350 airport workers make temporary switch to new jobs

Some staff of ground handling firm dnata (top) as well as JetQuay's Mr Jeyaseelan Sundram (above) are working temporarily for SingPost amid a plunge in air travel demand. PHOTOS: CHANGI AIRPORT GROUP
Some staff of ground handling firm dnata (above) as well as JetQuay's Mr Jeyaseelan Sundram are working temporarily for SingPost amid a plunge in air travel demand. PHOTO: CHANGI AIRPORT GROUP
Some staff of ground handling firm dnata (top) as well as JetQuay's Mr Jeyaseelan Sundram (above) are working temporarily for SingPost amid a plunge in air travel demand. PHOTOS: CHANGI AIRPORT GROUP
Some staff of ground handling firm dnata as well as JetQuay's Mr Jeyaseelan Sundram (above) are working temporarily for SingPost amid a plunge in air travel demand. PHOTO: CHANGI AIRPORT GROUP

Mr Jeyaseelan Sundram had been greeting well-heeled travellers as a guest relations officer at the luxury JetQuay CIP Terminal in Changi Airport for the past two years.

But these days, the 29-year-old goes through his workday without talking to a single customer. In fact, chatter hardly fills the air as he sorts parcels and settles logistics arrangements for Singapore Post.

Mr Jeyaseelan is one of about 350 workers at Changi Airport who have temporarily switched to alternative jobs in sectors such as e-commerce and logistics amid a plunge in demand for air travel.

"We were offered this alternative job placement by our company since our business has been greatly impacted by the travel bans," he said.

"I decided to take up the offer to lessen any impact on my income and keep myself busy. Also, I saw this as a good learning opportunity."

Traffic at the airport has plunged, with Terminal 2 and Terminal 4 shut due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Only 25,200 travellers passed through the airport last month, a 99.5 per cent drop from the same time last year.

As a result, fewer workers are required. Before Covid-19, the airport needed about 60,000 workers for its daily operations.

Changi Airport Group (CAG) told The Straits Times that more than 1,000 job opportunities have been shared with these employees, who were working for CAG's tenants and partners such as JetQuay and ground handling firm dnata.

JetQuay and dnata have a total of about 150 workers now working at SingPost.

CAG said it has also shared suitable job opportunities with retailers, including supermarket chain FairPrice and perfume and cosmetics retailer The Shilla Duty Free.

 
 
 

A CAG spokesman said: "CAG continues to work with our airport partners and tenants to link them up with organisations or companies looking for manpower during this period."

The airport is also working with its partners to help workers tap Workforce Singapore's programmes to upgrade their skills or pick up new ones for alternative roles.

About 20 tenant and airport partners have applied for the programmes, which are set to help more than 1,000 workers, said the CAG spokesman.

Meanwhile, some airport workers are using the downtime to attend SkillsFuture-certified courses to improve their service skills, she added.

The various efforts have lessened the fear of being jobless among some workers, including Mr Jeyaseelan. But while he is thankful for his current job, he yearns to return to work at the airport.

"My passion lies in the aviation sector and customer service, hence I joined JetQuay as a guest relations officer," he said. "I am more than excited to return to work to serve our guests again when the day comes."

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 28, 2020, with the headline '350 airport workers make temporary switch to new jobs'. Print Edition | Subscribe