Singapore Airlines' (SIA) move to cut costs by offering early retirement packages to a cross-section of staff is unlikely to be replicated by Cathay Pacific in the near future, according to the airline. However, analysts and airline executives said further measures to cut costs might have to be taken if the industry's outlook did not brighten over the next few months. On Thursday, SIA announced it was extending its so-called 'golden handshake' scheme to junior staff that had been with the airline for more than 15 years. Previously, the scheme was made available only to senior staff at the administration level and above. A Cathay official said while there was pressure to further cut operating costs, it was coming internally, and was not from trying to keep up with rival airlines. 'The pressure is from the effects of the downturn in the business environment, rather than from other airlines,' she said. 'We're trying our best to keep costs down, and have implemented many measures, such as parking aircraft and cutting frequencies, readjusting housing allowances and suspending bonuses.' But since offering voluntary unpaid leave to employees just before Christmas, the airline had not unveiled any additional measures, she said. As yet, there is no indication how many Cathay employees have elected to take voluntary leave. SIA said it would follow Cathay's lead in offering unpaid leave to all employees. An SIA spokesman said the airline had no internal targets for how much it hoped to save on operating costs through staff taking early retirement or unpaid leave. 'There are no internal targets and we don't know how many staff will take it. It is too soon to say anyway - maybe no one will take it,' he said. The spokesman said the early retirement scheme had been in place for senior staff for 'several years now'. However, there was a deadline of January 31 for junior staff to take up the programme. 'We want to see what the response is like,' he said. Both airlines, the largest in Asia except for Japan Airlines, acknowledge the importance of trimming costs in the wake of what has become the worst downturn in the industry's history. Because most airlines' costs are sunk into the maintenance of assets, like aircraft, which are difficult to shed in tough times, staff outlays are often the only way to slash expenses. 'Revenues have fallen by close to 10 per cent for both airlines, so they will want to be able to match their costs to that fall,' said a Hong Kong-based aviation analyst at a European brokerage. SIA and Cathay have been unanimous in saying that staff retrenchments would be the 'last resort'. 'We have no plans for lay-offs, but you can't rule anything out as no one knows how the economy will evolve over the next few months,' the Cathay official said. Some analysts believe that the worst of the decline in traffic may be over for Asian airlines. But profitability may yet take several years to return to the levels seen in 2000.