National carrier Singapore Airlines (SIA) is offering its cabin crew early release or retirement as it continues efforts to cut costs amid the Covid-19 pandemic.
It told The Straits Times yesterday that the voluntary retirement scheme was introduced in view of the impact of Covid-19 "as well as a slower projected recovery trajectory in international air travel".
Cabin crew members who successfully apply for the scheme will get payouts and benefits. They will have until the end of the month to apply. Trainee crew will not be eligible. The outcome of the applications will be made known by the middle of next month.
"Each application will be considered on its merits and SIA will also take into account operational requirements in the review of applications," said a spokesman.
"We continue to work closely with our unions on the way forward where staff measures are concerned. We will announce any additional measures, if necessary, at the appropriate time."
SIA has almost 9,000 crew members. The scheme also applies to its regional arm SilkAir, which has more than 680 crew members.
According to an e-mail announcing the move seen by ST, SIA said the early retirement and release scheme aims to mitigate the "debilitating business impact of Covid-19". It said the terms and benefits have been determined in collaboration with the Singapore Airlines Staff Union.
Crew members will receive different benefits based on their employment status. Three groups of crew are eligible - those still serving their bond as of Aug 1, those in the last year of their current contract, and male crew on tenure.
For example, a new Singaporean crew member would be bonded for 18 months after joining SIA and would have to pay a penalty if he or she leaves before the bond ends.
But under this early release and retirement scheme, a crew member who has yet to complete his or her bond could apply to leave early and have the outstanding bond repayment waived if successful.
SIA will also waive any outstanding settling-in loan and give a notice pay-in-lieu, based on the basic salary at the point of departure. Crew members who are still on probation get one month's pay, while confirmed crew members will get three months' pay.
Like all other airlines, SIA has been hard hit by the pandemic.
The carrier is currently operating at just 7 per cent of its scheduled capacity as compared with before the pandemic. Some cabin crew have yet to take to the air in months.
Pay cuts of at least 10 per cent and no-pay-leave schemes have been introduced.
Early retirement has also been offered for ground staff and pilots.
Last month, the SIA Group, which includes SilkAir and budget carrier Scoot, reported a $1.12 billion net loss in the quarter ended June 30, its largest quarterly loss on record.
Across the group, more than 6,000 of its 27,000 staff have taken no-pay leave, while more than 1,700 employees have signed up for volunteer positions and jobs in external organisations.
Scoot told ST yesterday that it has implemented further pay cuts for all staff, extended voluntary no-pay leave to all employees and introduced a voluntary separation scheme for its pilots this month.
Previous measures include cutting back on discretionary spending wherever possible.
Air travel demand is expected to remain low for the foreseeable future, with the International Air Transport Association saying it will be until 2024 before demand returns to last year's levels.
Experts have said that the various measures, which include raising $11 billion so far this financial year, will help the SIA Group - but not likely to the extent that it can avoid eventual job cuts.