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Singapore Airlines (SIA) is introducing a new scheme that allows its cabin crew to take no-pay leave in a bid to address a temporary manpower surplus, Straits Times reports.
In a recent notice to the crew, the national carrier said that the offer to take leave can be done between September and Nov 15. According to the source, the scheme aims to allow the organisation to “better manage crew resources and operational requirements”.
To stay ahead of fierce competition from airlines especially in the long-haul premium sector, SIA has been committed to stay abreast of the recent trend, including the needs to be flexible and agile to address operational challenges.
In relation to the recent move, the airline’s representative said: “Having temporary surpluses or deficits of cabin crew is not unusual due to the nature of our business… This scheme is completely voluntary.”
There are about 8,200 people listed as SIA’s cabin crew. According to the airline’s history, the last time they were asked to take no-pay leave was in 2008, after the global financial crisis.
The no-pay leave offer follows an earlier notification issued to crew about a month ago that informs them that training would be advanced over the next three months. SIA said that the additional training was introduced to make sure that the crew had work because an expected expansion in flights did not happen.
Cabin crew were also told that those on standby duty may not be called up to take the leave.
Since the end-2008 crisis that led to continued business downturn and changes in corporate and leisure travel patterns, SIA has introduced a slew of initiatives to manage its staff numbers. The airline has also implemented business restructuring, including expanding into the low-cost segment. This move has affected many staff, including pilots.
In November, The Straits Times reported that SIA had shrunk about 12 percent of its pilots in the past five years, amid a prolonged business slowdown. The pool had shed from 2,331 pilots in March 2011 to 2,056 at the end of March last year.
While some pilots are reported to leave voluntarily, some others had been asked to go.
In an interview with The Straits Times, one cabin crew expressed his mixed feelings about the recent development. Some crews are seeing the scheme as an opportunity to take a break, while the others expressed concerns that less flying means lower allowances as well.
One of them said: “I have heard rumours about surplus of crew and as a result, new crew/junior crew are being put on standby without getting called up. This affects our allowance and thus we earn less… Definitely, crew are quite concerned.”
SIA’s chief executive Goh Choon Phong explained that despite the challenges, he has faith that the moves taken by the carrier in the last few years, including setting up a new Transformation Office recently, will be paid off in the end.
Further, he declared that in May, a day after SIA reported a $138 million net loss between January and March, SIA was undertaking a major review of its business and was open to shifting the balance of power away from its trademark premium carrier to its regional and budget airline. Last week, SIA reported an operating profit of $281 million for the April to June quarter.