Hiring spree unlikely for local airlines

It is not deemed critical at this stage for MAB as no pilots have been retrenched from service as up-to-date


LOCAL airlines will be cautious on hirings to prepare for an air travel rebound as uncertainty still shrouds the market amid fears of deadlier Covid-19 virus variants and borders remaining closed.

Malaysia Airlines Bhd (MAB) aims to activate its standard pilot recruitment progressively to meet operation requirements to ensure its pilots undergo recurrent training.

“The pilot hiring spree is not deemed critical at this stage for MAB as no pilots have been retrenched from service as up-todate, except pilots above 60 years old and expatriate pilots who were under contract,” MAB told The Malaysian Reserve recently.

The national flag carrier said recurrent training for pilots includes simulator training, line checks and crew management and educational sessions held in classrooms to address any uncertainties throughout the year.

At the height of the pandemic last year, airlines retrenched staff, mostly pilots, and retired airplanes to help them manage cash burn rate.

While MAB had avoided retrenchment, peers AirAsia Group Bhd and Malindo Airways Sdn Bhd laid off some 2,000 employees each and reduced fleet size.

The prospect of air travel recovery is still dim in Malaysia, especially for the international passenger markets compared to other parts of the world.

International passenger demand in June was 80.9% below June 2019, an improvement from the 85.4% decline recorded in May 2021 versus two years ago, according to the International Air Transport Association.

All regions, with the exception of Asia Pacific, contributed to the slightly higher demand.

Hong Leong Investment Bank Bhd analyst Daniel Wong said the rebound for Malaysian airlines industry highly depends on how “open” the economy is allowed by governments.

He said if governments suddenly opened too much, there could be a swift spike in travel demand and airlines are unlikely to be able to cope with that.

“It all boils down to a good communication between government and airlines so they are able to structure the opening of air travel smoothly without much hiccup,” Wong told TMR.

He said Malaysian carriers could not afford to keep too many crew for now to commensurate their level of operation.

“Major airlines are keeping the minimum air crew as these are fixed costs, which they have to pay even if these crews are not doing anything.

“So, if there is an opening of international travel, then maybe the airlines could go on a hiring spree since they already let go many of their air crew,” he said.

The media reported that airlines in the US are scrambling to hire more pilots as air travel recovery has accelerated faster than they anticipated.

In Europe, low-cost airline Ryanair Holdings plc has aims to hire 2,000 pilots over the next three years — one of the aviation industry’s biggest recruitment drives since the pandemic.

MAB said vaccination programmes play a vital role in restarting the domestic and international air travel markets and tourism.

“In terms of operational readiness, MAB has taken a bold step forward as it reveals the future of journey detailing some innovative features to be introduced to its passengers’ experience.

“We have completed two pilot projects to help passengers enjoy a safe and streamlined journey as global travel resumes as the introduction of Digital Travel Health Pass is currently being developed,” it said.

MAB also said the biometric facial recognition technology would be implemented in boarding procedures and verifications of travel documents for a hassle-free and contactless check-in, security clearance and boarding processes.

The national carrier said the initiative could be established and agreed upon a common set of travel and health standards.

“We remain steadfast in our commitment to adopting the highest safety and hygiene standards in air travel and are fully ready to welcome our passengers to fly confidently with us,” MAB added.