SINGAPORE - Seletar Airport has reopened to commercial flights for the first time in more than two years, in another step towards normality for the aviation sector.
The first flight marking the reopening, Malaysian carrier Firefly's FY3124, landed at the airport at around 8.50am on Monday (June 13). Fifty-nine passengers were on board the 72-seater turboprop plane.
Firefly will operate four flights daily for a start - two flights in each direction between Singapore and Subang.
It stopped operating flights to Singapore on March 16, 2020, after the Covid-19 pandemic hit.
Before the pandemic, it had operated six flights in each direction daily between Seletar Airport and Sultan Abdul Aziz Shah Airport.
Firefly chief executive Philip See said at a press conference at Seletar Airport that the airline will look to increase the number of flights plying the route by the end of this year if demand picks up. Prior to the pandemic, about 50 per cent to 60 per cent of the seats were filled on flights on this route.
Mr See said the relatively smaller size of both airports, which results in faster immigration clearance and boarding compared with large airports, offers an important air travel alternative to both leisure and business travellers.
Noting that travellers could leave their homes in Subang and arrive at their residences in Singapore within three hours by using Firefly flights, he said: "That is such a key proposition for corporate passengers and our leisure customers who value time so much."
On whether Firefly's operations could be hampered by manpower shortages, which have been observed at several airports, Mr See said: "At the moment, we don't see that to be a significant problem, simply because at Subang and Seletar, the airport designs are so simple.
"We don't really have the complications you perhaps will see at major transit hubs such as Kuala Lumpur International Airport (KLIA) or Changi Airport."
Mr See said the airline will focus on growing the Seletar-Subang route first before looking into expanding its network between Singapore and Malaysia.
Among other routes that the airline will assess in the future include one between Changi Airport and Penang, but this is still not on the cards yet, he added.
Changi Airport Group (CAG) manages both Changi Airport and Seletar Airport.
Mr Tan Lye Teck, executive vice-president of airport management at CAG, said the airport will work with its partners to ensure a smooth and seamless experience for passengers.
CAG and Firefly said in a joint statement that they have been conducting several trials and system tests to prepare for the resumption of scheduled commercial flights. Airport staff also participated in refresher training sessions and briefings.
In addition, CAG has contacted taxi companies to inform them of Firefly's resumption of flights.
Passengers on the first Firefly flight said they welcomed the convenience brought about by the resumption of the Seletar-Subang route.
Ms Danielle Lee, 47, an engineer based in Kuala Lumpur, said she could get to Subang Airport from her house in just 15 minutes, which was much shorter than the time needed to reach KLIA.
She was in Singapore to attend a seminar, and had travelled regularly to the Republic via Firefly flights for work before the pandemic.
Ms Julia Ng, a healthcare worker who is in her early 30s, said she and her parents had taken Firefly flights weekly to travel between Kuala Lumpur and Singapore before the pandemic.
Ms Ng said: "I was very excited when I received the e-mail welcoming us back on board Firefly flights.
"It's the convenience… the fuss-free travel and check-in, the relatively quick check-out and the location as well."