More than 6,000 workers, that is a 20% of its workforce consisting of ground staff, cabin crew, and pilots from the Singapore Airlines (SIA) Group have taken a voluntary leave of no-pay, to help the company cope with the collapse in air travel due to Covid-19.
The SIA Group – which comprises SIA, regional arm SilkAir and budget carrier Scoot – disclosed the figures to this last Friday.
Its spokesman said it has been arranging temporary and secondary job placements for its staff.
“These include ambassador roles and opportunities at public transport stations, social service offices and hospitals, for example, Many of our crew have also volunteered with various roles within the company.”
Staff can apply for the external roles through SIA’s employee support portal.
They can also tap online financial, mental and physical wellness programmes if needed.
The voluntary leave without pay scheme and letting staff seek secondary employment are part of several cost-cutting measures the airline has introduced as the pandemic rages on.
The SIA Group’s pilots and cabin crew who are not flying still get their basic pay, but they do not get flight allowances which substantially increase their pay.
For staff who are now attached to other organisations, it is understood that their pay varies.
SIA helps to supplement the salaries of those earning less than their basic pay, which can be around $1,500 for a cabin crew member.
SIA Group, unlike several other airlines, has thus far managed to stay off job cuts, with the help of funding from Temasek and the Government’s Jobs Support Scheme.
But it is currently operating at just 7 per cent of its scheduled capacity as compared with before the pandemic. Some cabin crew have yet to take to the air in months.
Last month, it reported a $1.12 billion net loss in the quarter ended June 30, its largest quarterly loss on record.
Air travel demand is expected to remain low for the foreseeable future, with the International Air Transport Association saying that it will be until 2024 before demand returns to last year’s levels.
Experts have said the various measures, which include raising $11 billion so far this financial year, will help the SIA Group – but not likely to the extent that it can avoid eventual job cuts. This is so given that airlines are overstaffed for current demand levels, and a quick recovery is nowhere in sight.
Singapore’s other airline, Jetstar Asia, announced in June that it was cutting about 26 per cent – or about 180 – of its jobs.
The majority of its remaining staff have also been put on furlough at least until the end of this year, and are currently receiving sustenance pay.
Like the SIA Group, Jetstar Asia has also deployed staff to external roles. It told ST last month that more than 300 staff have been deployed to roles in public and private sectors to help fight Covid-19.
In the meantime, the SIA Group said its flight staff – about 3,200 pilots and almost 11,000 cabin crew – have kept their skills current in spite of the drastic fall in flights.
Its pilots are now using more e-learning resources on top of simulator training. Those who have not flown for a while are given additional training.
Pilots must then undergo the required proficiency checks before returning to operational flying.
For cadet pilots, ground training continues, although simulator training has been suspended.
As for cabin crew, they have been undergoing a regular online programme approved by the Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore, said the SIA Group spokesman.
She added: “Cabin crew are also required to complete and pass online operational and fleet recency training and tests to ensure their qualifications remain current during this period.
“They are also scheduled to attend ground training courses and must pass all required safety drills.”
Staff will be prepared, as slightly more planes from SIA Group and Jetstar Asia will be taking to the skies in the coming months.
SIA said its passenger capacity will increase to about 8 per cent of pre-Covid-19 levels by end-October.
Jetstar Asia, meanwhile, will fly to five more destinations, including Jakarta, from today.