Good move for Govt to run T5: IATA chief

Mr de Juniac says Asia is growing fast, but the gap between this growth and infrastructure in air traffic control and airports is widening.
Mr de Juniac says Asia is growing fast, but the gap between this growth and infrastructure in air traffic control and airports is widening.ST PHOTO: LIM SIN THAI

The head of a global airline body has welcomed Singapore's decision not to have private players own and run the future Changi Airport Terminal 5 (T5).

As experience with many other airports have shown, a public-private partnership is not the best option for such critical infrastructure, according to the chief executive officer and director-general of the International Air Transport Association (IATA), Mr Alexandre de Juniac. He did not name the airports.

Speaking to The Straits Times during a visit to Singapore to attend an IATA financial conference, he said: "We are not totally convinced of the efficiency of public-private partnership for such infrastructure."

Governments, with an eye on both national and business requirements, are best placed to ensure a cost-efficient, competitive, service-oriented and customer-focused approach, he said.

"Otherwise, we, the airlines, end up paying for everything" Mr de Juniac said.

Mr Abbas Ismail, course manager for aviation management and services at Temasek Polytechnic, noted that India, which privatised the New Delhi and Mumbai airports, has not gone ahead with earlier announced plans to also privatise airports in Chennai, Kolkata, Ahmedabad and Jaipur.

The Straits Times reported on Monday that the Government has ruled out a public-private partnership for T5.

This means, though, that taxpayers, the airport operator and users, including travellers, are likely to foot the bill.

Private financing remains an option for these stakeholders.

T5 is slated to open at the end of the next decade. By then, Changi Airport will be able to handle up to 135 million passengers a year, up from 66 million today.

Singapore, with its plans to boost Changi's capacity, is well placed to cash in on the air travel boom in the Asia-Pacific, said Mr de Juniac, who assumed IATA's top post three weeks ago.

Elsewhere within South-east Asia, there are serious concerns that airports, including those in Jakarta and Manila, are not moving fast enough, he stressed.

"Asia is growing very fast, but the gap between this expected growth and the infrastructure in air traffic control and airports is widening," he warned.

There needs to be "a significant increase in investment, not particularly in Singapore (where) the infrastructure is moving in the right direction, but in many Asian states," Mr de Juniac said.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 22, 2016, with the headline 'Good move for Govt to run T5: IATA chief'. Print Edition | Subscribe