Singapore Airlines' budget siblings, Scoot and Tigerair, are embarking on their biggest-ever recruitment drive for cockpit and cabin crew as the group positions itself to capture a bigger share of the low-cost travel market.
From 400 pilots today, the total headcount for the two airlines, which now operate as one, will increase to 700 by 2020, Captain Rohan Hari Chandra, the airline's advisor of flight operations, told The Straits Times yesterday.
About 2,000 cabin crew will also be hired during the same period, almost double the number today.
Since May, when SIA set up a new holding company to operate both budget carriers, Scoot and Tigerair have been working closely to grow their market share.
Capt Rohan said: "We know the expansion is coming, the planes are coming and we need pilots to fly them."
Scoot, which operates medium and long-haul flights with 12 Boeing 787s, will grow to 20 planes by 2019.
Tigerair, which flies single-aisle planes within the region, will grow from 23 to 38 aircraft by 2022.
With strong demand for low-cost air travel, SIA is counting on its budget offshoots to move quickly in this sector.
This is critical given intense pressure the premium carrier faces in the long-haul market, with stiff competition from rivals that include the Middle Eastern airlines and Cathay Pacific.
Finding enough pilots, though, will be tough, experts say.
American plane maker Boeing estimates that the world will need about 617,000 new pilots and 814,000 cabin crew over the next 20 years.
The Asia-Pacific region will soak up 40 per cent of the total due to the growth in the single-aisle market, driven by low-cost carriers, the firm said.
Capt Rohan said he is confident Scoot/Tigerair will be able to fill the available positions.
Remuneration packages are competitively pegged to what other budget carriers in the region offer, he added, without disclosing details.
And while there are those who prefer to join full-service airlines - perceived as more glamorous - "we generally get the hungry guys", he said.
"They want to get on with their careers and get their command (captain rank) quickly," he noted.
Budget carrier pilots typically move from trainee to captain in about seven years, compared with more than 10 years for pilots with full-service long-haul airlines.
This is because they tend to clock more flying hours and flight cycles in a month with shorter flights.
A recent recruitment exercise drew over 1,000 candidates, of whom about 150 were shortlisted for a test yesterday.
One of them, Brian Chow, 22, said: "I always thought I would become an engineer until I signed up for a flying course last year.
"I now know I want to become a pilot."
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