Air Transport World

Singapore Airlines 30th Anniversary: With roots reaching to Malayan Airways of 1947, Singapore Airlines has been setting the pace for international air transport for three decades.

Singapore Airlines, like its home country, has spun an economic miracle over the 30 years of its existence. Its dedication to free markets, aggressive competition and superior customer service has helped it become a major force among global carriers, maintaining one of the industry's most consistent records of profitability--even at times when most other airlines were drowning in red ink.

Most of the world's leading international carriers have some things in common, like a large home market and a substantial domestic network Given that, Singapore Airlines should be hobbled by distinct disadvantages: Its home market is only 239 sq. mi. and 3.6 million people and it has no domestic routes at all.

But by concentrating on the comfort of its customers, and by never skimping on costs at their expense, SIA has earned a substantial following of business travelers headed to or from almost anywhere in Southeast Asia and surrounding regions. Passengers even will forego a nonstop flight on a competitor just to savor their treatment at the hands of SIA--and if they have to connect through Singapore's esteemed Changi Airport, so much the better.

Of course the company does have certain strategic advantages, including the location of its home base at the tip of the Malay Peninsula, a natural crossroads for journeys between Indonesia and Australia to the south, India and the Middle East to the northwest, and China, Japan and Korea to the northeast. It also benefits from a highly motivated and well-trained workforce and the support of a strong government owner, although one that always has expected the airline to succeed on its own merits.

Singapore Airlines as a standalone entity dates back to 1972 but its corporate origins go back much further. While many major carriers can attribute their beginnings to a merger of smaller companies, Singapore Airlines was born when a predecessor, Malaysia-Singapore Airlines, literally was split in two. That carrier traced its history back to 1947 when as Malayan Airways it started service with two British-built twin-engine Airspeed Consuls.

Back then, Singapore still was recovering from three years of Japanese occupation during World War II. It had been British territory since the 1 820s, part of the UK's Straits Settlements colony. The maritime and mercantile focus of the British helped it grow into a substantial port, while an influx of commercially oriented Chinese immigrants in the 19th century turned it into a major trading center as well. Civil aviation in Singapore began in 1930 when a KLM subsidiary started flying therefrom Dutch colonies in Indonesia.

By the mid-1930s, Britain's Imperial Airways was operating flights to Singapore from London and Qantas was flying there from Australia. Singapore already was a key air connecting point linking the far-flung parts of the Empire with their home country. Malayan Airways was created in 1937 as a corporate entity with Imperial Airways--later BOAC--as its majority share-holder, but lack of political support and the intervention of the war kept it grounded for another decade. By the time Malayan started flying in 1947, BOAC had divested its equity and the primary shareholders were, ironically, two steamship companies.

Malayan's first scheduled route followed the western shore of the Malay Peninsula from Singapore up to lpoh and Penang. It soon added service up the east coast to Kuantan and Kota Baharu. The airline's Singapore base was the original commercial "aerodrome" at Kallang, which had been built near the water to accommodate flying boats as well as regular aircraft. …

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