Aviation Singapore Airlines marks 50 years of flying to Australia

Photo of Geoffrey Thomas

The airline has developed a strong reputation for innovation over the decades. We take a look back at some of the firsts. 

For Perth travellers the name Singapore Airlines has been synonymous with in-flight innovation for the past 50 years.

It started with free drinks, choice of meals and plastic headsets for economy passengers in the 1960s and has never stopped.

The airline’s mantra has been passengers first and the result has been a fierce loyalty that has stood the test of time.

From just two 100-seat Comet flights a week in 1967 under the name Malaysia Singapore Airlines to 28 flights a week with 285-seat Airbus A330s and Boeing 777-200s.

When Singapore split from MSA to form Singapore Airlines it quickly established a reputation for operational excellence with aircraft manufacturers and the airline is at the forefront of aircraft design.

For instance, it was the launch customer for the 747-400, among the first airlines to buy the A380 and has been a key customer for the A350, 787 and the new Boeing 777X.

One of the major innovations for Singapore Airlines was the introduction of in-flight entertainment for economy passengers in the early 1990s.

About the same time the airline was the first to introduce satellite-based in-flight telephones and the first to offer a global in-flight fax machine service on board its 747-400s.

Such was the power of the Singapore Airlines brand, its iconic Singapore Girl was unveiled at Madame Tussauds in London in 1993, becoming the first commercial figure to be displayed in the museum.

The airline was also the first to introduce beds for first class which were installed on the upper deck of its Boeing 747-200s.

While that was short-lived, the airline typically has been a leader in cabin innovation — although it was a late adopter of premium economy, a shortcoming it has now rectified.

Singapore Airlines took the in-flight culinary experience to new levels in 1998 when it was the first airline to involve a comprehensive panel of world-renowned chefs, the International Culinary Panel, in developing in-flight meals.

Significant technology gains and the global satellite network enable the airline to claim another first — the launching of an in-flight email system and a new-generation entertainment system. 

The email system used a satellite-based communications network, supplied by Tenzing Communications, and was made available to travellers. 

Next in the long list of firsts was global flight alerts via SMS. 

The service, which informed passengers of changes to flight departure and arrival times, is still a key element of SIA Mobile Services, a suite of facilities that provides a variety of ways of obtaining information on the airline and its services.

Singapore Airlines was the first to offer audio and video on demand (AVOD) capabilities on KrisWorld in all classes.

To put that innovation in perspective, at the time, many other airlines — such as Qantas and Air New Zealand — were yet to roll out in-flight entertainment for economy passengers and were still offering only main-screen movies.

The next year Singapore Airlines launched with Matsushita the ability for passengers to send a text message of up to 160 characters to an email address or a mobile phone, using their personal in-seat monitor screens and handsets.

In 2006 the airline launched the eX2™ IFE system from Panasonic and the video programs were displayed on much larger, high-resolution screens across all classes.

Then on October 25, 2007 Singapore Airlines launched the world’s first A380 service from Singapore to Sydney.

More recently the airline has introduced premium economy and revamped its award-winning business class.

It has also introduced the Airbus A350 and ordered the 787-10 and Boeing 777X.

The Singapore Girl is smiling and so are her passengers.

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