Singapore Airlines confirms recruitment freeze as travel demand plummets

Singapore Airlines (SIA) has confirmed to Marketing that it will be implementing a recruitment freeze due to the current COVID-19 situation. The company, however, did not not disclose which departments will take a hit.

"We are closely monitoring the evolving situation and will be decisive in implementing any additional measures that may be needed. However, we will not do anything that compromises the SIA Group’s long-term competitiveness," the spokesperson said. Meanwhile, The Straits Times also reported that SIA is mulling a voluntary no-pay leave measure for staff, but the spokesperson declined to comment on the matter to Marketing.

According to a CNA article, SIA CEO Goh Choon Phong said in an internal email to staff that the company is taking preventive measures such as conserving cash and reducing costs. He added that non-essential duty travel has also been suspended, and will work on mitigation measures with suppliers and partners.

The move comes at a time where the national carrier's commercial teams have been working closely with travel partners to "aggressively" drive sales. Nonetheless, the virus has led the group to temporarily reduced flight services across its network in response to weak demand. This will result in a 7.1% decrease in the scheduled capacity (measured in available seat-kilometres) from February to end-May 2020.

Meanwhile, to pull through the turbulence, SIA Group recently shuffled its leadership, handing Mak Swee Wah, executive vice president commercial the role of executive vice president operations. He will be responsible for SIA’s cabin crew, customer services and operations, engineering, and flight operations divisions.

Tan Kai Ping, senior vice president marketing planning, was also promoted to EVP finance and strategy. In his new role, he oversees the corporate planning and finance divisions. The change in management also saw SIA's senior vice president sales and marketing Campbell Wilson take on the role of CEO of Scoot.

Singapore Airlines isn't the only carrier in the region hit. Earlier this month, Hong Kong Airlines also announced that it plans to cut 400 staff and pull back its operations as travel demand continues to sputter due to the COVID-19 outbreak. It also said it would require its Hong Kong-based ground staff to take a minimum of two weeks unpaid leave per month or switch to working three days a week from 17 February onwards until 30 June. Meanwhile, Cathay Pacific also said it is planning to stop running around 90% of its China-bound flights for two months citing that the coronavirus outbreak in China is heavily hitting customer demand.

Meanwhile, Singaporean investment company Temasek said it implemented a company-wide salary freeze and reportedly said senior management will take a cut in their annual bonuses this year. According to a CNA article, the salary freeze will include promotion increments as well as a 5% voluntary pay cut by senior management heads.

Taking a close look at the current climate, the Singapore government recently formed a public-private sector Tourism Recovery Action Task Force with Singapore Tourism Board (STB). Both parties aim to lay out the plans for recovery and future growth, amidst the expected hit on tourism arrivals and receipts due to the coronavirus situation. According to a media statement, the Tourism Recovery Action Task Force, or TRAC, will map out recovery strategies and plans for tourism in Singapore.