Singapore Airlines (SIA) plans to retrench its overseas pilots and is speaking to unions about having staff go on compulsory leave.
The airline has 19 pilots, all captains, based in Brisbane and Perth but it plans to close these two bases, says a SIA spokesman in Singapore.
"It will be fairly soon," he says, adding that SIA is replacing its Boeing 777s on the routes with Airbus A330s.
It makes it hard to have 777 pilots based in those places if "they can't operate the aircraft flying there", he says.
The other reason the pilots are being retrenched is because the Star Alliance carrier has too many pilots, confirms the spokesman.
He says the foreign pilots were employed several years ago "when we were aggressively recruiting pilots for our growing fleet".
But earlier this year the airline announced it will be "decommissioning" 17 aircraft in the financial year starting 1 April in response to the global economic downturn.
SIA's spokesman says the aircraft being phased out are the older 777s and Boeing 747-400s. Industry sources in Australia say SIA is scouting for locations in Australia to park aircraft starting with a batch of five.
While SIA is working to cut pilots and aircraft, other staff are being asked to take voluntary leave and others are bracing for the prospect of compulsory leave.
The spokesman says SIA is talking to all its employee unions about compulsory leave. But which employees are asked to do this will leave depend on the employee's job, he adds. Compulsory leave in this instance can mean using annual leave and also compulsory unpaid leave.
SIA earlier announced that all staff have been invited to take voluntary unpaid leave and they have until 31 March to apply. Staff can apply for periods as short as one week or as long as two years.
SIA's spokesman declines to say what the response has been so far.