the Star Alliance, a 28-member airline grouping that allows its members to share airport terminals (or co-locations), communication initiatives and other services including air travel rewards programme.52



Author

Alvin Chua



References
1. Allen, R. (1990). SIA: Take-off to success. Singapore: Singapore Airlines, pp. 59–60. (Call no.: RSING 387.70605957 ALL)
2. Singapore Airlines. (2016). Our Awards. Retrieved 2016, September 16 from Singapore Airlines website: https://www.singaporeair.com/en_UK/us/flying-withus/our-story/awards/
3. Tham, P. C., Lee, C. Y., & Koh, A. (Eds.). (2004). Singapore enterprises in China: 14 success stories on Temasek-linked companies. Singapore: IE Singapore, Lianhe Zaobao & Lingzi Media, pp. 243–249. (Call no.: RSING 332.6735957051 SIN)
4. Allen, R. (1990). SIA: Take-off to success. Singapore: Singapore Airlines, p. 19. (Call no.: RSING 387.70605957 ALL)
5. Allen, R. (1990). SIA: Take-off to success. Singapore: Singapore Airlines, p. 19. Call no.: RSING 387.70605957 ALL; Ten proud years 1947–1957: Great day in the history of Malayan airways. (1957, May 1). The Straits Times, p. 12. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
6. Allen, R. (1990). SIA: Take-off to success. Singapore: Singapore Airlines, p. 122. (Call no.: RSING 387.70605957 ALL)
7. Allen, R. (1990). SIA: Take-off to success. Singapore: Singapore Airlines, pp. 49-51. Call no.: RSING 387.70605957 ALL; Now it’s Malaysian Airlines. (1963, November 28). The Straits Times, p. 1; MAL is now MSA. (1966, December 31). The Straits Times, p. 1. Retrieved from NewspaperSG. 
8. Allen, R. (1990). SIA: Take-off to success. Singapore: Singapore Airlines, p. 51. Call no.: RSING 387.70605957 ALL
9. Allen, R. (1990). SIA: Take-off to success. Singapore: Singapore Airlines, pp. 57–59. (Call no.: RSING 387.70605957 ALL)
10. Raman, P. M. (1971, January 26). MSA to split. The Straits Times, p. 1. Retrieved from NewspaperSG. 
11. Allen, R. (1990). SIA: Take-off to success. Singapore: Singapore Airlines, pp. 57–59. (Call no.: RSING 387.70605957 ALL)
12. MSA it is! (1972, January 29). The Straits Times, p. 1; Mercury is all set for ‘take off’ in June. (1972, February 3). The Straits Times, p. 3. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; Allen, R. (1990). SIA: Take-off to success. Singapore: Singapore Airlines, p. 59. (Call no.: RSING 387.70605957 ALL)
13. MSA it is! (1972, January 29). The Straits Times, p. 1. Retrieved from NewspaperSG. 
14. MSA it is! (1972, January 29). The Straits Times, p. 1; MSA board — to meet on May 11 over goodwill claim. (1972, March 28). The Straits Times, p. 13; Chia, P., & Byramji, N. (1972, July 1). It’s fly SIA! The Straits Times, p. 1. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
15. MSA it is! (1972, January 29). The Straits Times, p. 1; MSA board – to meet on May 11 over goodwill claim. (1972, March 28). The Straits Times, p. 13; Chia, P. & Byramji, N. (1972, July 1). It’s fly SIA! The Straits Times, p. 1. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
16. Richards, A., & Loong, R. (1972, October 1). Big champagne party by union to mark the birth of SIA, p. 7. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
17. Allen, R. (1990). SIA: Take-off to success. Singapore: Singapore Airlines, pp. 61–63. (Call no.: RSING 387.70605957 ALL)
18. Wee, B. G. (Ed.) (2004). Government-linked companies and other organisations in Singapore. Singapore: Nanyang Technological University, p. 24. (Call no.: RSING 352.266095957 GOV)
19. Wee, B. G. (Ed.) (2004). Government-linked companies and other organisations in Singapore. Singapore: Nanyang Technological University, pp. 17—19. (Call no.: RSING 352.266095957 GOV)
20. Singapore Airlines. (2016). Destinations. Retrieved 2016, September 21 from Singapore Airlines website: http://www.singaporeair.com/en_UK/us/plan-travel/destinations/
21. Singapore Airlines. (1979). The pursuit of excellence: An island and its airline. Singapore: The Airlines, pp. 32–33. (Call no.: RSING 387.70655957 SIN)
22. Into a new era. (1973, September 3). The Straits Times, p. 5. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
23. Singapore Airlines. (2016). Our history. Retrieved 2016, September 21 from Singapore Airlines website: https://www.singaporeair.com/en_UK/about-us/sia-history/
24. Singapore Airlines. (2016). Our history. Retrieved 2016, September 21 from Singapore Airlines website: https://www.singaporeair.com/en_UK/about-us/sia-history/
25. World’s first B777-300 coming to S’pore. (1998, June 10). The Business Times, p. 44. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
26. Singapore Airlines. (2016). Our History. Retrieved 2016, September 21 from Singapore Airlines website: https://www.singaporeair.com/en_UK/about-us/sia-history/
27. Kaur, K. (2007, October 26). Flying into historyThe Straits Times, p. 4. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
28. Singapore Airlines. (2016). The Singapore Airlines Fleet. Retrieved 2016, September 21 from Singapore Airlines website: https://www.singaporeair.com/en_UK/us/flying-withus/our-story/our-fleet/
29. Singapore Airlines. (1979). The pursuit of excellence: An island and its airline. Singapore: The Airlines, pp. 12–15. (Call no.: RSING 387.70655957 SIN))
30. Elias, R. (1999, January 28). SIA woos travellers with KrisFlyer. The Business Times, p. 23. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
31. Allen, R. (1990). SIA: Take-off to success. Singapore: Singapore Airlines, pp. 69–72. (Call no.: RSING 387.70605957 ALL)
32. Singapore Airlines. (2016). Our History. Retrieved 2016, September 21 from Singapore Airlines website: https://www.singaporeair.com/en_UK/about-us/sia-history/
33. Allen, R. (1990). SIA: Take-off to success. Singapore: Singapore Airlines, pp. 69-72. (Call no.: RSING 387.70605957 ALL)
34. Singapore Airlines. (2016). Our history. Retrieved 2016, September 21 from Singapore Airlines website: https://www.singaporeair.com/en_UK/about-us/sia-history/
35. High-res work & play on SIA flights. (2006, December 19). The Straits Times, p. 10. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
36. Chow, J. (2013, September 27). SIA's new-look cabins take to the skies. The Straits Times, p. 10. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
37. Heracleous, L., Wirtz, J., & Pangarkar, N. (2009). Flying high in a competitive industry: Secrets of the world’s leading airline. Singapore: McGraw Hill, pp. 155–157. (Call no.: RSING 387.70655957 HER)
38. Heracleous, L., Wirtz, J., & Pangarkar, N. (2009). Flying high in a competitive industry: Secrets of the world’s leading airline. Singapore: McGraw Hill, p. 157. (Call no.: RSING 387.70655957 HER)
39. Wirtz, J., & Johnston, R. (2003). Singapore airlines: What it takes to sustain service excellence – a senior management perspective. Managing service quality, 13(1), 10–19. Retrieved from ProQuest via NLB’s eResources website: http://eresources.nlb.gov.sg/
40. Batey, I. (2002). Asian branding: A great way to fly. Singapore: Prentice Hill, p. 126. (Call no.: RSING 658.827 BAT); Tor, C. L. (2007, April 17). SIA's their biggest win. Today, p. 2. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; Pandey, R. (2015, September 18). Singapore Airlines retains global social media agency. Marketing. Retrieved 2016, September 16 from Marketing website: http://www.marketing-interactive.com/singapore-airlines-retains-global-social-media-agency/
41. Heracleous, L., Wirtz, J., & Pangarkar, N. (2009). Flying high in a competitive industry: Secrets of the world’s leading airline. Singapore: McGraw Hill, p. 59. (Call no.: RSING 387.70655957 HER)
42. Singapore Airlines. (2016). Annual report FY2014/15, p. 93. Retrieved from Retrieved 2016, September 16 from Singapore Airlines website: https://www.singaporeair.com/pdf/Investor-Relations/Annual-Report/annualreport1415v1.pdf
43. Pandey, R. (2015, September 18). Singapore Airlines retains global social media agency. Marketing. Retrieved 2016, September 16 from Marketing website: http://www.marketing-interactive.com/singapore-airlines-retains-global-social-media-agency/; Manjur, R. (2016, September 20). Singapore Airlines tipped to shift social media account from Dentsu Mobius. (2016, September 20). Marketing. Retrieved 2017, March 31 from Marketing Interactive website at: http://www.marketing-interactive.com/singapore-airlines-tipped-to-shift-social-media-account-from-dentsu-mobius/
44. Wong, K. (2015, July 28). The Singapore Girl: From an experiment to an icon. Channel NewsAsia. Retrieved from Factiva via NLB’s eResources website: http://eresources.nlb.gov.sg/
45. Wirtz, J., & Johnston, R. (2003). Singapore airlines: What it takes to sustain service excellence – a senior management perspective. Managing service quality, 13(1), 10–19. Retrieved from ProQuest via NLB’s eResources website: http://eresources.nlb.gov.sg/

46. Singapore Airlines. (2016). Our subsidiaries. Retrieved 2016, September 21 from Singapore Airlines website: http://www.singaporeair.com/en_UK/sg/flying-withus/our-story/our-subsidiaries/; Tiger Airways. (2016). About us. Retrieved 2016, September 21 from Tiger Airways website: http://www.tigerair.com/sg/en/about_us.php
47. Singapore Airlines. (2016). Our subsidiaries. Retrieved 2016, September 21 from Singapore Airlines website: http://www.singaporeair.com/en_UK/sg/flying-withus/our-story/our-subsidiaries/
48. Wee, B. G. (Ed.) (2004). Government-linked companies and other organisations in Singapore. Singapore: Nanyang Technological University, pp. 19–20. (Call no.: RSING 352.266095957 GOV)
49. Wee, B. G. (Ed.) (2004). Government-linked companies and other organisations in Singapore. Singapore: Nanyang Technological University, p. 20. (Call no.: RSING 352.266095957 GOV)
50. Wee, B. G. (Ed.) (2004). Government-linked companies and other organisations in Singapore. Singapore: Nanyang Technological University, p. 30. (Call no.: RSING 352.266095957 GOV)
51. Wee, B. G. (Ed.) (2004). Government-linked companies and other organisations in Singapore. Singapore: Nanyang Technological University, pp. 20–21. (Call no.: RSING 352.266095957 GOV)
52. Velloor, R. (2000, April 8). Star alliance welcomes SIA to the constellation. The Straits Times, p. 89. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.



Further resources
Air agreement. (1972, August 30). The Straits Times, p. 14. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.

Air service delayed. (1947, April 30). The Straits Times, p. 1. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.

Airline soars from modest beginnings. (1990, August 31). The Straits Times, p. 10. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.

Batey, I. (2002). Asian branding: A great way to fly. Singapore: Prentice Hill.
(Call no.: RSING 658.827 BAT)

Calling 'pioneer' travellers on Malayan Airways. (1977, February 21). The Straits Times, p. 19. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.

Chang, Z. Y., Yeong, W. Y. & Loh, L. (1996). The quest for global quality: A manifestation of total quality management by Singapore Airlines. Reading, Mass.: Addison-Wesley Pub.
(Call no.: RSING 387.70655957 CHA)


Coming, the hypersonic plane. (1987, July 14). The Straits Times, p. 12. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.

Dhaliwal, R. (1997, May 8). Expect intense battle, Mah tells SIA. The Straits Times, p. 3. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.

Dhaliwal, R. (1997, May 8). Flight so fancy: SIA's new Jubilee 777 arrives. The Straits Times, p. 3. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.

Happy landings! (1972, October 1). The Straits Times, p. 13. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.

Heracleous, L, Wirtz, J. & Pangarkar, N. (2009). Flying High in a competitive industry: Secrets of the world’s leading airline. Singapore: McGraw Hill.
(Call no.: RSING 387.70655957 HER)

Hermon, T. (1972, July 26). 50-50 accord. The Straits Times, p. 1. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.

Malayan Air plan approved. (1947, February 11). The Straits Times, p. 4. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.

Malayan Air Service starts. (1947, May 2). The Straits Times, p. 5. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.

Pioneering plane touches down — indoors. (1993, January 4). The Straits Times, p. 3. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.

SIA buys a 'star' for 40th year joy. (1987, January 7). The Straits Times, p. 13. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.

Soong, M. (1987, April 29). SIA shows its new flying colours. The Business Times, p. 2. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.

They've each put in more than 20 years of service. (1997, May 2). The Straits Times, p. 44. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.

Wee, B.G. (Ed.) (2004). Government-linked companies and other organisations in Singapore. Singapore: Nanyang Technological University, pp. 1-37.
(Call no.: RSING 352.266095957 GOV)



The information in this article is valid as at 2016 and correct as far as we are able to ascertain from our sources. It is not intended to be an exhaustive or complete history of the subject. Please contact the Library for further reading materials on the topic.
 

Subject
Organisations>>Companies
Airlines--Singapore
Transportation
Law and government>>Safety administration>>Air transportation
Business, finance and industry>>Industry>>Services>>Transportation and logistics
Business enterprises
Commerce and Industry>>Transportation
Singapore Airlines