SINGAPORE - Singapore's aviation sector has to hire another 3,500 to 4,000 workers by the end of the year to cope with an expected surge in travellers during the winter period in the Northern hemisphere, said Transport Minister S. Iswaran.
Starting from October, Singapore needs to prepare for flight numbers to hit about 80 per cent of 2019 levels, up from the current 64 per cent, he said on Tuesday (Aug 30). Passenger numbers are now averaging 58 per cent, having increased steadily since Singapore reopened its borders five months ago.
Speaking about the need for manpower to match the increase in traffic, Mr Iswaran said the sector shed about 10,000 workers in the last two years - about a third of the 35,000 workers in 2019 before the Covid-19 pandemic.
In the first six months of this year, it has already hired more than 4,000 people. Hiring another 4,000 would bring manpower levels to about 33,000 people.
"This will be no mean feat. It is a very steep ramp-up, not just in terms of numbers, but we also need to make sure that the people who come in are trained up to prepare for operational requirements," Mr Iswaran said during a visit to Changi Airport's Terminal 4.
"This is a major exercise and all the stakeholders are very focused on this."
The sector's intense recruitment drive mirrors the situation at almost all airports worldwide, as passenger numbers strongly rebound from the depths of the pandemic. In Europe, airports are facing problems with finding trained personnel, as well as getting visas for migrant workers across borders.
In Singapore, preparations are going well, Mr Iswaran said.
"Based on all the preparatory work, we are well on track to meet our goal to make sure we are able to manage about 70 million passengers (by year-end)."
Before the pandemic, Changi Airport handled 70 million passengers a year. With T4 opening on Sept 13 and the southern half of Terminal 2 opening in October, the airport's ability to handle passengers up to pre-Covid-19 levels will be fully restored.
While T4 will officially open only on Sept 13, five flights were scheduled to leave the terminal on Tuesday, in what the industry calls trial or orientation flights ahead of official operations to familiarise airline, security and airport staff with the new terminal.
The first flight to depart from T4 on Tuesday was a Cathay Pacific flight to Hong Kong. It carried about 130 passengers, said Cathay Pacific. Four other flights, including another from Cathay Pacific and three from Korean Air, were set to depart later.
When open, T4 will add a handling capacity of 16 million passengers a year to Changi Airport.
The terminal opened in 2017 and was touted as the most automated terminal, with contactless immigration counters and security screening that uses 3D technology which allows passengers to keep their laptops and tablets in their bags during the screening process.
It was shut in May 2020 after passenger traffic plummeted at the start of the pandemic.
When T4 reopens its doors, there will be several retail stores and restaurants including duty-free shopping, Charles & Keith and TWG Tea.
Other highlights such as Chandelier - a red playground with a 16m-high playing structure - and a heritage zone featuring shophouse model facades and LED screens that play theatrical performances, will also be open to visitors.
16 airlines slated to relocate to T4
Sept 13: Cathay Pacific, Korean Air
Sept 15: Air Asia Group - AirAsia Berhad, Philippines AirAsia, PT Indonesia AirAsia, Thai AirAsia
Sept 20: Bamboo Airways, Cebu Pacific, HK Express, Jeju Air, Juneyao Air
Sept 22: Thai VietJet Air, VietJet Air, Vietnam Airlines
Oct 25 (unconfirmed): Jetstar Group - Jetstar Asia Airways, Jetstar Airways