The Nation



Singapore Airlines lets go foreign pilots on expat pack

Singapore Airlines has told its 76 expatriate pilots that they will have to leave before their three-year contracts expire.

The move is the latest in a slew of measures to trim excess manpower amid a business slowdown, especially in the long-haul premium market.

SIA said Wednesday that the "difficult decision" to release the captains by the end of June was due to slower-than-anticipated growth after the last global financial crisis of 2009/2010.

Unlike other foreigners who are part of the airline's pool of more than 2,400 pilots, the 76 captains who have been asked to go are on expatriate terms.

This means that on top of their salary and flying allowances, they are entitled to housing and other subsidies that total about 5,000 Singapore dollars (Bt120,000) a month.

The pilots also receive a S$30,000 gratuity at the end of their contracts.

With the early termination, they will receive a pro-rated amount, The Straits Times understands.

SIA spokesman Nicholas Ionides said without revealing actual numbers: "We will still have a surplus after this but the number will be reduced."

Captain Mok Hin Choon, president of the Air Line Pilots Association of Singapore, said the union was informed of the company's decision just Wednesday afternoon.

"The last we were told was that the contracts would not be renewed upon expiry so this has come as a sudden surprise," he said.

With the excess manpower still an issue, the worry is that more measures may be taken to further address the situation, he said.

So far, SIA has frozen cadet pilot recruitment, cut flying hours for some pilots and asked pilots to volunteer for unpaid leave.

To deal with the current slowdown, which caused July-to-September profits last year to dip 54 per cent to S$90 million from the same period in 2011, SIA is expanding the roles played by its regional airline SilkAir and low-cost carrier Scoot.

This is to take advantage of strong growth in regional and low-cost traffic.

The union has asked the airline to consider transferring pilots to the other arms so that they can return to the parent carrier when needed, instead of letting them go.

SIA has said no on the grounds that both Scoot and SilkAir are independently operated and managed.

Mok, who spoke to The Straits Times shortly after he met the affected captains, said: "This is a sad day."

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