Singapore's aviation sector to get $84 million in additional support to cope with impact of Covid-19

The Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore said the new support measures are critical to reviving Singapore's air hub. PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - The aviation sector here will receive additional government support to the tune of $84 million, as continued recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic is expected to be slow.

This further financial support will help the industry deal with increased operational costs and training schemes, as well as with investment in productivity.

The Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore (CAAS) said in a statement on Tuesday (Dec 29) that the new support measures are critical to reviving Singapore's air hub and preparing it for the recovery of air travel.

"Given ongoing border restrictions and the resurgence of Covid-19 in many countries over winter, air travel will not recover soon.

"It is therefore critical that we maintain our support for the sector to help aviation companies and workers tide through the crisis."

CAAS said $39 million will go towards helping companies deal with extra costs incurred during the pandemic.

Explaining this move, it said that companies have spent significant sums on measures to facilitate safe air travel with minimised public health risks.

It noted that these measures require additional infrastructure, equipment and manpower, but such costs "cannot be recovered from passengers during this period".

"To help mitigate some of these costs, the Government will provide funding to support the development, adoption and deployment of innovative technologies and measures to protect our airport workers and air crew from contracting Covid-19," said CAAS.

"These include aircraft and baggage sanitisation systems."

The Government will also continue to give rebates for fees and charges. For example, CAAS will waive the fees payable by Singapore-based airlines for the airworthiness certificates.

CAAS will also provide 50 per cent rebate for licence fees payable for ground handling and catering services at Changi Airport and Seletar Airport from April this year to March 31 next year.

Meanwhile, about $20 million will be set aside to support the training of workers in the sector.

Pilots, air traffic controllers and aircraft maintenance engineers who have to pay for their licence fees and medical evaluation fees will get a full rebate for fees payable between April this year and March next year.

Aviation workers who are at risk of losing their jobs or being under-employed will be assisted in learning new skills to facilitate a move to other jobs in the sector. More details on the new programmes for these workers will be announced in January.

In addition, Singapore-based airlines will get funding support to retrain their pilots and keep their skills current. CAAS said this was needed in order to ensure a sufficient number of pilots for the eventual recovery of the sector.

Singaporean pilots who have been retrenched by foreign airlines will also be able to apply for a pilot's licence here, as part of a rule change that aims to help them secure a job with the local carriers in the future.

The remaining $25 million will come in the form of an injection into the Aviation Development Fund.

CAAS said: "This will provide an enhanced level of funding support of up to 90 per cent to companies until the end of FY2021 (March 31, 2022) for companies' initiatives.

"Such productivity efforts will improve the attractiveness of the sector to Singaporeans, support the employability of older workers, and reduce the sector's reliance on foreign workforce in the longer-term."

Transport Minister Ong Ye Kung said in a Facebook post that the Covid-19 pandemic has brought about "the toughest challenge in "Singapore's aviation history".

In an accompanying video explaining the measures to support the sector, Mr Ong noted that passenger volumes remain at just 2 per cent of what they were.

He added: "While we do all this, we are also clear that the most important task is to bring back air travel safely, and revive our aviation hub.

"(This) is why we are opening our borders to countries and places which have controlled the virus successfully, and forging air travel bubbles... Together, we will tide through this arduous journey and take our place in the skies again."

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