Travellers will soon have more flight options at Changi Airport

Passengers waiting to check in at the AirAsia counter at Changi Airport Terminal 1. -- PHOTO: ST FILE
Passengers waiting to check in at the AirAsia counter at Changi Airport Terminal 1. -- PHOTO: ST FILE

Carriers plan to use bigger planes or add more flights; more airlines coming

Travellers at Changi Airport will have more flight options in the coming weeks with existing carriers boosting services and new airlines landing.

Direct flights will be available for the first time to Phu Quoc, Vietnam's largest island.

More seats will be added to Kuala Lumpur, Vietnam's Ho Chi Minh City, Colombo in Sri Lanka, London, and Auckland in New Zealand, with plans by carriers to either add flights or use bigger planes.

This should be a boon for travellers, said aviation analysts, as the increase is expected to bring fares down on these routes.

The enhancements, part of an overall network review that carriers typically do biannually, will add 100 new flights and more than 20,000 seats a week to Changi's network, Changi Airport Group told The Straits Times.

The new services will be added starting from the end of this month and operate until the next big review is done at the end of March. It will bring the total number of weekly flights at Changi to more than 6,500, giving the airport an important boost against rivals in Kuala Lumpur, Bangkok and Hong Kong, among other cities.

Changi is still the region's most connected air hub but the competition is stiff, industry experts said. Kuala Lumpur International Airport, for example, has benefited greatly from close collaboration between budget carrier AirAsia and the group's long-haul arm, AirAsia X.

By working together, the two carriers have grown the number of connecting passengers flying through Kuala Lumpur.

Mr Brendan Sobie, a Singapore-based analyst for the aviation think-tank Centre for Asia Pacific Aviation, noted in a recent report that transit traffic through the airport accounted for 43 per cent of AirAsia X's total passenger haul last year, up from just 25 per cent in 2011.

Changi will continue to work with airlines to add even more services, said Changi Airport Group's senior vice-president (market development), Mr Lim Ching Kiat. "We see good potential in aviation across the Asia-Pacific," he said.

In June, the airport announced a one-year $100 million aid package for airlines, comprising discounts of 50 per cent on aircraft parking and 15 per cent on aerobridge charges, as well as financial support for marketing campaigns to promote flights to Singapore.

Travellers ultimately benefit if such perks lure new airlines here and encourage existing carriers to add services, and they have.

Next Monday, Changi Airport will welcome for the first time Vietnam's Jetstar Pacific - a subsidiary of the low-cost Jetstar group - which will offer flights to and from Ho Chi Minh City.

Services to the Vietnamese city will be further boosted when Singapore Airlines launches six additional weekly flights from Dec 19.

Next month, new budget carrier Malindo Air will start flying from its home base in Kuala Lumpur to Singapore, and, in January, Air New Zealand will return to Changi Airport after more than seven years, with flights to and from Auckland.

Businessman Adrian Wong, 49, who travels at least twice a month within the region, said: "The cost of travel has fallen quite a bit the last few years with new airlines and more flights being added, which has been good for business, so I look forward to the new additions."

karam@sph.com.sg