ANALYSIS: Fleet refresh gives Silkair options

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Singapore Airlines' regional unit SilkAir will have a number of options available when it starts its transition from an all-Airbus A320 Family fleet to the Boeing 737 next year.

According to Flightglobal's Ascend Online fleets database, SilkAir operates a fleet of six A139s and 17 A320s. Another A320 is due to be delivered in September, which will round out its fleet.

That made it somewhat stunning when the carrier announced in September last year it was ordering 23 737-800s and 31 737 Max 8s. It also holds 14 options on 737 Maxes.

Over the next year, SilkAir will also start to take delivery of its first 737-800s, which will likely start to replace the oldest A320s. Singapore Airlines has already indicated that by 31 March 2014 it will take two 737s, and dispose of two A320s - likely to be the two leased from Hong Kong Aviation Capital (HKAC).

By the end of 2014, Ascend shows that the airline will have taken delivery of seven 737-800s. It is also due to take eight each in 2015 and 2016. After a two-year pause, deliveries of the 737 Max 8s will take place between 2018 and 2021.

With the seven 737s arriving next year, SilkAir is likely to replace its oldest aircraft first, such as the A320, registered 9V-SLB, that was built in 1998. Including the two HKAC aircraft, the airline has seven A320s/A319s that are now 10 years or older.

However SilkAir does have the option of retaining those aircraft if needed, as it owns all but four of the aircraft in its fleet. That includes a number of young aircraft, as the carrier has two A319s and seven A320s that were or will be delivered between 2010 and the end of 2013.

The aircraft also have the benefit of not being flown as hard as other A320 family aircraft, particularly those used by low-cost carriers. Ascend shows that the airline has an average daily utilisation of 7.62h per day for the A319s, and 8.45h per day on its A320s.

That means that SilkAir could choose to retain the newer aircraft for longer and fly them alongside the 737s if there is sufficient demand. Alternatively, as younger aircraft with relatively low hours, they could command a premium over other A320s on the market if it chooses to sell them.

Interestingly, while it appears that the fleet size will remain relatively stable around the 23 aircraft mark, SilkAir's capacity will rise by virtue of having a greater number of larger aircraft.

Ascend shows that the airline's A319s are configured with 118 or 120 seats, while the A320s are configured for either 142 or 150 seats. In comparison, the 737-800s - and tentatively the 737 Maxes - will be configured with 165 seats in a two-class layout.