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SIA, hit by virus fallout, cuts more flights, runs at half its original capacity

SINGAPORE Airlines (SIA) on Tuesday announced a fresh round of flight cuts as travel restrictions continue to surface amid the global Covid-19 pandemic. 

The latest suspensions mean that the carrier will operate at only half the capacity that had been originally scheduled up to end-April, said the carrier in a statement. SIA is expecting to make further cuts to its capacity given the growing scale of the border controls globally and its "deepening impact" on air travel. 

SIA chief executive Goh Choon Phong said: “We have lost a large amount of our traffic in a very short time, and it will not be viable for us to maintain our current network. Make no mistake – we expect the pace of this deterioration to accelerate. The SIA Group must be prepared for a prolonged period of difficulty." 

The group further said it is actively taking steps to build up its liquidity, and will also "consult the unions once again" as it "urgently takes steps" to further cut costs. 

In an internal note to staff seen by The Business Times, Mr Goh said "more hard decisions and sacrifices will be needed" as the crisis continues to worsen. 

"For the SIA Group, almost every major market is being shut down in rapid succession as governments around the world close their borders to stem the spread of the infection," the note read. 

Other carriers around the world have since reduced flight capacity by as much as 70 to 90 per cent - greater than SIA's 50 per cent cut so far. Finnair recently announced a 90 per cent capacity reduction; Norwegian Air has cancelled 85 per cent of flights and temporarily laid off 90 per cent of its employees. 

The world’s three main airline alliances - oneworld, SkyTeam and Star Alliance - are also asking for government bailouts to alleviate challenges in the industry.  

SIA shares closed trading at S$6.62 on Tuesday, down S$0.12 or 1.8 per cent.