CEO makes tough decision as SIA Group cuts staff amidst crisis

CEO Choon Phong Goh says this is the hardest and most agonising decision he had to make in his 30-year history with SIA.

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Courtesy of Singapore Airlines

The Singapore Airlines (SIA) Group announced on 10 September the difficult decision to cut around 4,300 positions across its airlines. After taking into account a recruitment freeze, natural attrition, and the take up of voluntary departure schemes, the potential number of staff impacted will be reduced to about 2,400 in Singapore and in overseas stations. 

This decision was taken in light of the long road to recovery for the global airline industry due to the debilitating impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, and the urgent need for the Group’s airlines to adapt to an uncertain future.  

As previously indicated, the Group expects to operate under 50 percent of its capacity at the end of financial year 2020/21 versus pre-Covid levels. Industry groups have also forecast that passenger traffic will not return to previous levels until around 2024.  

Relative to most major airlines in the world, the SIA Group is in an even more vulnerable position as it does not have a domestic market that will be the first to see a recovery. In order to remain viable in this uncertain landscape, the Group’s airlines will operate a smaller fleet for a reduced network compared to their preCovid operations in the coming years.  

To prepare for this future, the Group needs to cut around 4,300 positions across Singapore Airlines, SilkAir and Scoot. This has been mitigated by a recruitment freeze that was implemented in March 2020, open vacancies that were not filled, an early retirement scheme for ground staff and pilots, and a voluntary release scheme for cabin crew. Collectively, these measures have allowed the Group to eliminate some 1,900 positions. 

As a result, the potential job cuts across the Group may be reduced to around 2,400 in Singapore and across SIA’s overseas stations. Discussions have begun with Singapore-based unions, and the Group will work closely with them to finalise the arrangements as soon as possible for those affected, and try to minimise the stress and anxiety on its staff people. 

CEO Choon Phong Goh said the airlines’ priorities from the get go were to ensure survival and save as many jobs as possible, but he expects recovery to be long and fraught with uncertainty, made worse by having to implement involuntary staff reduction. 

“Having to let go of our valuable and dedicated people is the hardest and most agonising decision that I have had to make in my 30 years with SIA. This is not a reflection of the strengths and capabilities of those who will be affected, but the result of an unprecedented global crisis that has engulfed the airline industry.

The next few weeks will be some of the toughest in the history of the SIA Group as some of our friends and colleagues leave the company. We will conduct this process in a fair and respectful manner, and do our best to ensure that they receive all the necessary support during this very trying time,” he added.

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