International Study Tour – Singapore Airlines

Guest post by Jessica Efta, Class of 2012

Our visit to Singapore Airlines started with Hank from Public Affairs giving us an overview of the company, beginning with the following mission statement: “Singapore Airlines is a global company dedicated to providing air transportation services of the highest quality and to maximizing returns for shareholders.” Two core components of the company’s culture can be seen in this mission statement, “global” and “quality.”

As a global company, Singapore Airlines flies approximately 17 million passengers per year.  Pretty impressive, considering Singapore itself has only 5 million citizens. The airline now flies to 63 destinations in 34 countries.

Singapore Airlines is known as a higher end airline, and a very strong culture of quality and customer service pervades the company.  Artifacts of the company culture for high quality can be seen in the entryway, where the flight attendants’ attire is proudly on display behind glass.  We were told that flight attendants receive double the amount of training compared to the industry average.

This strategy of providing high quality seems to be working quite well for the company.  Singapore Airlines has never posted a loss in its 40 year history.  A smaller airline, it ranks 16th in terms of traffic size, but it is the most profitable in terms of RPK (revenue per kilometer). In FY10, group revenue was reported as $14.5B with a net profit of $1.1B.

We then took a tour of the building, where we got to learn more about what high quality at Singapore Airlines’ really means.  We went inside a demo plane and see a water tank complete with a wave-making machine designed for emergency landing training purposes.  Next, it was explained to us how Singapore Airlines trains their flight attendants.  Our guide explained that the flight attendants must memorize each piece of silverware, glass pairings for wines, and every other detail for the food service (including which glass to use for Dom Perignon champagne). They also must learn the appropriate way to deal with all kinds of passengers—kids, elderly, moms, businessmen, etc. An interesting (and I would assume, effective) approach to “empathy training” is to send their attendants to nursing homes to know how to deal with elderly passengers. They even attend classes on how to fix their hair and apply makeup.  After learning this, I could see why the attendants received double the industry average on training!  For the grand finale, we got to tour the first class and business class sections of the latest plane models, where the value of high quality could be experienced. Seats were wide enough to fit at least two people, and each seat had a footrest and a flat screen TV!  Perhaps one day with my MBA degree I’ll land a job where I can afford such luxury! ;)