Singapore Airlines is asking its cabin crew to volunteer for unpaid leave – here’s why

SIA is offering a voluntary no-pay leave option to cabin crew members to manage a manpower supply glut.
The Straits Times

Cabin crew members with Singapore Airlines (SIA) might have to hang up their suits and sarong kebayas for a period of three months starting in September.

On Aug 3, it was reported by Today that the national carrier is offering a voluntary no-pay leave (VNPL) scheme to address a “temporary crew surplus situation”.

According to the same report, the notice issued by SIA said: “The division will need to exercise flexibility and nimbleness to better manage crew resources. VNPL and the leave buy-back scheme are measures that the division will take from time to time to achieve this objective”.

Crew members are categorised into four ranks at SIA, and The VNPL option will only affect chief stewards/stewardesses and flight stewards/stewardesses.

Leading stewards/stewardesses and in-flight managers will not be affected.

“SIA’s new approach of flexing capacity up and down to match demand should deliver more sustainable profits, but does also mean some uncertainty for staff that may be asked to take short-term unpaid leave,” said Mr Ellis Taylor, Asia finance editor at FlightGlobal, in the Today report.

Last rolled out during the global financial crisis in 2008, the announcement comes after a net loss of $138 million (between the January-March 2017 quarter) was reported in May this year.

In a statement carried by Today, an SIA spokesperson said that the flag carrier intends to offer it “from time to time, going forward” so the airline could be “more flexible and nimble in managing crew members”.

According to The Straits Times, SIA introduced a slew of initiatives to manage manpower numbers ever since the 2008 financial downturn led to a slowdown in business and changes in people’s leisure patterns.

“Having temporary surpluses or deficits of cabin crew is not unusual due to the nature of our business… This scheme is completely voluntary,” said a spokesman in the same report.

This latest move is expected to affect up to 8,200 cabin crew, out of the 14,800 staff that are employed by the company.