Rise in traffic at Changi and other Asian airports

Arrivals at Singapore's Changi Airport grew 5.9 per cent last year as the airport handled a record 58.7 million passengers.
Arrivals at Singapore's Changi Airport grew 5.9 per cent last year as the airport handled a record 58.7 million passengers.PHOTO: ST FILE

Region outpaces Mid-East for first time in at least 5 years

Airports across the Asia-Pacific are getting more crowded, with the number of international travellers growing by 10.2 per cent last year compared with the previous year.

Arrivals at Singapore's Changi Airport grew 5.9 per cent last year as the airport handled a record 58.7 million passengers. The strong numbers continued this year, with 5.26 million passengers passing through last month, 8.2 per cent more than a year ago.

This was due in part to the usual spike in traffic numbers during the Chinese New Year break last month. Last year, there was no such increase in the same month since the holiday was in February.

For the first time in at least five years, the growth in Asia was higher than in the Middle East, according to data just released by Airports Council International (ACI) - a global trade body for airports.

Worldwide, passenger numbers - international and domestic - grew by 5.5 per cent. This bodes well for the industry in what was a challenging year, ACI said.

"Whether it was caused by Brexit - in the UK - the American presidential election, or the hostilities in Syria, the spectre of economic uncertainty permeated the global economy and the aviation sector throughout 2016," it said in a statement.

While terrorist attacks, including those at Istanbul Ataturk Airport and Brussels Airport, were a setback for the industry, the net impact on air transport demand in Europe was minimal.

Heightened competition with the increased presence of the low-cost business model among carriers, coupled with historically low jet fuel prices, has acted as a catalyst to stimulate demand through lower fare offerings, ACI said.

Strong traffic numbers should continue this year, industry watchers said.

For Changi, besides stronger passenger numbers, aircraft movements were 4.8 per cent higher year-on-year, with 31,600 landings and take-offs, while cargo shipments were steady at 158,690 tonnes, Changi Airport Group said yesterday.

For airlines, though, higher passenger numbers do not always translate into higher profits.

Australia's Qantas yesterday reported a 7.5 per cent fall in underlying pre-tax profit for the six months to end-December, to A$852 million (S$927 million). Revenue slipped 3.3 per cent to A$8.18 billion.

As part of plans to upgrade its product offerings to capture market share, the carrier has unveiled its next-generation premium economy seat. Wider and with more functional space overall, the new seat will debut on the airline's fleet of Boeing 787-9 Dreamliners from October, Qantas said yesterday.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 24, 2017, with the headline 'Rise in traffic at Changi and other Asian airports'. Print Edition | Subscribe