SINGAPORE Airlines traces its heritage back to 1947 when Malayan Airlines flew Airspeed Consuls from the island to Ipoh, Penang and Kuala Lumpur. It began services to Hong Kong, using a DC-4, in 1958. Hong Kong-based regional manager Lee Chong Kwee said the airline operated the youngest fleet in the world - the average age of its fleet of 67 Boeings and Airbuses is five years. With 31 flights a week from Singapore's superb Changi Airport to Kai Tak, he hopes for a dramatic increase in services when Chek Lap Kok opens. Business is brisk between the two cities, with loads averaging about 70 per cent. But the Singapore Girl wings far further than Hong Kong. Under international aviation agreements, the airline has rights to pick up passengers in Hong Kong and fly them to San Francisco, a non-stop service that is a favourite with Hong Kong people who have relatives in the Bay area. From Changi, the jumbos fly direct to Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou. Its wholly-owned subsidiary, Silk Air, goes to Xiamen, Hangzhou and Kunming. Mr Lee agreed that the public image of the airline was based on excellence of service, as epitomised by the Singapore Girl advertisements. Many of those women are not from Singapore; the airline also recruits from China, Indonesia and other countries. But quality service is maintained, nurtured as part of the airline's philosophy. The airline's other strength is that its fleet is regularly renewed. There are 20 more 747s and another 17 Airbuses on order, with options for a further 31 aircraft. What the airline does not speak about, but which makes it popular among frequent flyers, is its safety record, which is perfect. 'Behind the scenes we have very stringent systems about reliability and safety,' Mr Lee said. 'We don't mention our safety record because we don't have to.' When SIA first started landing at Kai Tak in 1958, the journey from Singapore took seven hours, exactly double today's flight time.