Some S'pore flights to be retimed during May Day long weekend

Changi Airport Group said there will be a retiming of a "very small number of flights" to spread them apart. ST PHOTO: LIM YAOHUI

SINGAPORE - Air travellers on a few flights over the May Day long weekend will be affected by changes to flight timings.

In response to queries, Changi Airport Group (CAG) on Thursday (April 28) said that there will be retiming of a "very small number of flights" to spread them apart during the extremely high peak periods.

This comes amid a rapid increase in air traffic, following Singapore's move to open its borders to all vaccinated travellers on April 1.

More travellers are expected over the coming long weekend.

A CAG spokesman said the aviation sector is increasing its capacity to meet growing air travel demand.

It is also working closely with its partners to smoothen on-ground operations.

This would cover all areas, from check-in to airside operations.

"Moving forward, as airlines apply to launch more flights to serve Changi Airport, our aim is to accommodate their slot applications (to operate flights at the airport) as much as possible, subject to suitable timings and our airport partners having the resources to manage the higher traffic," the spokesman added.

"This will ensure a smooth airport experience for our passengers."

Singapore is aiming by the end of this year to restore passenger traffic through Changi Airport to half of the levels seen before the pandemic.

Transport Minister S. Iswaran said last month that the number of workers in the air transport sector was at about two-thirds to three-quarters of the level before the pandemic. 

But this was an improvement over the lows recorded earlier in the pandemic, a period which saw some firms in the sector record attrition rates as high as 50 per cent.

An industry source who declined to be named told The Straits Times that the airport has been more cautious in approving new flights.

This comes amid concerns that passenger service could be compromised if the recovery in passenger traffic outstrips the volumes that the ground-handling firms are currently able to handle. 

Worldwide, airports and airlines have been struggling with manpower shortages with the rebound in air travel. 

British Airways cancelled hundreds of flights this month, on the back of manpower shortages exacerbated by the Covid-19 cases among its staff.

A particular issue cited was the shortage of baggage handlers. 

The CAG spokesman said on Thursday that no flights that were previously approved have been rescinded, in response to a question about whether airlines have been asked to cancel flights in Singapore. 

There are two ground-handling firms - Sats and dnata - at Changi Airport.

They handle matters relating to passengers checking in for flights, food catering and baggage. 

Mr Musdalifa Abdullah, managing director of dnata Singapore, said the firm is able to meet the rapidly increasing demand for its services.

But he also acknowledged that the firm has a number of vacancies across its operations. 

“We aim to fill these vacancies with those highly trained, former dnata employees, who meet our performance criteria but were displaced due to the significant impact of the pandemic on our business,” he said.

“To date, we’ve rehired more than half of our previously laid-off staff.”

During the Good Friday long weekend earlier in April, about 400,000 air passengers passed through Singapore.

This was about 31 per cent of the average weekly passenger traffic in 2019, the last comparable period before the pandemic.

About a month ago, the average weekly passenger traffic was 18 per cent of numbers in 2019.

CAG said operations during the Good Friday long weekend were generally smooth, except for an instance of inclement weather with lightning warnings that caused some delay to baggage delivery.

In a Facebook post on Thursday, the group asked for passengers’ patience and understanding if they encounter queues at the airport this weekend.

It recommended that passengers reach the airport 21/2 to three hours before their flights to check in, and to prepare the necessary travel documents in advance.

For those arriving in Singapore, they are encouraged to fill up the SG Arrival Card electronic health declaration up to three days before arrival.

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