Aviation sector gets extra $187 million in Covid-19 support measures

The $187 million will provide cost relief for airlines, ground handlers, cargo agents, and airport tenants. ST PHOTO: ALPHONSUS CHERN

SINGAPORE - An additional $187 million will be pumped into Singapore's hard-hit aviation sector, as part of efforts to extend aid under the enhanced aviation support package till March next year.

This will provide cost relief for the airlines, ground handlers, cargo agents and airport tenants in a sector that has borne the brunt of the Covid-19 pandemic, Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat said in a ministerial statement on Monday (Aug 17).

It will also help the local carriers regain air connectivity to the world.

Mr Heng, who is also Coordinating Minister for Economic Policies and Finance Minister, unveiled this as part of a strategy to further support the hardest-hit sectors - aerospace, aviation and tourism.

The move will help these three sectors retain core capabilities and position them for an eventual recovery, he explained.

"These sectors are important parts of our economy, and they are multipliers for other sectors."

In particular, the Republic's position as a global business node depends on its connectivity as an air hub, he stressed.

The Changi air hub and its adjacent industries contribute to more than 5 per cent of Singapore's gross domestic product and employ over 190,000 people.

The extended financial relief for airlines, ground handlers, cargo agents and other partners at Changi Airport and Seletar Airport would be provided through landing, parking and rental rebates, the Ministry of Transport (MOT) and the Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore (CAAS) said in a joint statement on Monday.

For airlines, these include: a 10 per cent landing charge rebate for all scheduled passenger flights landing here; a 50 per cent rental rebate for their lounges and offices within Changi Airport and Seletar Airport terminal buildings; and a full rebate on aircraft parking charges at both airports.

Ground handlers will get a 50 per cent rental rebate for their lounges and offices within the two airports' terminal buildings.

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There will also be a 10 per cent landing charge rebate for all scheduled freighter flights landing here, as well as a 20 per cent rental rebate for cargo agents tenanted at the Changi Airfreight Centre.

MOT and CAAS added that the funding support for Singapore carriers to rebuild air connectivity "is critical to preserving our relevance as a global hub".

Further details of the support will be shared with companies.

The aviation and aerospace sectors have been decimated by the pandemic, with global air travel crippled by border closures and airlines scrapping plane orders.

Companies, including component manufacturers and maintenance facilities, have been slashing costs and cutting manpower due to declining business.

On Monday, Mr Heng announced that firms in the badly affected aerospace, aviation and tourism sectors will receive 50 per cent of wages paid for seven more months until March.

To help these sectors recover, the Government will work with companies to support workers with specialised skills and offer further help to retain their core capabilities, he noted.

For workers in the aviation sector who cannot work now, it has been helping to redeploy them to other areas where their skills are valued.

So far, about 500 aircrew have been redeployed to hospitals as care ambassadors, tapping on their service skills to support non-clinical work.

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The temporary redeployment programme will be scaled up, with some 4,000 new jobs, including permanent roles, to be created in the healthcare sector alone, said Mr Heng.

"And we are also creating more jobs in other areas of need."

In his speech, Mr Heng recognised those who have made the job switch, including Singapore Airlines (SIA) leading stewardess Hanim Zainuddin, who was temporarily redeployed to KK Women's and Children's Hospital in June.

Ms Hanim, 38, works at the hospital's neonatal nursery for babies with jaundice, where she ensures that they are fed and changed on time. She also assists nurses with non-clinical procedures and the admission of patients.

She said her experience has helped her to interact with patients and their caregivers confidently.

"I am also able to adapt to different work environments quickly," she added.

Aerospace and aviation firms welcomed the additional support, which they believe would help Singapore maintain its status as an air hub.

Mr Lien Whai Cheng, managing director of aircraft maintenance, repair and overhaul firm Coway Engineering & Marketing, said the extension of the jobs support scheme would give companies time to adjust their operations.

Over the past few months, his company has diversified its business model to cater to other areas, such as semiconductors and healthcare.

SIA said the extended support provides "much-needed relief", adding that it will continue to "pursue cost management measures and explore additional means to shore up our liquidity during this time".

"The recovery of air travel and airfreight is a necessary catalyst for the recovery of global trade and economies that have been severely impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic," it said.

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