Thu, Jan 01, 2009 - Page 11 News List

SIA targeting cargo pilots in leave-without-pay deal

WEAK OUTLOOK The periods of leave would last as long as 30 months. Singapore Airlines, like other cargo couriers, is struggling with a ‘shocking‘ drop in custom

AFP , SINGAPORE

Singapore Airlines (SIA) is discussing proposals with cargo pilots that would have them take leave with no pay after the global economic slump hammered freight demand, a spokesman said yesterday.

Stephen Forshaw said the unpaid leave periods would be for up to 30 months and are meant to deal with an expected surplus of pilots next year and beyond as the company sidelines aircraft in the face of falling demand.

“The outlook for the freight industry is weak. Around the world, shipping companies are parking vessels and all-cargo airlines are being severely affected,” he said in a statement.

“Going forward, SIA Cargo needs to do all it can to contain costs. In doing so, the company will work cooperatively with its staff and unions to deal with the issues that arise, with a focus on steps that can be taken to avoid retrenchments, which will only be considered as a matter of last resort,” he said.

SIA said it has 300 cargo pilots and 2,200 pilots for its passenger fleet.

There are no discussions on unpaid leave with passenger pilots, Forshaw said.

“However, we will respond to the changing demand climate quickly, and if this means we identify surplus staff, we will work cooperatively with our staff and unions to manage the issues,” he added.

SIA filled 60.3 percent of available cargo space in November, down from 64.5 percent in the same month in 2007, according to the latest data.

The International Air Transport Association (IATA) said on Tuesday that global freight fell 13.5 percent in November from the year before, its biggest decline since 2001 in the aftermath of the Sept. 11 attacks in the US.

Freight traffic shrank a sharper 16.9 percent for airlines in the Asia-Pacific region, which accounts for almost half of all air cargo.

“As freight accounts for a larger percentage of revenues for the Asia-Pacific carriers, fourth-quarter profits for the region’s carriers will be disproportionately (and negatively) impacted by the downturn in the global air freight market,” IATA added.

IATA director-general and president Giovanni Bisignani said the sharp drop in international air cargo was “shocking.”

“As air cargo handles 35 percent of the value of goods traded internationally, it clearly shows the rapid fall in global trade and the broadening impact of the economic slowdown,” he said. “The industry is now shrinking by all measures.”

SIA said in November that net profit for the fiscal second quarter ending September fell 36.2 percent from the previous year to S$324 million (US$225 million).

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