Quality & Business Improvement

The Way Ahead (1996)

Given the expectations of customers, SIA must continue its service-oriented apporach to customers. However, there are four areas SIA should focus on, specifically:

Safety and health


SIA is justifiably proud of its safety record - it is company policy to purchase new aircraft whenever possible and to maintain them thoroughly. the age of its fleet is well below the mean average for the industry(1), with the underlying assumption that new machines are less likely to be involved in accidents.

In 1996, SIA had a 100% safety record for airplanes, the only loss of control incident having been in 1991 with a 4 day hi-jack of Airbus A301(20), which had ended successfully with the arrest of the hi-jackers. There was no way that SIA could have predicted the SilkAir MI195 crash in 1997, since there is strong circumstantial evidence(21) to suggest that Captain Tsu Way Ming deliberately crashed the plane. Pilot error was cited by SIA(22) in the SQ006 crash in 2000, where the plane attempted to take off in typhoon conditions and used the wrong runway, but the formal enquiry (due to be concluded in late 2002) may apportion some blame to Chiang Kai-Shek Airport.


Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT) has been linked with long distance air travel since the 1970s(23) and, although more common in economy class, has also been identified in business class passengers(24).

SIA has printed warnings on tickets and provides advice to passengers(25) on liquid intake and inflight aerobics.

It is difficult to know how best to tackle this challenge, given the limited space availability in airplanes, but SIA, like other long distance airlines, needs to consider this seriously.

Passenger empowerment through technology

A non-stop SIA flight may take 18 hours, during which time passengers endure major loss of control(26) with regard to what they can do, watch or even whether they can move freely. The use of technology, especially individual in-flight entertainment or a global satellite email service(27) can assist passenger empowerment and enable the passenger to feel that the time spent on the airplane has not been wasted. This is a major approach for SIA, and is in line with its policy to display superior service and innovative use of technology, outstripping its rivals' services. Being first in the first is always a gamble, but SIA believes that its passengers will "understand that we're taking the lead in improving the flight experience"(28).


A Gallop poll in 1996(29) suggested that 25% of all passengers were dissatisfied with leg room in airplanes. A standard measurement for legroom is "seat pitch", the distance from the seat behind a passenger's base of spine to the back of the seat in front. SIA's seat pitch exceeds UK regulation minimum distances(30), but the seat pitch and seat width are determined by aircraft type, which is mostly outwith SIA's control(31).

The challenge to SIA is whether to remove some rows of seats to give more legroom without having to incur passenger dissatisfaction by raising ticket prices.

Expansion of route networks

Possible alliances for SIA would be with neighbouring national airlines, such as Air New Zealand, Air India or an Australian airlines,like Qantas or Ansett. Further afield, SIA could expand into an alliance with a long distance provider,such as Virgin Atlantic(32).

Financial alliances would also benefit SIA, for example with American Express to launch a co-branded credit card.(33).

These alliances will be beneficial for SIA in reducing vulnerable areas of risk, such as a sudden downturn in passenger numbers and in providing continued superior service. SIA, as a passenger and freight carrier, is vulnerable to falls in exports, as well as falls in passenger numbers and diversification through alliances is an insurance to at least ensure that parts of the airline wll remain profitable even in adverse conditions(34).

© Fell Services Ltd., 2004

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The Way Ahead (1996)