Singapore Airlines To Cut 4,300 Jobs In Response To Pandemic Crisis, As Demand Plummets

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Singapore Airlines Group said Thursday it plans to cut about 4,300 jobs across its operations in response to the “unprecedented global crisis that has engulfed the airline industry.”

The job cuts will impact Singapore Airlines as well as subsidiaries SilkAir and Scoot.

About 1,900 of the job losses already have been achieved through an early retirement program for ground staff and pilots, a voluntary release scheme for cabin crew and other measures.

The decision, the airline said, was taken “in light of the long road to recovery for the global airline industry due to the debilitating impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, and the urgent need for the group’s airlines to adapt to an uncertain future.”

According to its most recent annual report, SIA had about 27,600 employees.

SIA previously noted it expects to operate at less than 50% capacity by the end of fiscal 2021, noting passenger traffic is not expected to return to prepandemic levels until  2024.

The airline further indicated that compared to other global airlines it is in a particularly “vulnerable position” since it lacks a domestic market – due to Singapore’s tiny size. The domestic air travel market is expected to recover before the international segment.

In the first quarter of fiscal 2021, which ended June 30, SIA posted a loss of about $730 million amid a 99.5% plunge in passenger traffic.

“When the battle against COVID-19 began early this year, none of us could have predicted its devastating impact on the global aviation industry,” CEO Goh Choon Phong said. “From the outset, our priorities were to ensure our survival and save as many jobs as possible. Given that the road to recovery will be long and fraught with uncertainty, we have to unfortunately implement involuntary staff reduction measures.”

The airline said it has opened talks with its labor unions.

Separately, Cham Hui Fong, deputy secretary-general of the National Trades Union Congress, said in the previous six months the unions that represent SIA workers — Singapore Airlines Staff Union and Scoot Staff Union — worked with airline management to mitigate job losses as much as possible.

“Regrettably, these efforts were insufficient to avoid it completely and overcome the severity and prolonged impact of the COVID-19 pandemic,” she added.

In April of this year, Singaporean Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said the government would spare no expense to support SIA through the pandemic.

“The government is determined that SIA will see through this crisis,” he said. “SIA has always flown Singapore’s flag high all over the world and made us proud. We will spare no effort to enable it to do so again.”

In late March, SIA received a bailout package totaling about $13.9 billion — $11 billion from the government and $2.9 billion from Singapore bank, DBS Group.

SIA is majority-owned by Temasek Holdings, a holding company controlled by the Singapore government.

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