Changi looks to Batam to boost traffic

A Majestic Fast Ferry vessel leaving HarbourFront ferry terminal. Changi Airport's tie-up with the firm involves ferries shuttling between Batam Centre and Tanah Merah terminals, and buses from the terminal to the airport.
A Majestic Fast Ferry vessel leaving HarbourFront ferry terminal. Changi Airport's tie-up with the firm involves ferries shuttling between Batam Centre and Tanah Merah terminals, and buses from the terminal to the airport.ST PHOTO: ARIFFIN JAMAR

It will offer ferry-bus link that makes it convenient to get to airport from Indonesian island

Changi Airport has set its eyes on Batam, to grow passenger traffic.

It plans to offer a ferry-bus service to make it convenient for travellers from the Indonesian island to get to Singapore, to then connect to other flights.

Ferries have already started to shuttle between Tanah Merah and Batam Centre ferry terminals. From next week, shuttle buses will ply between the Tanah Merah ferry terminal and Changi Airport.

A return ferry ride, with taxes and other terminal charges included, costs $49 while a one-way bus ticket will cost $2.

There are up to five sailings and 10 bus services a day, with the total journey taking more than an hour.

Before the tie-up with Majestic Fast Ferry, the only ferry link from Batam Centre was to HarbourFront ferry terminal.

Apart from targeting travellers from Batam, Changi Airport has also been offering bus services, operated by Transtar Travel, to and from Johor Baru since 2010.

There are 12 services a day, starting at Changi Airport and ending at Johor Baru's customs and immigration complex.

A return ferry ticket, with taxes and other terminal charges included, costs $49 while a one-way bus ride will cost $2.

There will be up to five sailings and 10 bus services a day, with the total journey taking more than an hour.

Last year, the average monthly ridership hit about 14,000, 25 per cent higher than the year before that, Changi Airport Group told The Straits Times.

Spokesman Ivan Tan said that with links to about 90 countries, Changi Airport offers extensive connectivity for outbound travellers residing in the south of Malaysia, such as Johor Baru, and nearby Indonesian islands Batam and Bintan.

Travellers heading to international destinations have the option to travel to Jakarta, or to Kuala Lumpur for those in Johor, but many prefer to fly from Singapore, where there are more international links, industry observers said.

Batam, for example, has an airport big enough to handle an Airbus A-380, the world's largest passenger plane. It serves mainly domestic routes, with flights to Jakarta, Surabaya, Medan and Padang, among other Indonesian cities.

Another segment that is growing for Changi Airport is the fly-cruise sector, Mr Tan said.

To improve the experience for customers, Sats, Changi's biggest ground handler which runs the Marina Bay Cruise Centre Singapore, offers check-in facilities at Changi Airport for selected travellers who arrive at the airport with confirmed cruise departures.

At the cruise centre, Sats also has a tie-up with airlines, including Singapore Airlines and SilkAir, to offer check-in facilities for cruise customers with departing flights.

Dynasty Travel's director of marketing communications Alicia Seah said: "Travel agents are already tapping the Bintan, Batam and Johor markets for our outbound tours, so the ferry-bus initiative by Changi Airport is timely."

It is a sizeable market, she added, with about half a million people in Johor Baru, more than 1.1 million in Batam and about 200,000 in Bintan.

She said: "These markets currently account for about 3 to 5 per cent of our volumes, but there is good potential and we look forward to growing this segment with the ease and convenience that the new ferry and bus service will provide."

Mr Max Tan, managing director of Majestic Fast Ferry, said there has been a gradual increase in passenger numbers since the launch of the Batam-Tanah Merah service.

Numbers are expected to increase further with Terminal 4 opening later this year and Jewel Changi Airport - a mainly retail complex - due to be unveiled in 2019, he said.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 27, 2017, with the headline 'Changi looks to Batam to boost traffic'. Print Edition | Subscribe