'Singapore Girls' given 20 years to serve airline

Singapore Airlines stewardesses will now be able to fly well into their 50s after the airline agreed to add up to three years to their careers, the company said Monday.

Under the new agreement signed by Singapore Airlines (SIA) and the Singapore Airlines Staff Union, junior stewardesses -- who usually start working at 23 -- can fly for up to 20 years from 17 years previously, SIA said.

Those promoted to leading and chief stewardess rank can serve for up to 25 and 30 years respectively, up from 23 and 28 years previously.

The new rules also apply to male cabin crew who joined after 2004. Men who signed up before 2004 are allowed to work until they are 62.

The new agreement, which came into effect on May 9, "allows us to offer longer employment terms for all our employees", the airline said in an email. "At the same time, it will also help us to retain experienced cabin crew."

The airline's flight attendants, who it has referred to as "Singapore Girls" since the 1970s, have long played a central role in the airline's advertising campaigns, despite critics labelling the marketing as outdated and sexist.

Frequent winners of travel industry awards for cabin crew service, the flight attendants are recruited from several Asian countries and wear distinctive uniforms with batik prints.

"People are living longer and starting families later, so the aim is to make sure our people stay employed longer," the Straits Times newspaper quoted SIA staff union president Tony Sim as saying.

Sim also stated that the move was in line with the Singapore government's push to get people to extend their working lives.


SIA is under pressure from competitors in the high end of the market and is being buffeted by high fuel prices, global economic woes and budget carriers offering cheaper, no-frills flight.

The airline, considered a bellwether for the industry, announced last week that its full-year profit for 2011 slumped 69 percent year-on-year in only its third quarterly loss in the history of the company.

Net profit for the year to March plunged to Sg$336 million ($A267 million) on group revenues of Sg$14.86 billion, the carrier reported.