SINGAPORE - About three million passengers passed through Changi Airport last year (2021).
More than a quarter of them were registered in December alone, according to statistics released by Changi Airport Group (CAG) on Thursday (Jan 20).
The 817,000 passenger movements were more than double the figure registered in November last year. It was by far the highest number of passenger movements since March 2020, before the Covid-19 pandemic rapidly worsened.
But the airport remains a far cry from its glory days, with the pandemic still severely weighing down international air travel.
The total passenger movements last year were about 25 per cent of the figure in 2020, and just 4.5 per cent of the figure registered in 2019.
CAG's managing director of air hub development Lim Ching Kiat said: "While it has been a challenging two years with passenger traffic at Changi at an all-time low, we are heartened to have handled more than 10 per cent of our pre-Covid-19 traffic levels for the month of December.
"Looking ahead, we are optimistic that Changi's traffic will improve as borders continue to reopen and travel confidence recovers."
CAG will also work with airlines and travel agents to increase the number of people passing through the airport, added Mr Lim.
Six new passenger and cargo airlines - Air Premia, Gulf Air, SpiceXpress, Starlux, Tasman Cargo Airlines and Zipair - started operations at Changi Airport in the last year.
On the air cargo front, CAG said it registered about 1.95 million tonnes of air freight movements in the last year. This was 26 per cent higher compared with 2020, and similar to the numbers achieved prior to the pandemic.
CAG said air freight throughput in the later months of last year have also surpassed the levels before the pandemic.
The Changi air hub's recovery has been boosted since the launch of the Vaccinated Travel Lane scheme in September. The scheme allows travellers who are fully vaccinated against Covid-19 to enter the country without having to serve quarantine.
But experts have cautioned that the number of travellers is likely to dip in the coming month, owing to the end of the year-end holiday season and concerns about the Omicron variant.
Aviation analyst Shukor Yusof from consultancy Endau Analytics said the drastic drop in passenger movements compared to before the pandemic shows the depth of devastation which Covid-19 has brought about on Changi Airport.
He added that a quick recovery is not on the cards, given that South-east Asia countries are still in limbo in terms of air travel and Covid-19 protocols. In addition, China, which is a major market for Changi Airport, has remained closed off to general air travel, he noted.
"But I think Changi is well positioned financially to withstand another year of poor traffic," said Mr Shukor.