What's bad news for pilots is usually worse news for the rest of the crew. Singapore will need to exit it's generous contracts with an excess of pilots before it can move forward.
Singapore Airlines, which has too many pilots amid a business downturn, does not expect the surplus to ease any time soon.
Cadet pilots have been told that until Sept 30, those who quit may have their bonds waived.
The usual payback for leaving before serving the seven-year work bond can be more than S$250,000 (US$199,250), pilots said.
There are 95 cadets currently in training, said SIA, which froze fresh recruitment early last year.
About a third who have completed their flying training are now doing ground work, The Straits Times found out.
They have not been told when they will be able to start flying.
The cadets as well as 76 captains on expatriate terms which will be terminated by the end of next month or when their contracts expire — whichever is sooner — are among those affected by the surplus manpower situation.
SIA is helping to facilitate their movement to other carriers within the group.
For example, Tiger Airways recently held a briefing for SIA cadet pilots on job opportunities, SIA spokesman Nicholas Ionides said. The budget carrier is about a third owned by SIA, which has around 2,400 pilots.
Of the expatriate pilots who have left SIA, six have gone to SIA Cargo and another six, to long-haul budget arm Scoot.
Those who move to the other carriers must first resign from the parent airline.
Captain R. Subramaniam, vice-president (industrial) of the Air Line Pilots Association of Singapore (Alpa-S), said: “We suggested to management that our excess pilots should be considered first for vacancies at the subsidiaries, so we are happy this is being done.
“But pilots who move should not have to resign from the parent airline because they end up losing their seniority and salary increments over the years.
“We don’t think this is very fair.”
Ionides said: “Our subsidiary airlines are separately managed and handle their own recruitment. However, we work closely with them and where there are employment opportunities we assist pilots to take up employment with them.”
High fuel prices, competition from other carriers and a slowdown in Europe and the United States, which are key long-haul premium markets for SIA, have taken a toll on the airline’s bottom line.
Last week, the airline reported that operating profit for the year to March 31 fell by 19.8 per cent, to S$229.2 million.
The net profit of S$378.9 million was 12.8 per cent higher from a year ago, but mainly on the back of an increase in non-operating items such as surplus on the sale of aircraft and spare engines.
(c)2013 the Asia News Network (Hamburg, Germany). Distributed by MCT Information Services.
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Photo credit: An Airbus A380 jet of Singapore Airlines takes off from the airport in Zurich. Arnd Wiegmann / Reuters