SIA to hire cadet pilots again after 3-year freeze

Singapore Airlines is resuming cadet-pilot recruitment after a business slump forced a freeze on this more than three years ago.
Singapore Airlines is resuming cadet-pilot recruitment after a business slump forced a freeze on this more than three years ago.PHOTO: BLOOMBERG

80 to 100 cadets will be recruited to meet future operational needs

Singapore Airlines (SIA) is resuming cadet-pilot recruitment after a business slump forced a freeze on this more than three years ago.

The first hiring exercise since the last batch of cadets was admitted in early 2012 will be launched in the coming weeks, said the airline's spokesman, Mr Nicholas Ionides.

Between 80 and 100 cadets will be recruited to meet future operational requirements, he added.

The airline's existing pool of about 2,000 pilots is enough to meet current needs as well as some of the future Airbus 350's requirements, Mr Ionides said.

SIA has ordered 63 of the twin- aisle A-350 planes, which will start arriving from early next year.

It typically takes about three years to train a cadet pilot. The decision to start hiring cadets again is a turnaround from the slew of initiatives in the last few years to trim excess manpower at the airline.

In 2013, SIA told its 76 expatriate pilots that they would have to leave before their three-year contracts expired. It also cut the flying hours of crew and asked pilots to take voluntary unpaid leave.

Mr Ionides said that while there is still a surplus of pilots, the various initiatives have managed to reduce the excess. He, however, did not provide actual figures.

The last few years have been challenging for SIA, which faces intense competition from other premium carriers like Emirates and Cathay Pacific, as well as budget carriers moving in on its regional turf.

But things are improving for the SIA group, which has taken key steps to diversify its business to strengthen its position, industry analysts said.

In the year ended March 31, the airline reported a 2.5 per cent increase in profits to $367.9 million on a 2.1 per cent increase in turnover to $15.6 billion.

The group's low-cost unit, Scoot, continues to expand, while subsidiary Tigerair is consolidating its business.

In January, SIA started Vistara, a New Delhi-based carrier it jointly owns with Indian conglomerate Tata.

Next month, SIA will launch its premium economy product, offering travellers more space and comfort for a higher fare.

Citing the push to diversify and "unlock new avenues of growth", aviation think-tank Centre for Asia Pacific Aviation said in a recent report that this will be "a key year" for the SIA group. Profits which have been "very modest" the last four years should gradually start to rise again, the report said.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 31, 2015, with the headline 'SIA to hire cadet pilots again after 3-year freeze'. Print Edition | Subscribe