The Singapore Girl: From an experiment to an icon

The Singapore Girl: From an experiment to an icon

It began as an experiment, but the Singapore Girl has become an iconic image of Singapore Airlines for over 40 years. Channel NewsAsia takes a look at how the Singapore Girl came to be.

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SINGAPORE: Singapore’s national carrier was established in 1972 following a division of its predecessor, Malaysia-Singapore Airlines (MSA) into two national carriers – Malaysian Airline System (now Malaysia Airlines) and Singapore Airlines (SIA).

In the early years, Singapore was a small player in the international airline market as it had no domestic market to fall back on. To stand out, SIA created a marketing concept that focused on its inflight services to introduce the new airline to the rest of the world.


Dressed in her distinct sarong kebaya created by renowned French designer Pierre Balmain in 1968, the Singapore Girl was created as the symbol of SIA’s inflight services. Using real stewardesses as the centerpiece of their campaigns, the Singapore Girl has appeared in SIA’s advertising efforts for over 40 years.

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The Singapore Girl has been used in advertisements for over 40 years.

While other airlines focused on their hardware and technical features, SIA took the soft approach. “SIA girls have been known to be graceful, charming and caring on board. Our passengers can also identify with them because these are the very girls who serve them on board,” said Lily Chan, former advertising and promotions manager of SIA.

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The Singapore Girl represents SIA's inflight services.

“We wanted to preserve the genuine warmth and charm of the girls," added Ian Batey, founder of Batey Ads, the agency that conceptualised the Singapore Girl. “What you experience on the screen, hopefully you would experience on the plane.”

The use of the Singapore Girl as the image of SIA was not without its skeptics. “When we went to Europe with the Singapore Girl campaign, they bombed our campaign saying that it wasn’t going to get us anywhere,” said Mr Batey. Mrs Chan added that some of the comments she received were that “the advertisements were too abstract to fathom.”

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The Singapore Girl is seen as a traveller of the world.

However, SIA proved their critics wrong through the consistency of its Singapore Girl branding. The iconic image has become synonymous with what SIA has to offer. “What has been ever present has always been the Singapore Girl, and she again has embodied the softer aspects of our service, which ultimately to us is a major difference maker,” said Marvin Tan, Senior Vice President of SIA’s Cabin Crew Division.

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Channel NewsAsia’s special national day series Reunions will reunite some of the earliest Singapore Girls, about 40 years later. Catch Reunions from Aug 3, Mon, 8pm (SG/HK), Channel NewsAsia.

Source: CNA/ry