SilkAir to phase out Airbus fleet by 2021

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Singapore Airlines' (SIA) regional subsidiary SilkAir intends to phase out its fleet of Airbus jets by 2021, after it takes delivery of its final Boeing 737-8 Max aircraft on order.

The carrier scored a win for Boeing last week when it committed to 23 Boeing 737-800s and 31 Boeing 737-8 Max aircraft, with purchase rights for another 14 aircraft.

This is despite the expected additional costs the airline may incur for switching between manufacturers and operating a two-aircraft type fleet for several years.

The decision to go with Boeing was made "after careful deliberation and consideration" of both manufacturers' proposals, SilkAir tells Flightglobal.

"We felt Boeing's proposal to be more favourable overall," says a spokesman.

When asked whether the availability of early delivery slots was a major factor, the carrier declined to go into details but said that both Airbus and Boeing "made efforts" to accommodate its slot requests.

Deliveries of the 54 aircraft on firm order are scheduled to begin in 2014 and continue through to 2021.

"The new Boeing aircraft will cater for both growth and replacement and we envisage a phasing out of our A320s and A319s by the time we take delivery of the last firm Max aircraft," says the spokesman.

He adds that the order, the largest ever made in SilkAir's history, will allow the carrier to expand its network and increase capacity on existing routes. The order will also help the carrier take advantage of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations' (ASEAN) open skies agreement, set to take effect in 2015.

SilkAir issued a request for proposal in early 2012 to assess both narrowbodies and regional jets.

The carrier now has "no immediate plans" to order smaller regional aircraft, but does not rule out the possibility in future.

SIA hopes that SilkAir will help drive results as the flagship carrier faces stiff competition in the premium market.

SilkAir now operates a fleet of 21 A319s and A320s, with three more A320s due for delivery by the end of 2013. Many of the aircraft joined its fleet before or during the mid-2000s, according to Flightglobal's Ascend database.