Changi Airport, SIA and Jetstar Asia inch forward with recovery

Taiwanese boutique carrier Starlux landed in Singapore for the first time last Thursday. PHOTO: STARLUX AIRLINES/FACEBOOK

SINGAPORE - Two new airlines landed at Changi Airport this month even as borders remain largely closed due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Japanese low-cost carrier Zipair Tokyo first touched down in Changi Airport on Sept 7. The carrier is operating one weekly flight between Singapore and Tokyo's Narita International Airport.

Meanwhile, Taiwanese boutique carrier Starlux landed in Singapore for the first time on Thursday (Sept 23). It is currently operating twice a week in both directions.

Changi Airport Group (CAG) told The Straits Times it has continued to court new airlines such as Zipair and Starlux to fly to Singapore as part of various measures to protect Changi's position as a major air hub.

Its managing director for air hub development, Mr Lim Ching Kiat, said: "Despite the dire air traffic situation, CAG kept our airline partners updated on the latest border policies and encouraged them to reinstate flights to carry transfer traffic through Changi Airport or bring passengers to Singapore via the various SafeTravel lanes."

He said beyond staying in touch with airlines and travel trade partners, CAG is involved in discussions with government agencies about reopening options.

CAG is also the co-chair of a task force to look into enabling safe and innovative visitor experiences. Through this task force, CAG has worked with the Singapore Tourism Board and other industry partners to introduce travel insurance products for arriving passengers, among other initiatives.

The airport has also restored its cargo network to more than 80 cities and has worked with airlines to increase cargo flow.

This has led to a "healthy recovery" in air cargo throughput, said Mr Lim.

Two new freighters, India's SpiceXpress and Australia's Tasman Cargo Airlines, started operations to Changi Airport in February and June respectively.

The airport has also facilitated the transport of Covid-19 vaccines to Australia, New Zealand and some Asean countries through Singapore, added Mr Lim.

The Singapore Airlines (SIA) Group - comprising SIA and Scoot - said it remains committed to service excellence, product leadership and network connectivity even during the pandemic.

But it has also adapted by putting in place robust health and safety measures to let people travel safely. These efforts led to SIA and Scoot receiving the highest accolades in two health-related audits, said SIA.

SIA said the liquidity it has raised - $21.6 billion since April last year - will also provide it with a firm foundation to navigate current challenges and, at the same time, invest in its products and people.

"Our portfolio strategy, with a presence in both the full-services premium and low-cost segments, gives us the flexibility to offer the right products to match demand as it returns," SIA added.

"Our fleet modernisation strategy will allow us to deliver greater comfort and innovative products to customers."

Meanwhile, budget carrier Jetstar Asia said it is looking forward to rebuilding its network in the coming months.

It will re-establish its interline partnership with Qatar Airways from Monday. This will allow Qatar Airways' customers to connect to and from the 10 destinations that Jetstar Asia flies to with a single ticket itinerary.

CAG's Mr Lim said: "There is pent-up demand for travel - for business, visiting relatives, as well as leisure.

"The fundamentals for the Singapore air hub remain strong, and the high vaccination rate in Singapore puts us in a good position for re-opening our borders."

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