A day after Emirates flight 521 had an emergency landing at Dubai International Airport on August 3, 2016, Dr. Shashi Tharoor, former minister and MP representing Thiruvanathapuram (where the flight had originated), posted this message on his Facebook page:
“I have taken flights on this route many times myself and have been concerned about the age and condition of the aircraft Emirates seems to use on this sector. These are visibly inferior to the aircraft on Emirates’ European sectors, for example. A world-class airline with a reputation to preserve cannot afford to compromise on quality. I am relieved all passengers and crew are safe but even one death, as in the tragic case of the UAE firefighter, is one too many. I call on Emirates to investigate not only the specific circumstances of this crash-landing but also to review their policy on the type, age and quality of aircraft used on the Dubai-Kerala sector.”
It appears as though Emirates is not the only one. Singapore Airlines transfers passengers to Silk Air for flights to Kochi and Thiruvanathapuram. SilkAir, according to Singapore Airlines, is a “full service”, “regional airline”.
Passengers, who travel from Australia and New Zealand to Kerala, get a rude shock when they transit at Changi Airport. They think they have bought tickets on a Singapore Airlines flight, one of the world’s leading airlines and Star Alliance member. In reality, from Changi they are transferred to SilkAir, a “regional”, “full service” airline with older and smaller aircraft and fewer crew members. It’s a four-hour flight from Singapore to Kochi and Thiruvanathapuram.
Although a “sister airline” of Singapore Airlines, it’s not part of the Star Alliance. Most of the passengers (from Australia and New Zealand to Kerala airports) The Kochi Post spoke to said they are disappointed with the situation.
“You think you are paying for Singapore Airlines and then they do this, what can you do? They are taking advantage because we don’t have options,” said one passenger travelling from Brisbane to Kochi, with her eight-month old daughter.
She added she was denied a bassinet and given a non-reclining last row seat. Not very “full service.”
— Jacob (@23jacob) September 12, 2016
@23jacob Hi Jacob, SilkAir is our sister airline that ply the regional routes and they are a full service carrier. Thank you.
— Singapore Airlines (@SingaporeAir) September 12, 2016
Singapore Airlines does fly its own aircraft to other Indian cities including Chennai. For Kerala, their choice seems to be the low-cost SilkAir. This is strange as the Cochin International Airport is equipped to handle all kinds of aircraft. In fact, other international carriers frequently fly wide-body aircraft from Kochi.
The Kochi Post wrote to Singapore Airlines seeking their version on this practice. Jagdish Ram Bhojwani, General Manager (India), Silk Air, contacted us. This is Silk Air’s formal response:
1. Do SilkAir flights to Kochi and Thiruvananthapuram have in-flight entertainment?
SilkAir offers SilkStudio where passengers can stream in-flight entertainment on their personal electronic devices. Please refer to the below link:
2. Is Silk Air a Star Alliance member?
SilkAir is not a Star Alliance member. However, passengers can earn and burn miles through Krisflyer programme. This programme allows usage of miles on Singapore Airlines, Scoot and other partner carriers. Detailed benefits for Krisflyer members is listed in – https://www.singaporeair.com/e
3. What is the average age of SilkAir planes?
Average age of SilkAir fleet is 4 years and 1 month.
4. What is the average age of Singapore Airlines planes?
Average age of Singapore Airlines fleet is 7 years and 7 months
5. Are Singapore Airlines planes and SilkAir planes of the the same quality?
Singapore Airlines operates aircraft suitable for medium to long-haul travel while SilkAir aircraft are suitable for short to medium haul travel.
Singapore Airlines fleet:http://www.singaporeair.
SilkAir fleet: http://www.silkair.com/en_UK/s
SilkAir offers all elements of a full-service carrier including added benefits of Singapore Airlines’ loyalty programme – Krisflyer. The link below highlights the benefits enjoyed by a SilkAir passenger:http://www.silkair.com/en_UK/s
The options for passengers flying on this route seem limited. If you want to fly from Kerala to Australia or New Zealand, you can either opt for Emirates via Dubai or Malaysian Airlines via Kuala Lumpur. Singapore Airlines-owned Tiger Airways also flies to Singapore. For now, it looks like Singapore Airlines is not winning over friends with its Silk policy.
If any of our readers have been transferred to Silk Air at Changi Airport, do let us know how you felt about it in the comments section below.
Main photograph by Phillip Capper, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons.