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SilkAir Logo.svg
IATA ICAO Callsign
Founded1989; 31 years ago (1989) (as Tradewinds)
Commenced operations1992; 28 years ago (1992)
HubsSingapore Changi Airport
Frequent-flyer programKrisFlyer
Fleet size30
Parent companySingapore Airlines
Key peopleMak Swee Wah (Chairman)[1]
Foo Chai Woo (CEO)
Operating incomeDecreaseS$42.5 million (FY 2017/18)[2]
ProfitDecreaseS$28.5 million (FY 2017/18)[2]
Employees1,389 (FY 2019/20)[3]

SilkAir (Singapore) Private Limited,[4] operating as SilkAir, is a full-service regional airline with its head office in Airline House in Singapore;[5] previously the head office was on the fifth storey of the SIA Superhub in Singapore.[6] It is a wholly owned subsidiary of Singapore Airlines and operates scheduled passenger services from Singapore to 38 cities in 14 countries in Southeast Asia, the Indian Subcontinent, East Asia and Northern Australia.

As the regional wing of Singapore Airlines, it serves the short to medium haul destinations in the Singapore Airlines Group network. For the year ending 31 March 2015, the airline flew over 3.5 million passengers and made an operating profit of S$40.8 million.[7]

As of 31 March 2016, SilkAir employs 1,573 staff. SilkAir announced the appointment of Mr Foo Chai Woo as Chief Executive as of 18 May 2016, succeeding Mr Leslie Thng.[8]

For the financial year ending 31 March 17, SilkAir registered revenue of S$990.3 million, a 2.5% increase versus the previous year. Operating profit was at an all-time high of S$100.8 million, an 11.3% increase against the previous year. Profit after tax was at S$59 million, a decline of 51.6%, largely attributed to an absence of a gain from SilkAir's sale and leaseback of four 737-800s reported in financial year 2015/16. As of 31 March 2017, SilkAir's staff strength was at 1,632 staff.

On 18 May 2018, Singapore Airlines announced that the SilkAir fleet would undergo a major cabin product upgrade from 2020 before being fully merged into the parent company.[9][10][11] As part of the merger, SilkAir's website was discontinued and integrated into Singapore Airlines' website on 31 March 2019.[12]


The airline had its roots as a regional air-charter company as Tradewinds Charters formed in 1975,[13] serving leisure destinations using planes predominantly leased from parent airline Singapore Airlines. Scheduled services were introduced as Tradewinds Airlines on 21 February 1989, when it leased McDonnell Douglas MD-87 aeroplanes for services to 5 destinations: Pattaya, Phuket, Hat Yai, and Kuantan from Singapore's Changi International Airport, and Tioman from Singapore's Seletar Airport. As the carrier matured, regional business destinations such as Jakarta, Phnom Penh, and Yangon were added to its network, thereby broadening the airline's appeal beyond the holiday-maker to include the business traveller.

A major marketing overhaul was started in 1991, culminating on 1 April 1992, by giving the airline its present name and logo as a new corporate identity. The re-branded airline utilised up to six of the new Boeing 737-300s introduced just a year earlier. The mid-1990s saw two Airbus A310-200 aircraft in use and the expansion of services to India as well as mainland China. It was the first Asian carrier to offer handheld portable video-on-demand (VOD) in-flight entertainment in the form of the DigEplayer 5500, available on flights to selected countries.[14]

On 10 April 2015, SilkAir launched a new collection of uniforms, the fourth uniform change in over 26 years. There are two variations of the uniform - aqua-blue for junior crew and a plum-red version for senior crew. Both variations are accompanied by a dark blue skirt.[15]

On 29 October 2017, SilkAir took over Scoot's services to Yangon. With the transfer, the airline boosted its Yangon operations to 15 non-stop services a week.[16] On 30 October 2017, SilkAir launched its inaugural flight to Hiroshima, marking the first Japanese destination that SilkAir has added to its network.[17] On 22 November 2018, SilkAir announced plans to transfer 17 routes to Scoot including Luang Prabang, Chiang Mai, Kota Kinabalu, Yogyakarta and Wuhan over the months of April 2019 to July 2020, ahead of its merger with Singapore Airlines in the late 2020 or early 2021.[18]

Corporate affairs

Business trends

The key business trends for SilkAir are shown in the following table (as at year ending 31 March):

2009 2010 2011 2012 2013 2014 2015 2016 2017 2018 2019 2020
Revenue (S$m) 546.3 538.5 670.3 750.8 846.0 856.6 902.5 965.7 990.3 1,020.3 1,030.9 906.0
Operating profit (S$m) 33.6 49.2 121.4 104.6 96.7 34.5 40.8 90.6 100.8 42.5 15.2 −112.3
Number of employees 876 944 1,116 1,192 1,360 1,462 1,452 1,573 1,632 1,574 1,484 1,389
Number of passengers (000s) 1,954 2,356 2,764 3,032 3,295 3,411 3,553 3,836 4,106 4,687 4,902 4,440
Passenger load factor (%) 72.5 77.1 76.4 75.7 73.6 69.6 70.2 71.5 70.8 73.4 76.2 77.3
Number of aircraft (at year end) 16 18 18 20 22 24 27 29 30 32 33 31
Sources [19][20] [19][21] [19][21] [19] [19] [22] [7] [23] [24] [2] [25] [3]


As of 7 July 2020, SilkAir flies to 35 destinations in 14 countries.

Codeshare agreements

In addition to Singapore Airlines and Scoot, SilkAir codeshares with the following airlines:[26][27]


SilkAir began operations with two leased McDonnell Douglas MD-87 aircraft in 1989, before investing in its own fleet of six Boeing 737-300s, the first of which began operations in 1990. It operated two Airbus A310-200s for a brief period from 1993 to 1995 before they were transferred to Singapore Airlines, and two Fokker 70s from 1995 to 2000. It began replacing its Boeing fleet with Airbus aircraft when the first Airbus A320-200 arrived on 18 September 1998, and retired all Boeing aircraft a year later.[31] Soon after its first A320 was delivered, SilkAir took delivery of its first A319-100 aircraft on 3 September 1999. The A319 is currently utilised on certain routes within Southeast Asia, and to some cities in India, while the larger A320 is used on most of the airline's major routes. On 20 December 2006, SilkAir signed an agreement to purchase 11 Airbus A320-200 aircraft with nine more on option. These aircraft were delivered between 2009-2012.[32]

On 3 August 2012, SilkAir had signed a letter of intent with Boeing for a purchase of 68 aircraft. The agreement includes a firm order for 23 Boeing 737-800s and 31 Boeing 737 MAX 8 aircraft, and purchase rights for another 14 aircraft.[33] On 14 November 2012, the commitment was then converted to a firm order.[34] The 737 aircraft will be used to replace the older A320 fleet and for the expansion of the airline. On 4 February 2014, SilkAir received its first Boeing 737-800 aircraft.[35] On 4 October 2017, SilkAir received its first Boeing 737 MAX 8 aircraft.[36]

On 21 June 2018, Singapore Airlines announced that it plans to transfer a number of Boeing 737-800 to Scoot between late-2018 to early-2019 to better optimise the overall group's network.[37] Following the events of the Boeing 737 MAX, plans to transfer the Boeing 737-800 were suspended in April 2019.[38][39]

Current fleet

As of 30 November 2020, the SilkAir fleet consists of the following aircraft:[40]

SilkAir fleet
Aircraft In service Orders Passengers Notes
J Y Total
Airbus A319-100 2 8 120 128 To be retired by 2021.[41][42]
Airbus A320-200 5 12 138 150
Boeing 737-800 17 12 150 162 First of 11 to be transferred to Singapore Airlines by 2021.[43][44]
Boeing 737 MAX 8 6 31 12 144 156 All aircraft are currently grounded[45][46]
To be transferred to Singapore Airlines as a result of the upcoming merger[47]
Total 30 31

Former fleet

SilkAir former fleet
Aircraft Total Introduced Retired Notes Refs
Airbus A310-200 2 1993 1995 Leased from Singapore Airlines
Boeing 737-300 6 1990 1999 One crashed as SilkAir Flight 185 [48]
Fokker 70 2 1995 2000


In-flight services


Past SilkAir A320-200 Economy Class cabin

There are two classes of cabins available on all SilkAir flights -- Business class and Economy class.[49] On 18 May 2018, Singapore Airlines announced that SilkAir would undergo a major cabin product upgrade from 2020, with new lie-flat seats in Business class, and the installation of seat-back in-flight entertainment systems in both Business and Economy classes.[9]

Business class cabins offer a seat pitch of between 39 and 40 inches and seat width between 20-22 inches. Passengers now receive leather seats on all aircraft. On Boeing 737 MAX 8 aircraft, seat pitch has been increased significantly to 49 inches in Business Class with additional seat recline.

Economy class cabins have a seat pitch of 31 inches and seat width between 17-18 inches. On Boeing 737 MAX 8 aircraft there are seat-back tablet and phone holders, and personal in-seat USB charging ports.

In-flight entertainment

SilkAir's seat pocket contents on September 2019.

SilkAir offers a selection of magazine titles on board and screens a series of short features on their 11-inch inflight screens. The Silkwinds inflight magazine is complimentary for all passengers. In-seat audio is also available on the Boeing 737-800 aircraft.

SilkAir Studio was introduced in 2014 where passengers will be able to stream blockbuster hits, short features, and music, to their personal laptops and handheld devices via Wi-Fi. This system will complement the existing overhead systems. Passengers in Business Class on flights more than two hours were to be offered a tablet. In May 2017, the service was enhanced and upgraded; there are now more than 150 international blockbuster movies and TV sitcom shows available on SilkAir Studio.[50] For Apple users, the SilkAir Studio app has to be downloaded prior to flight in order to enjoy the in-flight entertainment.


SilkAir offers Oriental and Western menus. Light snacks are also available on selected flights of less than one and a half hours. SilkAir launched their All-Time Favourites dishes in July 2016 where they served a selection of Asian, Western and local cuisine such as Nasi Lemak, Hainanese Chicken Rice, Beef Tenderloin, etc. that Business Class passengers can pre-book before their flight.[51]

Frequent-flyer programs

SilkAir shares the KrisFlyer frequent flyer program with its parent company, Singapore Airlines.[52] However, unlike Singapore Airlines, SilkAir is not a member of Star Alliance, so frequent flyer miles on SilkAir flights may only be credited on the KrisFlyer programme, but not on other Star Alliance frequent flyer programs.[53]

Tradewinds Tours and Travel

Tradewinds Tours and Travel Private Limited is a wholly owned subsidiary of SilkAir, providing package tours to destinations flown by the airline, as well as chartered flights within the Asia region. The company was incorporated in 1975, and became a fully licensed tour operator in 1984.

SilkAir, the regional wing of Singapore Airlines, was once known as Tradewinds Charters at its founding in 1976, before earning its present name in 1991. The chartered operations were hence continued to be handled by Tradewinds Tours and Travel.

Accidents and incidents

  • On 19 December 1997, SilkAir Flight 185, operated on a Boeing 737-300 and piloted by Captain Tsu Way Ming, plunged into the Musi River in Sumatra during a routine flight from Jakarta to Singapore, killing all 104 people on board. The crash was investigated by various groups, with different results. The Indonesian NTSC, who were lead investigators, stated that they were unable to determine the cause, while the US NTSB concluded that the crash resulted from an intentional act by a pilot, most likely the captain.[54][55] A civil lawsuit case against Parker Hannifin, the manufacturer of the PCU-dual servo unit essential in the 737's rudder control--and also suspected in causing the crashes of United Airlines Flight 585 and USAir Flight 427 under similar flight-event parameters, had provided the NTSB the initial test results of the recovered PCU-dual servo unit from Flight 185 in 1997, but was later further independently investigated for litigation on behalf some families of Flight 185 passengers in a civil lawsuit against Parker Hannifin.[56] The jury under the Superior Court in Los Angeles in 2004, which was not allowed to hear or consider the NTSB conclusions, decided that the crash was caused by a prominent issue inherent in other 737 crashes: a defective servo valve inside the Power Control Unit (PCU) which controls the aircraft's rudder, causing a rudder hard-over and a subsequent uncontrollable crash. The manufacturer of the aircraft's rudder controls and the families later reached an out of court settlement. It is the only fatal hull loss for SilkAir.


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External links

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