SINGAPORE (Mar 23): Singapore Airlines (SIA) is grounding all but nine of the 147 aircraft under SIA and SilkAir, after more countries announced further tightening of border controls to curb the Covid-19 outbreak.

The group’s low-cost unit, Scoot, will also suspend most of its network. Scoot will ground 47 of its fleet of 49 aircraft.

The announcement comes after Singapore on March 22 announced it is stopping all short-term visitors – from anywhere in the world – from entering into Singapore, or even transiting through the country.

This will see SIA cutting 96% of the capacity that had been originally scheduled up to end-April.

In a statement on March 23, the airlines described it as “the greatest challenge that the SIA Group has faced in its existence”.

“It is unclear when the SIA Group can begin to resume normal services, given the uncertainty as to when the stringent border controls will be lifted,” the group said.

SIA said the collapse in air travel amid the Covid-19 pandemic has led to a “significant decline” in its passenger revenues.

To mitigate the impact, the group is taking steps to build up its liquidity, and to reduce capital expenditure and operating costs.

These include ongoing discussions with aircraft manufacturers to defer upcoming aircraft deliveries. If successful, this will give SIA some breathing space as it defers payment for those aircraft deliveries.

The group says it has also, over the last few days, drawn on its lines of credits to meet its immediate cash flow requirements.

It revealed that it is also engaging in discussions with several financial institutions for its future funding requirements.

While SIA had already earlier announced salary cuts for its management staff, the group looks to be exploring additional cost-cutting measures across the group.

The group said it has engaged the workers’ unions amid the worsening situation, and added that “more steps will be taken imminently”.

“The company continues to explore measures to shore up its liquidity during this unprecedented disruption to global air travel,” the group said.

Shares in SIA plunged in morning trading on Monday. As at 11.12am, the counter is trading 55 cents lower, or down 9.1%, at $5.47.