Singapore Airlines Summary

  • Last updated on November 10, 2022

A major international airline and the national flag carrier of Singapore.


Singapore International Airlines is a major international airline headquartered in Singapore. It is owned by the state of Singapore (54 percent) and private investors (46 percent). Singapore Airlines was formerly known as Malayan Airways. Malayan Airways was founded in May, 1947, at which time it first operated a twin-engine Airspeed Consul between Singapore, Kuala Lumpur, Ipoh, and Penang. As passenger demand grew, so did the airline. By 1955, the airline had a fleet of Douglas DC-3’s. The creation of the Federation of Malaysia in 1963 prompted two name changes for the airline, first to Malaysian Airways and then, three years later, to Malaysia-Singapore Airlines (MSA). The second name change was in deference to the carrier’s joint shareholders, the governments of Malaysia and Singapore.

MSA came to an end in October, 1972, giving birth to two new airlines: Malaysia Airline System (now called Malaysia Airlines), headquartered in Kuala Lumpur, and Singapore Airlines, headquartered in Singapore. In 1972, Singapore Airlines operated a fleet of ten aircraft and commanded a route network that covered twenty-two cities in eighteen countries. It began immediately to modernize its fleet of aircraft and improve customer service standards for its customers. By 2001, the airline was internationally recognized as one of the world’s leading carriers, frequently wining customer service awards in international competitions. The route network spans over ninety cities in more than forty countries. The company has pioneered some of the flight service amenities that have become standard throughout the industry, such as complimentary headsets and free drinks, and their amenities are some of the best available, such as their revolutionary interactive entertainment system.


In 2001, Singapore Airlines operated an all-wide-body fleet of modern aircraft. It is the world’s largest operator of Boeing 747-400 aircraft. It also operates the Airbus A340-300E and has placed firm orders for the A340-500, the Airbus A310-300, and Boeing 777-200 and 300. Singapore Airlines has placed firm orders with Airbus and has taken options on the Airbus A380-800 double-deck super transporter. Silk Air, a wholly owned subsidiary of Singapore Airlines also based in Singapore, operates a fleet of Boeing 737’s. Silk Air has an extensive regional network to some of Southeast Asia’s resorts and lower-load-factor cities. Other subsidiaries of Singapore Airlines include SIA Engineering Company and Singapore Airport Terminal Services.


Singapore Airlines has been a member of the Star Alliance since 1999. Lufthansa, along with Air Canada, SAS, Thai Airways International, and United Air Lines founded the Star Alliance in 1997. In subsequent years, membership grew to include Air New Zealand, ANA, Ansett Australia, Austrian Airlines, British Midland, Lauda Air, Mexicana Airlines, Tyrolean Airways, and Varig Brazil. As of 2001, the Star Alliance encompassed fifteen airlines and a network of 130 countries and 815 destinations, making it the world’s largest airline alliance.


Singapore Airlines and its subsidiary, Silk Air, have had one hijacking, which took place in 1991, as well as two significant accidents. On December 20, 1997, Silk Air Flight MI185, a jetliner heading from Jakarta to Singapore, crashed outside the southern Sumatran city of Palembang. On board the Boeing 737-300 were ninety-seven passengers and seven crew, all of whom died. The reason for the crash remained unclear for a long time as there was apparently nothing wrong with the aircraft, the weather was clear, and the aircraft crashed while in cruise, without reporting anything out of the ordinary. After more than a year of investigation, it was concluded that the plane had crashed as a result of “unlawful interference,” possibly a murder-suicide on the part of the captain.

Singapore Airlines Flight SQ006, carrying 159 passengers, crashed soon after takeoff at Taipei’s Chiang Kai Shek Airport, on October 31, 2000. Taiwanese authorities investigating the crash released a factual data report concluding that airport officials had not properly marked a closed runway. The Singapore Airlines jumbojet mistakenly tried to use the closed runway and slammed into construction debris, bursting into flames and killing eighty-three people. In addition, one runway light was broken and another was not bright enough when the Los Angeles-bound plane tried to take off during a fierce rainstorm caused by an approaching typhoon. The captain’s decision to continue with the takeoff despite the weather and his commencing the takeoff on the wrong runway were contributing factors to the accident.

  • Groenewege, Adrianus D. The Compendium of International Civil Aviation. 2d ed. Geneva, Switzerland: International Air Transport Association, 1999. A comprehensive directory of the major players in international civil aviation, with insightful and detailed articles.
  • Weimer, Kent J. ed. Aviation Week and Space Technology: World Aviation Directory. New York: McGraw-Hill, 2000. An excellent introductory guide on all global companies involved in the aviation business. The information is very basic but very essential as a first introduction to each company.

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