Silk Air is the regional subsidiary of Singapore Airlines (SQ) based in Singapore. While it is a full-service carrier, it’s positioned somewhere between budget subsidiary Scoot and Singapore Airlines. Passengers who book a Singapore Airlines flight and end up on a codeshared flight operated by Silk Air might have an unpleasant surprise: The cabin, hard product, entertainment and service are not up to SQ’s standard – find out what to expect from Silk Air in my Snapshot Review!
Facts & Figures: Silk Air started as a leisure airline named Tradewind Charters in 1975 and got its current name in 1992. It has grown to serve 52 destinations in 16 Asian countries with a fleet of 32 single-aisle Boeing B737 and Airbus A319/320 planes (average age of 4.5 years).
SkyTrax rates SilkAir as a 4-star airline, one less than parent Singapore Airline and one more than budget-sibling Scoot Air!
AirlineRatings gives SilkAir a perfect -7out-of-7 safety rating
The Experience: SilkAir is a full-service airline and all planes have a business class and economy class cabin. The baggage policy is aligned with Singapore Airlines and you get at least 30kg of checked luggage, a carry-on of 7kg and a personal items in all cabins. But that’s where the alignment with SQ stops!
SilkAir Business Class passengers and KrisFlyer elite members have access to priority check-in, boarding and the lounge. But because SilkAir is not a StarAlliance member, StarAlliance Gold members receive no benefits. This is especially irksome, as Singapore Airlines sells there regional connections with SQ flight and ticket numbers. You don’t really have a choice when flying SQ and might not even notice that your buying a StarAlliance ticket, but won’t get StarAlliance service. It’s made worse by Singapore ground staff that enforces the rules with an iron fist sans Singapore Girl smiles…
The boarding process is well organized, with Business Class and KrisFlyer Elites allowed to board first. Flight attendants welcome all passengers to the plane, guide them to their seats and assist with their luggage as needed.
SilkAir’s planes are configured with a regional hard product and a significant step down from Singapore Airlines: Business Class is configured with recliners in a 2-2 layout, comparable to SQ’s Premium Economy class.
Economy Class is configured in a 3-3 layout and the cabin has nice, modern lighting.
Seats have only 30in pitch, comparable to low-cost carriers (LCC) and only 17in width on the most commonly used Boeing B737, worse than most LCCs using A320 planes. That is reasonably comfortable for short flights, but not for some of the 5h+ flights SilkAir operates!
Seats are upholstered in cloth and don’t have personal video screens, so you face a fast expanse of plastic.
You can stream music, movies and TV Shows through the SilkAir app to your personal device, but the selection is limited to mostly older or B-movies – a far cry from the excellent entertainment available on SQ. The app is poorly designed, for example every time you switch from the app, you loose your spot in the movie and have to start over from the beginning. Taking photos for this blog was never as much hassle as on SilkAir! You can find the current movie selection and download instructions for SilkStudio here!
Service on my SilkAir flights was also a noticeable step down from the excellent service on SQ. It was polite, but perfunctory. They do offer complete onboard amenities, starting with a wet towel (packaged in foil) and drink after departure.
A hot meal is served next, with typically a choice of two dishes, but on my most recent flight they appeared to have catered only one option – or it was gone by the time they reached my row at the front of the plane…
I had two different chicken dishes with rice, each time served with water on a tray.
The crew offers water, juice, coffee and tea proactively, but you can ask for wine or beer as well. In a decidedly budget-style, wine was served in a plastic cup from a small bottle – the first time I was not offered the small bottle. Again, you can ask for the bottle, but it is unpleasant on a full-service airline to have to ask for everything, like it’s an imposition!
After the meal, the flight attendants come around with chocolate covered ice cream – the best part of the meal, yummy!
On one flight, our luggage was broken into and damaged. While that’s not necessarily SilkAir’s fault, ground grew was not able to provide guidance how to resolve this when I asked!
Rewards: SilkAir participates in Singapore Airline’s KrisFlyer Reward program. You can earn and redeem KrisFlyer miles for flights and enjoy KrisFlyer elite benefits. Unfortunately, while Singapore Airlines sells SilkAir as SQ flights, SilkAir is not a StarAlliance member and you won’t get any benefits – given the nature of SilkAir’s business, I consider that cheating elite members out of their perks!
Bottomline: SilkAir is billed as the regional, full-service subsidiary of Singapore Airlines and is sold as SQ, but delivers a sub-standard hard-product, entertainment and service, resulting in an experience just slightly better than a low-cost carrier. The lack of StarAlliance benefits is a rude awakening for elite members of the alliance.
Apparently, Singapore Airlines recognizes the problem and has announced to upgrade the SilkAir fleet and services to SQ levels starting in 2020, before merging them into Singapore Airlines. That will make Singapore Airlines the first airline to offer consistent products and services across all cabins, regardless of plane and length of flight. I applaud that decision – if you want to be a premium, 5-star airline, a consistent experience is important.
Until that happens, SilkAir will be stuck between a low-cost carrier and the premium airline the Singapore Airlines brand promises, leaving unsuspecting travelers disappointed.
If you are connecting from an SQ flight, you are stuck without an alternative and have to lower your expectations.
If you are considering SilkAir for a non-stop flight, make sure to compare prices carefully. If prices are comparable to low-cost carriers, SilkAir is a nice step up. If prices are on the elevated SQ level they often are, you are overpaying and will be disappointed!
I can’t wait for SilkAir to be absorbed into Singapore Airlines and finally getting a true premium experience on short-haul flights from Singapore!