SINGAPORE - The number of flights that airlines have filed to operate in Changi Airport by the year end has already exceeded more than 80 per cent of pre-Covid-19 levels - with China's opening strategy presenting a "major uncertainty" for Singapore's planners.
Transport Minister S. Iswaran said in Parliament on Monday that his ministry makes projections based on flight plans that airlines file with Changi Airport in advance, as well as the opening of source markets, particularly in the Asia-Pacific.
Already, the recent reopening of Hong Kong, Taiwan and Japan is likely to further increase year-end flights, as airlines respond to demand from Asian travellers, he said.
Pre-Covid-19, China accounted for about 20 per cent of Singapore's tourists.
"China's opening strategy is something that we have to observe and China is a significant source for us. I think that is a major uncertainty that we have to watch out for," Mr Iswaran said.
"We plan with the capacity in mind, but we also need to be vigilant."
He was responding to questions from Mr Sharael Taha (Pasir Ris-Punggol GRC) and Mr Saktiandi Supaat (Bishan-Toa Payoh GRC), who were concerned about Changi Airport's capacity to handle higher year-end flight volumes during the winter season.
Mr Saktiandi was also worried that the authorities might have over-budgeted when it set the target for 80 per cent of pre-Covid-19 flights by the year end. Mr Iswaran said there is predictability to these figures, which are derived from airlines when they submit to Changi Airport for flight slots that they operate.
Referring to ongoing recruitment efforts, Mr Iswaran added that all aviation companies have been "throwing the kitchen sink at this". He had said previously that the sector wanted to hire another 4,000 people by the year end, restoring manpower to 90 per cent of 2019 levels.
"The recruitment efforts of the companies in the sector are currently on track. Changi has managed the recovery relatively well so far," Mr Iswaran said.
Singapore Airlines (SIA) on Monday said it will be increasing its flights to East Asian destinations in the coming weeks, following the easing of border restrictions in Hong Kong, Japan, South Korea and Taiwan.
From Oct 30, there will be an additional daily service to Tokyo’s Haneda Airport, bringing the number of flights SIA operates daily to Japan’s capital to four.
There will also be a second daily flight to Osaka. The service to Fukuoka will increase to three flights per week.
A daily service will be added to Seoul, making it three flights daily to the South Korean capital.
From Oct 31, it will also fly seven times every week to Taipei.
It is aiming to increase its twice-daily flights to Hong Kong to three times, pending regulatory approvals.
SIA senior vice-president of marketing planning JoAnn Tan said: “We are seeing strong demand for air travel towards the year-end holiday season. Many customers are especially keen on destinations that have remained largely closed over the last few years.”