Changi Airport saw record passenger numbers last year

SIA stewardesses and passengers at the transit lounge of Changi Airport Terminal 3. More passengers than ever passed through Changi Airport in 2013. -- ST PHOTO: MUGILAN RAJASEGERAN
SIA stewardesses and passengers at the transit lounge of Changi Airport Terminal 3. More passengers than ever passed through Changi Airport in 2013. -- ST PHOTO: MUGILAN RAJASEGERAN

Figure rises to 53.7 million, thanks to strong travel demand from Asia-Pacific

More passengers than ever passed through Changi Airport last year.

While the growth in passenger traffic may be slowing down compared to recent years, the airport still handled about 53.7 million passengers last year - a 5 per cent increase from 2012. The number of landings and take-offs also reached new heights, rising by 5.9 per cent to hit 343,800.

Changi Airport Group (CAG) put the growth down to strong travel demand within the Asia-Pacific region.

Traffic from South-east and North-east Asia markets went up by 8.2 per cent and 7 per cent respectively, accounting for nearly seven in 10 travellers at Changi.

Indonesia alone accounted for 7.4 million passengers. This makes it Changi's top country market, registering a growth of 8.8 per cent.

While Changi enjoyed double-digit gains in passenger traffic from 2010 to 2012, fuelled by low-cost carriers such as Tigerair, analysts had predicted single-digit growth for last year.

Among the reasons were budget airlines reining in expansion, weak markets in Europe and a slowdown in the premium sector - and these are not likely to change in the short term.

CAG senior vice-president for market development Lim Ching Kiat said Changi should see between 3 per cent and 5 per cent growth this year. However, CAG chief executive Lee Seow Hiang added: "We will continue to work with current and potential airline partners to explore market opportunities to ensure sustainable growth over the long term."

On the air freight front, cargo volume saw a minimal increase, rising 0.8 per cent to 1.85 million tonnes. Given the challenges facing this sector, CAG said it will continue to provide rebates for freighter flights at Changi and cargo tenants till March next year. This will cost $18 million.

Last year, Changi added five new carriers to its stable of airlines, including Ethiopian Airlines, and flights to 10 new cities, such as Kalibo in the Philippines and Wuxi in China. It will add at least two new city links this year, including one to Uzbekistan's capital, Tashkent. Mr Lim said there are plans to add new cities in bigger markets like China and India.

Analyst Brendan Sobie from the Centre of Asia Pacific Aviation believes the challenges for Changi are more long-term.

It is important for the airport to complete projects like Terminal 4 and the third runway as soon as possible, he added. "Some airlines want to launch services to Singapore but don't because they can't get flights at the right times."

roysim@sph.com.sg