The great aviation lift-off: Which countries are ahead in the race?

From Singapore to the US, aviation recovery is gaining speed as borders reopen and travel curbs ease. Here's a look at which countries are ahead in the race.

Why some skies are busier than others post Covid-19

This week, Changi Airport will embark on its first recruitment drive in two years, aiming to hire 6,600 workers in a sign that the worst is over for the aviation industry here.

With China, Hong Kong and Japan being the only major markets that are now still closed - leaving aside Russia and Ukraine which have been beleaguered by war - airports and airlines globally have also been seeing passenger numbers quickly rebound from the depths of the Covid-19 crisis.

Globally, international passenger numbers in the first quarter of the year have reached 42 per cent of pre-pandemic levels. At Changi Airport, the number has also crossed 40 per cent, fast nearing its year-end target to get to 50 per cent of 2019 levels.

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South-east Asia: China curbs, plane shortage a drag on sector

At the exit for domestic arrivals at Bali's Ngurah Rai airport, Mr Suad, 47, a driver with tour company Gratia Holiday, waits for his third guest that day: a woman flying in from Jakarta who will pay roughly 80,000 rupiah (S$7.50) for a transfer to her hotel in nearby Seminyak.

While a smattering of bleary-eyed foreign arrivals weave their way around boarded up shops at the international terminal, here, at the domestic hub, a new Starbucks, a Pizza Hut and an assortment of stores have bloomed forth after years of pandemic-induced hibernation.

While he looks forward to the return of Japanese holidaymakers and an uptick in the numbers of foreign travellers, who would pay a bit more for his Japanese skills, Mr Suad, who goes by one name, says that for now it is the domestic traffic that is paying the bills.

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North-east Asia: Border curbs, Covid-19 test rules hamper recovery

Before the Covid-19 pandemic decimated air travel in the past two years, Hong Kong International Airport (HKIA) ranked among the busiest air hubs in Asia.

It handled 71.5 million passengers in 2019. This nosedived to 8.84 million in 2020, and plunged further to 1.35 million last year as strict border restrictions ground travel to a near halt.

And as other places in the region and worldwide ease border restrictions, Hong Kong's requirements of Covid-19 testing and seven days of quarantine upon arrival continue to deter travellers from flying there.

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US, Europe, Middle East: Airport footfall, passenger traffic bounce back at travel hubs

The roar of jet engines is building in the run-up to the Fifa World Cup 2022 in Doha, with Qatar's Hamad International Airport (HIA) readying itself to welcome over 1.5 million football-crazy fans when the tournament kicks off in November.

In anticipation of the flood of tourists to Qatar, the airport - ranked the world's best last year by Skytrax - has been quietly pursuing an expansion plan to boost capacity to 58 million passengers by the end of this year.

Soccer's global showcase will be held in Qatar from Nov 21 to Dec 18.

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