Singapore Airlines (SIA) is actively reaching out to more nationalities, as it ramps up its cadet pilot recruitment to meet future needs.
Industry players and pilots noted that the airline usually hires pilots who are either Singapore citizens or permanent residents.
This is believed to be the first time that SIA has publicly cast its net wide for cockpit crew.
The airline said the majority of its current pool of about 2,000 cockpit crew are either Singaporeans or permanent residents.
Number of cockpit crew who are foreign nationals
Only 20 are foreign nationals, made up of Malaysians and Indians.
Spokesman Nicholas Ionides said: "We continue to recruit mainly Singaporeans. Over 80 per cent of our pilots are Singaporeans.
"As an international airline, we do have employees of various nationalities, including pilots who must meet our stringent requirements. This policy has not changed."
Foreigners are employed on local terms, which means they do not get expatriate packages that include, among other perks, housing allowances.
SIA, which has ordered 67 Airbus 350s that started arriving last year, did not say how many more pilots it needs to hire in the coming years to operate a growing fleet.
It takes about three years to train a cadet pilot.
Recruitment is open year-round and preliminary interview rounds are typically held around twice a month, said Mr Ionides. Last year, SIA hired around 100 cadet pilots.
The Straits Times understands that since late last year, the airline has also extended employment, on an annual basis, for first officers who reach the retirement age of 62.
Retired captains can currently be re-employed for an additional year, provided they take unpaid leave for six months during the period.
Current plans to hire more pilots come after a prolonged business slowdown which saw SIA shed about 12 per cent of its pilots in the five years from March 2011.
Some left voluntarily while others were asked to go. Captain Ng Thim Fook, president of the Air Line Pilots Association - Singapore (Alpa-S), said manpower planning and hiring of cadet pilots are at the sole discretion of the company.
On the re-employment of first officers, he said that in accordance with the Retirement and Re-employment Act, the airline can offer either a three-year or annual contract. The one-year contract is "a measured decision as the business climate going forward is challenging... not just for SIA but many airlines", he said.