Singapore Airlines History

Singapore Airlines was launched as an independent carrier in 1972 after separating from Malaysian-Singapore Airlines. Despite the highly regulated atmosphere of the times, it refused to play by the rules, essentially ignoring the International Air Transport Association (IATA), the governing body that ran the airline business almost as a cartel. When SIA became the first IATA carrier to serve free drinks in economy, in 1972, the group's director dismissed the Asian upstart as a "parasite".

SIA takes off with some distinct advantages. It is the international face of Singapore, the disciplined, business-oriented country and culture that is a ferocious economic competitor. Small and smart and aggressive in pursuing their interests. The Singaporean government owns 57% of SIA's shares and while by no accounts does it dictate the airline's strategy, the government aids SIA in many ways. Tax breaks on the carrier's aircraft help SIA maintain one of the youngest fleets of any major airline. The government helpfully paid the multibillion-dollar construction cost of Singapore's impressive Changi Airport, the airline's hub since 1981 and one of the best airports in the world.

However the birth of Singapore Airlines was a troubled affair, and it is linked with the breakup of Singapore and Malaysia. Malayan Airways Limited started in 1947, by Imperial Airways, shuttling between Singapore to Kuala Lumpur using a twin engine Airspeed Consul. It expanded and by the mid 1950 Malayan Airways has a fleet of Douglas DC-3s and Vickers Viscounts. It entered the jet age with the UK built de Havilland Comet 4.

Singapore briefly joined the Federation of Malaysia in 1963, before separating in 1966, and that was the cue for the airline to change name to Malaysia-Singapore Airlines, when it moved away from UK built aircraft and bought the much larger Boeing 707s, and later Boeing 737s.

The joint operation didn't last long, and when Singapore and Malaysia descended into bitter rows, the airline split into two entities: Singapore Airlines and Malaysian Airlines System. Singapore Airlines came out by far the winner, keeping all of the Boeing 707s and 737s, and retaining the international routes out of Singapore. At this time the marketing changes, and the female flight attendants started wearing the sarong kebaya uniform, and the firms marketing company Batey Ads branded them Singapore Girls.

The new Singapore Airlines didn't stand still, and by 1974 added Boeing 747s to its fleet. By the early 1980s SIA expanded out of its old colonial routes to the USA and Canada. The older jumbos were replaced by Boeing 747-400 in 1989 and named Megatops, in line with company policy to give names to its aircraft types.

By 2004 SIA was experimenting with non-stop air services between Singapore and Newark, using the ultra long range Airbus A340-500. At 18 hours each way, flying over the north pole, this flight holds the record for the longest scheduled commercial flight. It was a success in business, but too long for those in economy class, and the aircraft were rapidly converted to a 100-seat all- Business Class configuration.

Singapore Airlines has tried other ways to get to the US, and campaigned long and hard for rights to fly on the highly profitable route from Australia to the US. However in 2006, the Government of Australia refused to grant fifth freedom rights to Singapore Airlines.

Singapore was the launch customer of the Airbus A380. In October 2007, the first commercial A380 service was launched from Singapore to Sydney. However, SIA has had a troubled history with this aircraft, which was delivered pretty much two years late. In a fit of pique SIA announced it would turn its attention to Boeing products, and placed an initial order for the Boeing 787 Dreamliner. However this order with Boeing ended up even more delayed and troublesome than the Airbus order. It was followed by an announcement that the airline would cut 17 aircraft from its fleet as part of a cost-saving initiative .

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Singapore Airlines History
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