The New SilkAir 737 MAX 8 – Could It Be A Great Use Of KrisFlyer Miles?

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Some readers may not know all that much about SilkAir as it’s a regional airline which operates primarily in southeast Asia. It’s of interest to miles & points collectors because it’s a wholly owned subsidiary of Singapore Airlines and you can use Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer Miles to book flights on SilkAir.

Here’s the latest route map from the SilkAir website (click to enlarge):

a map of the world

I should confess that I haven’t flown on SilkAir and all my knowledge of the airline comes from what I’ve read online…but the latest news and images coming out of SilkAir have really got my interest piqued.

On 4 October SilkAir took delivery of its brand new 737 MAX 8 aircraft and while narrow-body aircraft aren’t generally all that interesting to non-avgeeks this aircraft may be a little different.

a white airplane flying in the skySilkAir 737 MAX 8 – Image SilkAir

The aircraft comes set up with 156 seats which are split between 12 Business Class seats and 144 Economy Class seats – that’s 6 seats less than in the airline’s regular 737-800s.

No dimensions appear to be available for the Economy Class seats but I would be surprised if they’re any more spacious than the Economy Class seats on the airline’s 737-800. Those offer a very confining 17″ of seat width and just 30″ of seat pitch so that’s really not something to look forward too.

a row of blue seats in an airplaneSilkAir 737 MAX 8 Economy Class Cabin – Image SilkAir

a row of blue seats in an airplaneSilkAir 737 MAX 8 Economy Class Cabin – Image SilkAir

There are no built-in IFE screens anywhere on this 737 Max 8 aircraft but SilkAir does attempt to make up for this by offering tablet holders, and USB ports on each seat-back….

a tablet on the back of an airplane seatSilkAir 737 MAX 8 Economy Class Cabin – Image SilkAir

…and free access to the “SilkAir Studio” which offers a variety of movies, TV shows games etc… that can be watch via most mobile devices and laptops.

But now we come to the interesting part – the Business Class cabin.

The Business Class cabin on the SilkAir 737 MAX 8 is a world away from the confined Economy Class cabin just a few feet behind it.

Take a look at these images and remember that you’re looking at a regional airline – the pictures should be compared to First Class on domestic US carriers.

a row of seats in an airplaneSilkAir 737 MAX 8 Business Class Cabin – Image SilkAir

Compared to the existing Business Class cabin on SilkAir’s 737-800s this Business Class cabin offers passengers 25% more seat pitch (49″ compared to 39″) and more seat recline (12″ compared to 8″).

a seat in a planeSilkAir 737 MAX 8 Business Class Cabin – Image SilkAir

To give you a point of reference, while SilkAir’s 737 Max 8 offer 49″ of seat pitch, here’s what some other airlines offer in their short-haul/regional aircraft:

  • American Airlines 737-800 – 40″
  • American Airlines A320 – 38″
  • United Airlines 737-800 – 37″
  • United Airlines A320 – 39″
  • Delta 737-900 – 37″
  • Delta 737-800 – 38″
  • Delta – A320 – 36″

In some cases SilkAir’s new Business Class cabin offers over a foot of more personal space!

Other features of the SilkAir 737 Max 8 Business Class cabin include “a convenient side pocket for easily accessible personal storage, as well as a USB and 3-pin charging port to keep devices fully charged throughout the flight”

an outlet in a planeSilkAir 737 MAX 8 Business Class Cabin – Image SilkAir

On top of all this the aircraft also houses a “gourmet” coffee maker from which flight attendants will serve freshly brewed Illy Coffee.

a coffee machine with a cup insideSilkAir 737 MAX 8 Business Class Cabin – Image SilkAir

To put this in context, if you want coffee approaching this quality on American Airlines you have to pay to sit in Intentional First Class – Business Class gets the regular swill.

When you add into this mix the food that SilkAir offers in its Business Class cabin….which includes 20 meal options across 4 main categories (Oriental, Western, Muslim and Indian) if you’re flying over 3 hours…

a collage of food on a plate

…and the fact that customers can select their choice of meal up to 24 hours before departure, this Business Class just looks better and better.

Business Class Fares Can Be Expensive So Book Awards

As I mentioned right at the beginning, you can use Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer Miles on SilkAir and, while I wouldn’t necessarily choose to use these miles on short flights, on longer flights they could be good value.

If you’re flying on some of the longer routes on which SilkAir will deploy its new aircraft (e.g. Hydrabad, Bangalore etc..) a Business Class fare can easily cost in excess of $2,000…

a screenshot of a flight schedule

…while the same flight can be booked for 70,000 KrisFlyer Miles roundtrip (see the pdf award chart here).

As you can transfer Chase Ultimate Rewards points, Citi ThankYou points and Amex Membership Rewards into KrisFlyer Miles (all at a 1:1 ratio) that means that you would be getting at least 2.86 cents of value out of each of those currencies.

As I don’t know of anyone who values those currencies anywhere near 2.0 cents that’s a very good redemption indeed.

Bottom Line

Right now SilkAir has just the one 737 MAX 8 and its first route will be the one between Singapore and Hiroshima…but more aircraft are on the way.

SilkAir will be receiving a further two 737 MAX 8 aircraft before the end of the year and it has a total of 37 MAX 8s on order so this aircraft will be appearing on a lot more routes in the not-to-distant future.

I’ve got a few trips to Asia planned in the next 18 -24 months and I’ve been considering my options for intra-Asia travel. If a SilkAir MAX 8 is a possibility I’ll be working hard to get myself booked on it as I’d love to check out the Business Class cabin for myself.