How Singapore Airlines missed a huge ‘Crazy Rich Asians’ opportunity

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Photo: YouTube screengrab

Too bad for Singapore Airlines. The national carrier could have cashed in by jumping on the ‘Crazy Rich Asians’ bandwagon, which has now made big bucks at the box office. But SIA opted out due to fears of misrepresentation.

In an interview for Hollywood news website The Wrap, the movie’s director Jon M. Chu, producers Brad Simpson and Nina Jacobson, as well as production designer Nelson Coates, talked about how they thought companies would jump at the chance for product placement, especially Singapore Airlines, whose luxurious flights (and high prices) could easily fit in the world of the ultra-wealthy depicted in the book.

One would think that the carrier would immediately say yes to the prospect of being featured in the movie, given the international success of the books it was based on.

However, to the surprise of the people behind the film, Singapore’s national carrier said “No.”

Producer Brad Simpson told The Wrap, “It was going to be an ad for Singapore Airlines! But they were not sure the movie would represent the airline and their customer in a good light. People want what Richard Curtis’ movies (“Love, Actually,” “Notting Hill”) do for England — they make you want to visit the country.”

In the story, Nick Young and Rachel Chu, the central couple whose love story is the heart of “Crazy Rich Asians,” fly first class from New York to Singapore. This is the first sign for Rachel Chu that her boyfriend belongs to an incredibly wealthy family, a fact that he had failed to inform her of in the two years since they had started dating.

The production company behind the film ended up having the couple fly on Pacific Asean Airlines, a carrier they made up, but whose luxuries are very similar to what SIA and other luxury airlines offer their most discerning and demanding customers.

Designers for the film included elements of Singaporean orchids and color palette into the fictional airline’s logo and branding.

Director John Chu also told The Wrap that not a lot of people believed that the movie would be a success. “People didn’t have faith in this movie. They didn’t know what this movie was. It seems obvious now, but when we were making it, everyone thought it was a little movie and they were very suspicious about what we were trying to do.”

The Wrap reached out to Singapore Airlines for a comment, but the national carrier declined to respond.

The movie has already made over US $117 million in the three weeks since it debuted, and that figure is for the United States alone. Experts predict that the film, which cost US $30 million to make, could make up to US $300 million worldwide.

It could have been a big win for you, SIA. Maybe you’ll consider the sequels?