Singapore Budget 2020: Aviation sector to get $112m package to tide over coronavirus outbreak; Changi Airport to get property tax rebate

The taxi queue at Changi Airport Terminal 3 on Feb 6, 2020. The aviation sector is among the sectors hardest hit by the coronavirus outbreak. ST PHOTO: ARIFFIN JAMAR

SINGAPORE - The aviation sector, which is among the sectors hardest hit by the coronavirus outbreak, will get a $112 million package to help defray business costs and protect jobs, Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat said on Tuesday (Feb 18).

The Aviation Sector Assistance Package will be co-funded by the Government, the Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore (CAAS) and Changi Airport Group (CAG).

Assistance will be provided for a six-month period, and aims to give immediate relief to companies affected by the coronavirus outbreak.

He said: "The tourism and aviation industries are most directly affected. Visitor arrivals to Singapore and air traffic through Changi have declined, and with it, hotel occupancy rates.

"We will implement a suite of measures, comprising rebates on aircraft landing and parking charges, assistance to ground handling agents, and rental rebates for shops and cargo agents at Changi Airport."

Changi Airport will also get a 15 per cent property tax rebate.

In addition, all airlines that operate flights between mainland China and Singapore will also get assistance, having been hard-hit by the virus outbreak, said Mr Heng.

As such, airlines that had operated the routes will get landing credits.

Carriers such as Singapore Airlines, which continue to operate scheduled passenger flights between mainland China and Singapore during the outbreak period, will get a 100 per cent landing charge rebates for these flights.

All Singapore carriers operating scheduled flights will also get to save an estimated $6 million on regulatory fees, as a result of the CAAS providing a 50 per cent rebate on fees for new and renewed Certificates of Airworthiness.

These carriers are required to pay the fees on an annual basis.

Various other rebates will also be provided to help airlines, with the freighter airlines and cargo agents set to get some help as well.

More details will be provided by the CAG and CAAS to affected companies.

Transport Minister Khaw Boon Wan had said earlier this month that the impact of the coronavirus outbreak on the aviation sector will be worse than that of the severe acute respiratory syndrome (Sars) outbreak in 2003.

This is because China is now a much larger market and a much larger source of tourism for Singapore and the region, he said during a visit to Changi Airport.

In terms of retail spending, the Chinese make up one-third of Changi Airport's retail sales.

He also said China travellers accounted for 5 per cent of Changi Airport's travelling traffic during the Sars crisis.

"Now, they account for 11 per cent, so it is double in terms of percentage and even more by absolute numbers."

Singapore Airlines said earlier on Tuesday that it has cancelled more than 100 Singapore Airlines and SilkAir flights between Singapore and countries like Japan, South Korea, Germany and the United States between March and May due to weak demand amid the Covid-19 epidemic.

Its budget carrier arm Scoot had earlier suspended flights to China till late March.

On Tuesday, Mr Heng also announced help for the maritime sector to tide over the impact of the coronavirus outbreak.

The Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore will be giving 50 per cent port dues concession to cruise ships and regional ferries with a port stay of not more than five days, and passenger-carrying harbour craft.

This will be on top of any existing concessions. It will be implemented from March to August and will cost about $1 million.

The help comes amid news of major cruise lines cancelling their sailings from Singapore or pulling out of Asia entirely for the remainder of the season.

Some cancellations have come within the past several days as more ports in the region shut their doors to cruise ships amid fears over the spread of the coronavirus.

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