Forum: Having US pre-clearance at Changi would bring huge advantages to airport

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong gave updates on the new Changi Airport Terminal 5 in his National Day Rally speech on Sunday (NDR 2022: Changi Airport T5 to be more pandemic-proof, able to operate as smaller sub-terminals when needed, Aug 21).

Terminal 5 will further enhance the global aviation hub status of Singapore.

On top of the hardware, Singapore should consider policies to support Changi Airport and Singapore Airlines (SIA) to grow further.

One cost-efficient idea is to invite the US pre-clearance system to operate in Changi Airport.

Having US pre-clearance here would allow all US-bound passengers to jump the line and clear immigration right here at Changi Airport.

This would give Singapore and Changi Airport huge advantages such as:

  • No waiting time for passengers upon arrival in the US, where the immigration process is known to be time-consuming and stressful.
  • A competitive advantage for SIA for better US domestic connections.
  • Access for SIA to less-expensive US domestic gates and more flexible arrival times.
  • The pre-clearance would attract more airlines to set up US-bound flights in Singapore, and would give more passengers a reason to choose Singapore as the transiting stop.

The US will probably be the most lucrative long-haul market for Asian airlines in the next few decades.

Currently, there is only one US pre-clearance airport in Asia - Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates - among the 16 pre-clearance locations in six countries.

Having a location in South-east Asia, which would help with security operations and increase efficiency for all, might bolster US interests too.

Japan and Taiwan have explored the idea of setting up the US pre-clearance system in their airports, and I think it's a perfect time for Singapore to catch up.

Wang Hsiang Ting

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