SINGAPORE (THE NEW PAPER) - While he is used to spending his working hours in the skies, Jetstar pilot Van Tan now spends his days on the ground as an SG Clean Ambassador, promoting hygiene habits and safe distancing requirements.
Mr Tan, 38, a senior first officer, was one of many Jetstar employees to be put on unpaid leave as the airline suspended services temporarily from March 23 to April 15.
Jetstar arranged for temporary roles in the service sector for its employees for them to continue their work and supplement a portion of their income.
Mr Tan, a commercial pilot for three years, told The New Paper yesterday: "I definitely miss flying, but I think it's fortunate we were provided with another door. It helps us to play a part in the community to help with the situation."
Since March 28, his daily work involves interacting with patrons at public locations like hawker centres. Wet markets at 83 locations were recently added, as new safe distancing measures were implemented there by the National Environment Agency (NEA) to reduce the spread of the virus.
As part of a network of partners and volunteers, SG Clean Ambassadors encourage patrons to practise safe distancing by queuing one-meter apart. They also distribute fliers to educate the public.
Mr Tan said not everyone he spoke to was well-informed about safe distancing, especially the elderly. He said: "Some of them didn't believe what I was trying to say. Not everyone understands the rationale behind it and I do my part to educate them."
While the experience has been mostly smooth, he said some large groups of families were still sitting together.
He said: "I had to explain to them that if they have families from two different households they should not sit together.
"Sometimes it's difficult to change the mind of one person, but if we can educate the rest, it can create a good habit for them to follow through," he added.
He said the soft skills gained while interacting with difficult passengers on flights come in handy in his new job. "You can tell if people are unreceptive to what you're saying from their body language and (you) adjust your message."
Jetstar Asia CEO Bara Pasupathi said the airline has been finding temporary job opportunities with the public agencies and the private sector institutions to support its crew during the suspension of flights.
He said: "To date, more than one-third of our crew have taken up roles with the Singapore Food Agency, NEA and Raffles Medical Group."
TNP understands this figure is around 300 employees.
NEA said in a statement that while adherence to the measures has improved to about 60 per cent, more patrons need to come onboard, especially in markets which still see crowds.
Senior Minister of State for the Environment and Water Resources Amy Khor said at the launch of the SG Clean Ambassadors initiative on March 29 that safe distancing measures may be inconvenient, but they are important and necessary to help reduce the spread of the coronavirus.
Volunteers can register their interest with the NEA and get training materials from the agency to become SG Clean Ambassadors at sgclean.gov.sg