SilkAir B-737 Max order 'intact', but no new deliveries expected in near future

A SilkAir Boeing 737 Max 8 plane on the tarmac at Changi Airport on March 12, 2019.
A SilkAir Boeing 737 Max 8 plane on the tarmac at Changi Airport on March 12, 2019.ST PHOTO: CHONG JUN LIANG

SINGAPORE - SilkAir's order of 31 Boeing 737 Max planes remains "intact", although the airline may not collect any of the planes in the near future.

Capacity planning for the current financial year which ends in March 2020 does not include any new B-737 Max jets for SilkAir, said Singapore Airlines (SIA) chief executive Goh Choon Phong on Friday (May 17).

The initial plan was for SilkAir to pick up nine B-737 Max this year.

The six jets already in the fleet have been grounded since March. Mr Goh said they will fly again only after certified safe by regulators in Singapore and in countries that SilkAir flies the plane to.

Many airlines, including SilkAir, had grounded the B-737 Max in the wake of two crashes that involved the jet - the first in Indonesia in October 2018, and the second in March this year in Ethiopia.

On Thursday (US time), aircraft manufacturer Boeing announced it has fixed a software glitch which may have caused the crashes.

But the Federal Aviation Administration in the United States, among others, will have to first review the software before the plane takes to the air again.

 
 
 
 

Speaking to reporters and analysts a day after SIA reported a 47.5 per cent drop in profits to $683 million for the year to end-March, Mr Goh said SIA will pay "close attention" to the developments of the 737 Max software update.

In the meantime, SIA and other airlines affected by the grounding have had to adjust their operations, including cancelling flights.

The Singapore carrier is also troubled by issues with the Rolls Royce Trent 1000 TEN engine that affects both the parent airline and low-cost arm, Scoot.

To address a capacity shortfall, because planes have had to be grounded for checks, Scoot is looking to lease between 10 and 12 Airbus A320s over the next two financial years.

SIA will also deploy some of its older planes.

Mr Goh admits it could impact the overall customer experience if new planes fitted with new products are grounded.

"I believe, though, that our customers will be understanding because between operating an aircraft that is deemed to be not safe and one that is tested but perhaps not with a product as good as what we have in the new planes, I think the choice is clear."