This is not the first time the Singapore Airlines (SIA) crew have been asked to take no pay leave. The last time they had been asked to was after the end-2008 global financial crisis.
The recent notices said that the offer to take voluntary no-pay leave between September and November 2017 is "completely voluntary". An SIA spokesperson said the measure was to "better manage crew resources and operational requirements" and that "having temporary surpluses or deficits of cabin crew is not unusual due to the nature of our business".
The no pay leave notice follows an earlier circular which told staff that training would be stepped up in the next 3 months to ensure crew had work because the company failed to expand its flights, resulting in excess crew. Cabin crew were also told those on standby duty might not be called up.
Other signs of trouble include last November's release of figures which showed SIA had culled 12% of its pilots from its rosters in the last 5 years. The pool had shrunk from 2,331 pilots in March 2011 to 2,056 at the end of March last year. Not all the pilots who left did so voluntarily.
Despite these issues, SIA's CEO Goh Choon Phong said that the steps taken by the carrier in the last few years, which includes setting up a new Transformation Office, will pay off. Last week, SIA reported an operating profit of $281 million for the April to June quarter.