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SIA sets 2022 date for 777-9 service entry

Singapore Airlines will place the Boeing 777X into service in 2022, updating earlier indications that the carrier would take delivery of the widebody from 2021.

SIA chief executive Goh Choon Phong says at a results briefing that the 2022 timeline takes into account the production issues that currently plague the 777X programme.

Boeing has delayed the 777-9’s first flight because of issues with the General Electric GE9X engines that power the variant. In September, the airframer suspended load testing for the widebody programme, reportedly over a cargo door failure.

It has also put development of the ultra-long-range 777-8 variant on hold, after reviewing customer needs and development schedules.

Cirium’s fleets data indicates that SIA has 20 777-9s on order, with options for a further six.

“Our expectation is that, with all those announcements that have been made up to this point [the aircraft’s entry into service will] still [be] 2022,” Goh says, responding to FlightGlobal's question.

At the briefing, Goh also shed some light on the integration of regional carrier SilkAir into SIA, a process that was jeopardised by the worldwide grounding of the 737 Max. SilkAir has six 737 Max 8s in storage and a further 31 on order.

The 737 Max 8 is key to integrating SilkAir into the main SIA brand. The company intends to upgrade SilkAir’s service offering, which includes the addition of a new cabin product with lie-flat beds on the forthcoming 737 Max 8s. In turn, SilkAir would pass on its 737-800s to sister carrier Scoot.

That has been put off for the moment, as the 737 Max remains grounded, to ensure sufficient capacity at SilkAir.

At the results briefing, Goh gave reassurance that the integration process — like route rationalisation across the SIA group of carriers — is “progressing on track”.

On cabin retrofits, Goh confirms that a number of "retained" 737-800s from SilkAir will be upgraded with the new product, which he says is being finalised.

Asked by FlightGlobal how many 737-800s will be retrofitted with the new cabin product, Goh declined to delve into specifics: “Those are details we will inform the market as it becomes clearer.” SilkAir operates 17 737-800s.

At a previous results briefing in May, Goh would only say that SIA was still committed to SilkAir’s integration, when asked if a prolonged 737 Max grounding might prompt a retrofitting of 737-800s with the new cabin product.

As for the ongoing 737 Max grounding, Goh remains cautious about its return to service, and reiterates that it is “not our call”, but that of regulators.

“When the 737 Max was grounded, it [presented] certain aberrations to our original plans. The way we have planned our fleet, is such that we will always build in some flexibility, for example, fleet extension and so forth, and we can actually manage and minimise the impact on capacity, which we have done so,” says Goh.

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