Singapore Airlines' budget siblings, Scoot and Tigerair, are embarking on their biggest recruitment drive for cockpit and cabin crew as the group positions itself to capture a bigger share of the low-cost travel market.
From 400 pilots today, the total headcount for the two airlines, now operating as one, will increase to 700 by 2020, Captain Rohan Hari Chandra, the airline's adviser of flight operations, told The Straits Times yesterday.
About 2,000 cabin crew will also be hired during the same period, almost double the number today.
Number of pilots in Scoot and Tigerair by 2020, up from 400 now
Number of cabin crew expected to be hired in the same period
Number of planes Scoot intends to operate by 2019, up from 12 now
Number of planes Tigerair intends to operate by 2022, up from 23 now
Since May, when SIA set up a new holding company to operate both budget carriers, Scoot and Tigerair have been working closely to grow their market share. Capt Rohan said: "We know the expansion is coming, the planes are coming and we need pilots to fly them."
Scoot, which operates medium- and long-haul flights with 12 Boeing 787s, will grow to 20 planes by 2019.
Tigerair, which flies single-aisle planes within the region, will grow from 23 to 38 aircraft by 2022.
With strong demand for low-cost air travel, SIA is counting on its budget offshoots to move quickly in this sector.
This is critical given intense pressure the premium carrier faces in the long-haul market, with stiff competition from rivals that include Middle Eastern carriers.
Finding enough pilots, though, will be tough, experts say.
American plane-maker Boeing estimates that the world will need about 617,000 new pilots and 814,000 cabin crew over the next 20 years.
The Asia-Pacific region will soak up 40 per cent of the total due to the growth in the single-aisle market, driven by low-cost carriers, the firm said.
Capt Rohan said while it will "most certainly" be a challenge to hire enough pilots, he is confident Scoot/Tigerair will be able to fill the available positions.
Remuneration packages are competitively pegged to what other budget carriers in the region offer, he said, without disclosing details.
And while there are those who prefer to join full-service airlines - perceived as more glamorous - "we generally get the hungry guys", he said.
"They want to get on with their careers and get their command (captain rank) quickly," he said.
Budget carrier pilots typically move from trainee to captain in about seven years, compared to more than 10 years for pilots with full-service long-haul airlines.
This is because they tend to clock more flying hours and flight cycles in a month with shorter flights.
Capt Rohan said: "I don't see a problem finding the people we need for the forseable future."
A recent recruitment exercise drew over 1,000 applications, of which about 150 candidates were shortlisted for a test yesterday.
One of them, Mr Brian Chow, 22, said: "I always thought I would become an engineer until I signed up for a flying course last year. I now know I want to become a pilot."