Government to ‘spare no effort’ to help SIA rebound from COVID-19 crisis: PM Lee

SINGAPORE — The Singapore government is determined to help Singapore Airlines (SIA) see through the current COVID-19 crisis, and Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong has pledged that it will “spare no effort” to enable SIA to fly the country’s flag high again.

In his May Day Message delivered on Thursday (30 April), PM Lee said that the SIA group has been severely hit by the COVID-19 pandemic. Most of its flights will remain grounded for some time, as global aviation grinds to a halt with countries imposing travel restrictions to contain the coronavirus spread.

“SIA management have taken pay cuts. The unions and the workers have accepted sacrifices too. All in SIA understand that the airline is facing its biggest crisis ever. They are all doing their part to help the company survive,” Lee said in his speech.

“The government is determined that SIA will see through this crisis. SIA has always flown Singapore’s flag high all over the world, and made us proud. We will spare no effort to enable it to do so again.”

SIA supports efforts to fight COVID-19

In March, SIA slashed 96 per cent of its capacity as countries, including Singapore, tightened their borders. It also announced deeper pay cuts for management staff, and compulsory no-pay leave for other employees, including captains who will have to take a week off every month.

Lee singled out SIA for supporting the country’s efforts to fight COVID-19 in his May Day message.

“They help to fly in essential supplies. They have mounted evacuation flights to bring Singaporeans home,” he said in his speech. “Their cabin crew are serving as care ambassadors in hospitals, and safe distancing ambassadors in trains, markets and malls.”

SIA has already received assistance from its parent company Temasek Holdings amid the downturn. It has issued new shares to current shareholders to raise about $5.3 billion and mandatory convertible bonds to raise up to $9.7 billion, with Temasek pledging to take up any remaining shares and bonds that are not subscribed.

Tourism, aviation to take much longer to recover

Lee also said that tourism and aviation are most likely going to take much longer than other industries to recover from the COVID-19 crisis, because international travel will remain restricted as long as the coronavirus is still a problem around the world.

“As air transport is fundamental to Singapore’s role as a global and regional hub, the Singapore government is providing extra support for aviation,” he added.

During this year’s Budget in February, Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat announced a $112 million Aviation Sector Assistance Package to help defray business costs and protect jobs.

In March’s Supplementary Budget, Heng unveiled another $750 million aid package to help the aviation sector under two schemes – an enhanced wage subsidy programme up to the end of the year, as well as an enhanced aviation support package.

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