Singapore Airlines Group has announced it will integrate its regional unit SilkAir (MI, Singapore Changi) into its mainline carrier Singapore Airlines (SQ, Singapore Changi), although the merger is not expected to be finalised until well into the 2020s.

The group said in a statement it will first invest over SGD100 million Singapore dollars (USD74.5 million) into cabin upgrades for Silkair's all-narrowbody fleet, including the installation of lie-flat business class seats as well as individual flight entertainment (IFE) systems in both business and economy classes in order to better align the cabins with Singapore Airlines' current product.

"This takes time, particularly due to limited availability of narrowbody lie-flat seats. At this point, we have information that they will only become available at some point in 2020. We want to ensure that we have a sufficient number of reconfigured aircraft before the merger actually takes place", Singapore Airlines CEO Goh Choon Phong said during the annual investors briefing on May 18.

He did not, however, specify the expected timeline nor what constitutes "a sufficient number" of reconfigured aircraft, although he did underline that reconfiguration will not start prior to 2020.

Goh also did not disclose any numbers as to expected gains from the merger.

Until the merger, SilkAir will continue to operate as an independent brand, although both units already cooperate in terms of network planning and revenue management. Following the merger, the carrier's brand will disappear and Singapore Airlines itself will operate both narrow- and widebody aircraft.

According to the ch-aviation fleets module, SilkAir currently operates three A319-100s, nine A320s, five B737 MAX 8s, and seventeen B737-800s. Until March 2019, the carrier will add three more B737 MAX 8s in the current cabin configuration and retire one A319 and A320 each.

At this point in time, it is still unclear whether the group will consolidate SilkAir's fleet around a single manufacturer prior to the merger or whether it will include both Airbus and Boeing narrowbody sub-fleets. Goh told ch-aviation during the briefing that some of SilkAir's A320-200s may be moved to Scoot as the group conducts analysis and realignments of its fleet on a rolling basis.

For its part, Singapore Airlines operates widebody jets exclusively, including twenty-one A330-300s, twenty-one A350-900s, eighteen A380-800s, sixteen B777-200(ER)s, five B777-300s, twenty-seven B777-300(ER)s, and four B787-10s. It also operates seven B747-400(F)s. Seven A350-900(ULR)s are planned to deliver through March 2019.

The group's low-cost unit Scoot (TR, Singapore Changi) expects to take delivery of a total of ten A320 Family jets this year, including eight A320s which are currently subleased to IndiGo Airlines (6E, Delhi Int'l) and two A320neo from Airbus (AIB, Toulouse Blagnac). Four A320s will be returned to lessors.