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Singapore Airlines to pursue deeper ties with Malaysia Airlines

Closer ties will see both airlines expand codeshare arrangements, enhancements on frequent flyer programmes as well as maintenance, repairs and overhaul (MRO) services.

Singapore Airlines signed a Memorandum of Understanding with Malaysia Airlines earlier this week (27 June 2019) to ‘significantly step up cooperative ties’.

While the media release did not specify anything concrete (as with most MOUs), it broadly mentioned three areas of collaboration:

  • Expanding codeshare arrangements beyond the current Singapore-Malaysia services;
  • Enhancing both airlines’ frequent flyer programmes
  • Cargo
  • MRO services

All of the above are subject to government and regulatory approvals, and more details will be announced down the road when a proper agreement is signed.

Coming full circle?

If you are somewhat an avid fan of Singapore Airlines, you will know that the carrier has its roots in Malaysia-Singapore Airlines, or MSA. The joint airline was formed in 1966 as a collaboration between both Singapore and Malaysia governments after the independence of Singapore.

Regretfully (or perhaps fortunately to some), the partnership didn’t last very long before they went separate ways in 1972 owing to bilateral tensions as well as differing visions on the airline by both governments.

This partnership may seem like long time coming for many observers, but it’s highly unlikely that it will return to the MSA days in the near future.

Malaysia Airlines for one, has gone through a pretty rough patch in recent history. After suffering two fuselage losses within the same year (MH370 and MH17), the airline has been struggling to get back on its feet.

Despite numerous attempts and the change in several chief executives, Malaysia Airlines never did recover and is still loss-making. Today, it is largely funded by the Malaysian government. Most recently, Malaysian prime minister Dr Mahathir did suggest that it was studying whether it could “shut, sell or refinance” the airline.

So what’s next for customers?

For starters, Singapore Airlines’ customers can expect to see more codeshare services on Malaysia Airlines, particularly those out of Kuala Lumpur. As Singapore Airlines Group service practically all of Malaysia Airlines’ destinations, this shouldn’t be much of an issue for most Singapore-based customers.

The more critical piece is probably the frequent flyer piece. Singapore Airlines’ Krisflyer programme and Malaysia Airlines’ Enrich have fundamentally very different mechanisms for both earning and burning miles, so a collaboration will take some time to work out in order to ensure equity.

Both Singapore Airlines and Malaysia Airlines are also currently in different alliances, which limits the extent of earning miles on each others’ programmes. We will be looking out for developments on this front.

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