Changi holds on to 6th busiest position

Changi Airport grew faster than both London and Hong Kong, with traffic increasing by 6.1 per cent year on year to 58.2 million passengers.
Changi Airport grew faster than both London and Hong Kong, with traffic increasing by 6.1 per cent year on year to 58.2 million passengers.ST PHOTO: SEAH KWANG PENG

It chalked up 58.2m international passengers last year, a growth of 6.1% year on year

Changi Airport, which handled a record number of travellers last year, has retained its position as the world's sixth busiest for international passenger traffic.

The top three airports were Dubai, London's Heathrow and Hong Kong International Airport.

Changi, however, grew faster than both London and Hong Kong, with traffic increasing by 6.1 per cent year on year to 58.2 million passengers.

Dubai grew by 7.3 per cent to hit 83.1 million passengers, based on data compiled by Airports Council International (ACI) - a trade body that represents airports.

In an update on Monday, ACI said that, globally, airports handled almost 7.7 billion travellers last year, registering increases in all regions except Africa.

Asia, once again, led the charge, accounting for more than a third of the total traffic.

The air cargo sector held its own last year, with markets experiencing a "revival" in the second half.

This was despite a backdrop of economic uncertainty regarding trade policies in the United States and United Kingdom, two of the world's largest aviation markets, the association said.

"When we look at the traffic data over the last two decades, we get a sense that aviation has entered a new era of unprecedented growth," said ACI director-general Angela Gittens.

Historically low jet fuel prices and affordable air travel on account of low-cost carriers on many short- and medium-haul routes have acted as catalysts in stimulating air transport demand, she said.

Rapid urbanisation has also played a key role in the growth of the sector.

Still, the industry must be aware that there are several impediments that could curtail the continued rise in demand, Ms Gittens said.

"Specifically, these are related to geopolitical unrest, terrorism and threats to security in certain parts of the world. Physical capacity considerations and potential bottlenecks in air transport infrastructure also pose challenges in accommodating future air transport demand," she warned.

Airports like Changi are already preparing for the future with capacity investments, experts said.

Terminal 4 will open on Oct 31. Meanwhile, a third runway is being prepared for commercial flights and new measures, like reduced separation between flights, are being rolled out to increase air traffic capacity.

Changi is moving in the right direction, said Mr Ramanathan Mohandas, head of the diploma programme in aviation management at Republic Polytechnic.

Apart from expanding capacity and investing in service initiatives, the airport has also been actively reaching out to airlines to launch new routes and products, he pointed out.

Later this month, for example, European carrier Norwegian will launch flights between London's Gatwick Airport and Singapore - the longest long-haul budget flight ever operated.

The 10,841km trip will take just under 13 hours for those travelling to Singapore, and about an hour longer on the way to Gatwick.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 20, 2017, with the headline 'Changi holds on to 6th busiest position'. Print Edition | Subscribe