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Suffering from a steep drop in demand, Japan Airlines Co. said Tuesday it will seek volunteers from among all of its employees to take a one-month holiday — without pay. The temporary layoff program will be launched in July and is expected to remain in force until March, officials said.

The carrier said the furlough constitutes one effort to deal with its overstaffing problem.

The airline slashed its international flight schedule after the Iraq war and the outbreak of severe acute respiratory syndrome scared off potential holidaymakers.

This marks the first time for the country’s largest carrier to invite employees to accept a temporary layoff, regardless of their line of work, according to JAL officials.

In May, the carrier asked flight attendants to take time off without pay. Under the plan announced Tuesday, the company will expand this program to cover other job categories, such as pilots and clerical staff.

The system, dubbed the “refresh holiday” program, was introduced in June 1999. The carrier implements this measure when it faces a sharp and unforeseen decline in demand.

When the carrier implemented the system in the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks, about 800 flight attendants applied for the program, which lasted for eight months, according to JAL officials.

There are no restrictions on how employees can spend the layoff period.

Some 17,000 JAL employees, excluding those who work overseas, will be eligible to sign up for the expanded program.

Adjustments will be made so that volunteers will not be concentrated within certain sections, officials said.

This measure will not apply to Japan Air System Co., which belongs to the same holding company as JAL, Japan Airlines System Corp.

In May, JAL pared the number of seats offered on its international flights by 22 percent from an initial business plan. Yet actual occupancy rates fell to half those cited in the plan.

The carrier is now planning a 26 percent seat reduction from its June projection, officials said.

Singapore flights

Singapore Airlines said Tuesday it will resume flights between Singapore and Fukuoka on June 17 as the World Health Organization has removed Singapore from its list of countries and territories affected by severe acute respiratory syndrome.

Singapore Airlines will initially operate two flights per week between the two cities and will increase the number to five by July 1.

In addition, the airline will resume other suspended services and increase operations that had been reduced. For example, it plans to bring the number of weekly flights between Singapore and Narita, near Tokyo, to 14 by June 28, up from the current eight.

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