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Thursday 2 November 2023

Flying The Boeing 737 MAX 8 With Singapore Airlines (Part 2: PEN-SIN)

 Welcome to my return trip report on Singapore Airlines! 


For this flight, I decided to sit near the rear of the 737 MAX 8 to compare the noise level between this aircraft and the 737-800. Not only that, I chose the standard seat in which the IFE Entertainment System is located at the back for the front seat. This means I can give you a comparison between the standard and the bulkhead row seats. 

Gone were the days when Singapore Airlines operated wide-body on popular cities such as Penang and Phuket with the Boeing 777-200 (Non-ER rated) and now the airline is operating the smaller narrow-body aircraft which allows more flexibility and adjustment of the frequency or up-gauge the aircraft on the routes when is needed. I am glad to have tried out both 737 models with Singapore Airlines to let you readers have a glimpse of what to expect flying on these aircraft. So without further ado, let's begin this trip report! 

The Boeing 737 MAX 8's routes (November 2023 to March 2024) 

There are certain routes that are also operated by 737-800 and for now they are schedule to operate to 3 cities, Kuala Lumpur, Penang and Phuket. Do note that aircraft change can take place at as last minute as I have seen on Flightradar24 as the 737-800 can make an appearance on a MAX route due to unschedule maintainence of the 737 MAX 8 aircraft that is originally assigned for your flight. This doesn't happen often but if it happens to you, you know why. After January 2026, the 737-800 will be out of the airline's schedule as they would be return to the lessor (The 737-800 are leased). 

You must be wondering what is the difference in the cabin products between the 737-800 and 737 MAX 8. You can check out my trip reports with the links at the bottom of this page, just search for Singapore Airlines. 

The registration of the Boeing 737 fleet in operation (October 2023) 

Boeing 737-800 fleet

9V-MGC, 9V-MGD, 9V-MGE, 9V-MGK, 9V-MGL, 9V-MGM and 9V-MGN (7). The other aircraft have left the fleet to join other airlines. 

Boeing 737 MAX 8 fleet

9V-MBA - 9V-MBP  (16 aircraft delivered) with another 13 more aircraft to be delivered. The next delivery of the 737 MAX 8 (9V-MBQ) most likely will take place in the middle of next year (2024). The original order for this aircraft is 39 and the airline recently announced an adjustment to the order, increasing the number of Boeing 787-10 in return, reducing the number of 737 MAX 8 from 37 to 29. 

Seat Selection 

I chose the 2nd last row of the economy class cabin. 

My stay in Penang 

This is the hotel room I stayed in Penang. It is located at the heart of the city and is walkable to many good eating places. The hotel name is Hotel Mokozoyo. Overall I give this hotel a rating of 3 stars out of 5. 

The view outside my hotel. 

The entrance of the hotel 

This grand hotel looks nice especially with the lighting at night. 

The view from my room. 

I tooked a stroll along the streets, searching for good food. 

This is the entrance to Prangin Mall. 

I went to one of the coffee house to try the special dish. This is chicken with pineapple and cheese. 

This mall also connects to 1st Avenue Mall, Penang Time Square and Komtar. 

The popular shopping district near my hotel, it is better to go in the evening. 

Nightlife in the city. 

I went to a popular western food restaurant to enjoy this meal. The restaurant is called The Loft - Pizzeria & Bar. 

Last look before I head for the airport. 

About Penang Airport 

This airport is located 16km south of the city centre, near Bayan Lepas. It is the 3rd busiest airport in Malaysia in terms of passenger's traffic. The airport started operation in 1935 has undergo transformation and expansion and currently it is a hub for Firefly and MASKargo. It consists of one terminal and a single runway as shown below. The runway is 04/22 is about 3,354 metre is capable of operating large aircraft such as 747 Freighters, however the airport infrastructure is unable to accommodate the A380. 

On the day of departure 

It took about 15 minutes to get to the airport from the hotel. 

Penang Airport isn't big but there are some shops and restaurants for you to check out before departure. 

Most of the traffic are domestic flights with the likes of Air Asia, Malaysia Airlines, Firefly and Myairlines operating to this airport at that time. However Myairlines ceased operation in the beginning of October, more information on this on my Air Asia trip report coming up in December. 

This is the check-in counters for Singapore Airlines. 

My boarding pass for my return flight. 

At that time, there wasn't much traffic. 

Once done, I made my way to the airside. 

Immigration and security check didn't take long and I am at the airside.

I did a check on which aircraft would be flying home, it was 9V-MBF. Well, at least it wasn't the same aircraft. I was hoping for 9V-MBL which is painted in the Star Alliance livery. 

This China Southern's Airbus A321 is painted in the 'Moutai' special livery (B-1088) was being prepared for departure to Guangzhou. 

This are charging ports over here. (below)

Airport lounge is available and for this one, the 3rd party Premium Lounge takes care of the following airlines listed at the sign board. 

I picked up some noodles at the noodle restaurant for breakfast. 

This is where my flight was departing from. 

 9V-MBF just arrived in this atricious weather. 

Time to board! 

My 2nd ride on Singapore Airlines' 737 MAX 8! 

My ride: 9V-MBF (Photo: Jivesh Chander) 

Boeing 737-8 MAX
Formerly operated by Silkair 
Transfer to SQ in May 2021 
Configuration: C12 Y144 
Engines: 2 X CFM LEAP-1B27
7403th Boeing 737 built 
Age: 4 + Years old (2023) 
Built in Renton (RNT)

Flight route: PEN-SIN 

Miles: 373

Date of departure: 29 August 2023
Airline: Singapore Airlines 
Flight: SQ131 
Route: PEN-SIN
Aircraft type: Boeing 737-8 MAX 
Registration: 9V-MBF 
Seat: 63K 
Gate: A5 
Schedule departure: 1015
Boarding: 0954 
Push back: 1023 
Take off: 1036 
Flight duration: 1 hr 10 mins 
Actual flight time: 1 hr 15 mins 
Flight load: 70% 
Schedule arrival: 1140
Actual arrival: 1150 
Departure runway: 04 
Actual arrival: 20R 

My seat: 63K (Photo: Aerolopa.com)

Business Class 

I covered this in my previous trip report so I won't go into details about this product.

This is the front row of the business class cabin and it certainly looks spacious. 

My flight experience 

Boarding took place later than usual due to the late arrival of the aircraft. Checking the weather for my flight, there was a bit of weather at Penang and Singapore airport so I completely understand, this is beyond the airline's control. 

Once on board, I noticed there were more crew on this flight, most likely a few trainee crew joining the numbers to gain more experience. Once seated, I noticed a lot of vacant seats and I was delighted once again to have the seats beside mine vacant, which means a whole row to myself! Once everyone settled down, the captain announced about our flight details and warn us about the expected turbulence during takeoff.  During the waiting time for departure, the crew came around distributing blankets and checked to make sure we were buckled up. 

After take off, we hit some turbulence while climbing to our assigned flight level. It took a while longer than usual before the crew were allowed to begin their work. For most parts of the cruising, the flight was smooth. I kept myself busy by watching a couple of shows on the IFE system. Meal service came and once again I received the curry puff and chose a cup of water as my beverage. Complimentary Wifi was also available on my flight so one is able to some work during the flight or use the social platform to communicate with your friends or check for the latest news. 

After the announcement was made for our preparation for our arrival, the captain warned us of bad weather near Singapore and unfortunately for us it was unavoidable. Well, still better than being diverted. Once we entered the clouds during our descent, we encountered some bad turbulence including a sudden rise and drop and that made some of us go "wooooo" and I even had to hang on to the seat in front of me! Was the turbulence as bad as my BOA (VVI-GRU) flight? Nope as the bad turbulence only happened during our descent, but once we were out of the clouds, the turbulence died off and we landed smoothly on runway 20R.  

Economy Class 

Overall I give a rating of 7/10 for the comfort level of the economy class seats.

Notice the emergency window? You have to slide it upwards to close it. 

This is the view from my seat. 

It is always nice to have IFE Entertainment system on narrow-body aircraft. 

I find this aircraft's overhead compartment space smaller than the Airbus's new Airspace L bins. 

More photos of the Economy Class Seats 

This is my seat 63K, the second row from the rear. Not bad right? I had 2 windows for myself. 

My aircraft parked beside 2 Boeing 737 MAX 8 with one of them pushing back. (9V-MBH and 9V-MBP - Pushing back) 

Since I had the whole row to myself, I used the screen in the middle seat to check the map during the flight.

I noticed there is a sticker pasted on the side of the arm rest. (below)

Lucky me, I had the whole row to myself once again! 

I prefer the seatback IFE screen than the ones at the bulkhead row. For the bulkhead row, it depends on the airline, some have the PTV screen installed on the partition (between J and Y Class) while some others have the PTV screen stored at the armrest area.

The seats on the other row remained vacant. 

Sometimes if you choose seats near the rear, you might have vacant seats around you. 

Legroom space is ok. 

After 2 days, I was on my way back. Time flies when you are having fun. 

In-Flight Snack 

Curry puff once again! I chose a cup of water for my beverage. 

In-Flight Entertainment 

The weather around Singapore was quite bad as we encountered quite a bit of turbulence during our descent. 

We were informed by the Captain that we would be expecting some turbulence and that was unavoidable as the weather was getting worse at that point. 

We encountered some 'rise and drop' while flying through some nasty clouds and they happened to be on our flight plan.

Singapore Airline's IFE system is one of the best out there.

Complimemtary WiFi is a big bonus for krisflyer members. More airlines will follow suit I reckon. 

Window shot photos (Take-off to Landing) 

It was raining at that point of time. 

The taxi to the runway didn't take long. 

Clear for take off! 

Goodbye Penang, I would return in December! 

There were many layers of clouds, not a good day for flying.

This is when the turbulence started. 

At this point we were rocking all over the place. 

Finally the blue skies greeted us after flying through some unfriendly clouds. 

Leaving the Cumulonimbus clouds behind.

The ride at this point was smooth. 

At this point, the Captain warn us about the expected turbulence. 

We were flying through bad turbulence at this point. 

Fortunately, it didn't last long and we were out of the nasty clouds once again. 

The familiar sight of Changi Beach and Changi Village appeared.

We touched down smoothly on runway 20R. 

The popular Sasco hanger (below) sometimes bring in interesting traffic from other countries such as Air Canada. 

Our taxi to terminal 2 took quite a while. 

However I am not complaining because we got to taxi across the bridge. These bridges you see below will be closed for strengthening works in mid-2024.

SQ's Boeing 787-10 resting at the remote parking lot. 

Finally after 15 minutes of taxi, we reached our gate. 

At this point, I am used to seeing SQ's livery on the 737. I wonder whether will I ever see the A321NEO in SQ's livery? I would love to see that happening. 

9V-MBP was pushing back. 

While waiting for the clearance to disembark, I went over to the other side to snap this photo. 

My flight summary 

Welcome back to Changi Airport! 

With that, my 737 max 8 mission with SQ is completed. I can now focus flying on other airlines. 

That's it for this trip report! 
My ratings 

Airline's mobile app/website: 4/5 
Airport Experience (Penang Airport): 3/5 
In-Flight Service: 3/5
In-Flight Entertainment System: 5/5
Seat Comfort: 3/5 
Cabin Ambiance: 4/5 
Cabin condition: 3/5 (there was a strong fume smell probably from the APU - before departure) 
Punctuality: 4/5 (Arrived slightly late) 
In-Flight Snack: 3/5 (Same thing - curry puff) 
Cleanliness: 5/5 
Overall rating: 37/50
Percentage: 74%


Unfortunately the flight service on this flight was a bit of a let down. I suppose it is because of the crew training that was going on to let these new comers gain more experience. So for that I won't go much into details on how the service of the flight went but let's say it was quite average. 

From my observation at the rear of the aircraft, I find that the cabin noise especially take off is noticably lower than the 737-800 and of course, sitting near the front of the aircraft is quieter, for those nervous flyer, sitting in front of the wing is ideal as it is less shakey than sitting near the rear during turbulence.

For this flight, once again I was fortunate to have the whole row to myself and although the ride back to Singapore was quite turbulent from time to time, I find this aircraft to be quite comfortable to fly on. With Boeing spending about 2 years in working on to improve on the handling of the aircraft, you can be rest assured that this plane had been scrutinised thoroughly by the FAA and now that this aircraft model is back flying, I am confident that they have fixed the issues and for those who are still skeptical about flying on this aircraft, don't worry the cabin and flight crew working on this aircraft model have been trained thoroughly on this aircraft and the airlines that are operating them know the aircraft more than us. So if they think the aircraft model is safe to fly, do trust them. 

Overall, it was a pleasant experience flying on SQ's 737 MAX 8 and comparing between flying the airline's 737-800 and 737 MAX 8, the MAX 8 is the winner because of the better in-flight products especially flying in business class. (Old Recliner vs Lie-flat bed)

Anyway, I have one more flight with Singapore Airlines to catch and that would conclude my last flight of the year, destination to Frankfurt, flying on the airline's Airbus A350-900, so stay tuned for that! 

Hope you enjoyed this trip report! 

For my previous trip report (Part 1: SIN-PEN SQ 737 MAX 8), click here

For my next trip report (Flying Starlux: Part 1 SIN-TPE A350-900 Premium Economy), click here

Thanks for reading and have a great day!


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