Jun 14, 2008

Battle Of The Kebayas

I'm reluctant to admit my finals are less than 2 days away and I'm spending the entire afternoon idling online. No matter, there's a more interesting topic for us to dissect here.
Few might know that rivals Singapore Airlines and Malaysia Airlines are initially Siamese twins. Founded as Malayan Airways Limited (MAL) in 1937, the joint-venture between a steamship company quickly grew from 5 passengers to one million by the 50s.
With operations expanding to include many international destinations and boasting great services, Singaporeans' kiasu-ism took over. They preferred to expand internationally and vowed to make MAL synonymous to Singapore; while their Malaysian siblings, with their love for rural kampungs and idyllic lifestyles, want to make MAL a regional airline. After 6 years, they decided to split into the current Singapore Airlines (SIA) and Malaysia(n) Airlines (MAS) with SIA taking stakes of the big jets and trademark kebaya uniforms and MAS taking more smaller jets.

Original twins separated. Both fledged different ways, both successful in their own turf.

MAS, led by Malaysians lacking edge due to less exposure of kiasu-ism and Lee Kwan Yew brainwashing, was at the losing end without landing rights to many international destinations and even stripped of the famous uniforms. No matter, they redesign their own, homegrown, by MARA Institute of Technology.
The melon-colored kebaya is to be one of the most famous, though less popular icon, of airline hospitality.

Inspired by kelarai leaves and the hibiscus, MAS' kebayas are no less promising than the Singapore Girl's. This is MH...

No matter too when other airlines are expanding rapidly, MAS is comfortable with 3 dozens of little aircrafts aging 15 years or more. When others have 15-inches personal LCD screens, we have the best weapon - Malaysian Hospitality. Feel at home from the moment you step into our aircraft...

When others had gone for chicer designs, MAS is still struggling with the oh-so-nineties fabric seats and 10.4-inch screens (with scratch marks).

Always lacking money in advertising, MAS is less known out of its own turf. No matter, they say, as long as our award-winning cabin crew keep grabbing awards, and Skytrax proves us 5-star, passengers will come swarming in. Though we are not in any global airline alliances, we have a fantastic hub-and-spoke network allowing our passengers to connect from Kuala Lumpur to almost anywhere in the world (by luck or coincidence however, the only German city connected by the network is Frankfurt and in France, Paris).

Down south, separated more than 40 years ago, SIA has developed into one of the world's best airlines, and most well-known. Singapore Girls, wearing kebayas designed by a Parisian, roam in airports from Houston to Cape Town. Boasting itself with cutting-edge technology, and the privilege of flying the first A380, they are a confident lot with plastic smiles, indifferent attitudes and don't-play-play punctuality.

Ever wondered what's the logo of SIA? It's a golden goose actually.

With a logo, colors and cabin crew totally irrelevant to the nation it represents (6 out of 10 Singapore Girls are recruited from Malaysia), they say passengers only want entertainment and excitement. More than ever (borrowing their tagline), our latest in-flight equipment and smashing new planes will flood with passengers since we're with Star Alliance, the biggest airline alliance in the world. Singapore's strategic location also made it a superb hub for Australia-Europe and America-S E Asia passengers, though whether or not the satay and nasi lemak we serve onboard really comes from Singapore is another matter.

Chic equipment and smashing new planes, even in Economy Class. See this MAS?

Heck, so chic is SIA even reading the inflight menu is a gastronomical experience: rice vermicelli served with bouillabaisse with a bedding of greens - which turned out to be...fried beehoon.
Nevertheless, home culture is something you cannot shed away completely. Singapore Girls had been criticized to be a cut below Malaysian Hospitality representatives - a result of Singapore's hyper progressive and impersonal growth over the years. And when it comes to feeling of home, nothing beats the melon-colored girl asking if you want nasi lemak or char koay teow (never served inflight) versus the spiced up beehoon.

SIA's trademark: more than ever, Singapore Girl, you're a great way to fly.


Frankie Gan said...

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