Recovery of air passenger traffic at Changi Airport to pick up; volume nears 50% of pre-pandemic level

Singapore has planned for air passenger volume to recover to 50 per cent of pre-pandemic levels by this year. PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - The strong recovery of passenger traffic through Changi Airport is expected to gain momentum with the upcoming June holidays and start of the summer travel period overseas, said Transport Minister S. Iswaran.

With passenger traffic now averaging above 40 per cent of pre-pandemic levels, Singapore is nearing its target of 50 per cent - a goal it had set out to reach by the end of 2022.

Mr Iswaran on Wednesday (May 18) said the Government will reassess the target after the expected wave of travellers in June.

Challenges such as bringing back the airport workforce - Singapore's air transport sector lost nearly a third of its workforce during the Covid-19 pandemic - and gearing up operational systems are not trivial, noted Mr Iswaran at a media conference after the two-day Changi Aviation Summit.

Airports around the world, including Changi, have been grappling with these issues, he said. There have been massive queues and flight cancellations at other international airports this year as air travel demand picks up.

"Our immediate and most important priority is to ensure that during this ramp-up period, which we see continuing through till June at least, that we handle this ramp up well, and ensure that the travel experience at Changi remains intact to the best of our ability," Mr Iswaran said.

"We will take stock after that, because based on the projections, it is quite likely that the momentum will continue, and we therefore need to be prepared for the next wave."

After the summit, which gathered more than 300 aviation leaders at the Sands Expo and Convention Centre to discuss the future of the sector, Singapore's Transport Ministry, the International Air Transport Association, International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) and Airports Council International (ACI) World published a joint communique.

The aviation authorities in 19 countries that signed the statement pledged to speed up the recovery of international civil aviation, promote environmental sustainability and adopt new technologies to drive growth.

Signatories pledged to work towards full recovery of international civil aviation by 2024 through removing testing and quarantine requirements for travellers fully vaccinated against or recovered from Covid-19, taking into consideration the public health situation.

They also committed to encouraging stakeholders to allow more travellers to use contactless processes for safer and faster travel.

Mr Luis Felipe de Oliveira, director-general of ACI World, said the communique will help the aviation sector recover from the pandemic in tandem with progress on the sustainability front.

Aviation companies that supported the communique include aerospace giant Boeing and sustainable aviation fuel maker Neste.

Endau Analytics aviation analyst Shukor Yusof said the communique is another step towards boosting the aviation sector, to take advantage of the current positive momentum.

But he added: "The statement has little weight unless member countries of the ICAO, for example, China, Japan, follow through on suggestions recommended by the signatories."

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Separately, the Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore said it will jointly organise a new conference in the second half of this year, together with the Flight Safety Foundation.

Named the Asia-Pacific Summit for Aviation Safety, the event aims to promote aviation safety and raise safety standards in the Asia-Pacific region.

It will bring together top executives and aviation professionals from regulators, airlines, aircraft manufacturers and maintenance organisations to discuss aviation safety challenges and initiatives.

In subsequent years, the summit venue will alternate between Singapore and another country in the Asia-Pacific.

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