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Pilots offered unpaid leave

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Singapore Airlines (SIA) is offering its senior pilots unpaid leave in an attempt to manage costs.

Pilots who accept the voluntary unpaid leave can choose to find employment with another airline or take time off, Wall Street Journal reported.

The offer was made to SIA’s most senior pilots in December, and was also offered to junior pilots in March. Currently, SIA has about 2,350 pilots on payroll.

Nicholas Ionides, vice president of public affairs for the airline, said the programme “will enable us to address the short-term surplus, while at the same time provide staff with the opportunity to take leave for personal reasons should they wish to do so”.

In October 2012, SIA announced it will be freezing the hiring of cadet pilots, while the number of flying hours has also been cut, from 60 hours a week to 50, for many pilots.

SIA is not the first airline to offer voluntary leave for pilots. In 2011, Qantas Airlines made a similar offer to its pilots after the Australian airline had to cut unprofitable routes.

However, pilots may not have to hit the panic button just yet. Brendan Sobie, chief representative for Southeast Asia at airline-industry consultancy Centre for Aviation, told WSJ the demand for pilots should remain high for the next few decades.

“Pilots will not have any problems finding new jobs in the region as there is a large number of airlines hiring.”

USA Today published a report last year by Boeing, which estimated 460,000 commercial pilots will be needed in the next two decades, with the Asia Pacific region accounting for 185,600 pilots – the most of any region.

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