Passenger traffic at Changi shows signs of recovery 

Jan 2022

By Claudia Wong

Into its second year, Covid-19 has continued to cause unprecedented disruption to the travel and aviation industry with the ever-changing travel restrictions. The decimation in passenger traffic caused by Covid-19 has not recovered to anywhere near pre-pandemic levels.

At Changi Airport, three million passenger movements were handled in 2021, a far cry from the 68 million passenger movements registered in 2019. However, there has been a steady month-on-month increase compared to 2020. Changi Airport ended the year recording 817,000 passenger movements in the month of December, its highest since the pandemic struck. 

New Airlines and City Links at Changi

In 2021, Changi Airport welcomed six passenger and cargo airlines - Air Premia, Gulf Air, SpiceXpress, Starlux, Tasman Cargo Airlines, and ZIPAIR to its family of airlines.  Two new passenger city links to Bahrain and Vancouver were also established. 

The new airlines received a warm welcome at Changi

With the launch of the Vaccinated Travel Lane scheme which covered over 20 countries, many more airlines returned to the skies at Changi. On 16 December 2021, Jetstar commenced four weekly Melbourne – Singapore services, with all arrival flights designated as Vaccinated Travel Lane flights. The launch of this service also marked the return of Jetstar’s B787 aircraft to international service after a long hiatus, with Singapore being its first destination.

The Jetstar (left) and KLM (right) crew were delighted to be back!

Air Cargo the lifeline for essential goods

For air cargo, Changi Airport’s airfreight movements have remained relatively resilient and recovered strongly, with airfreight throughput in later months surpassing pre-pandemic figures. Air trades (imports and exports) in particular have exceeded 2019 levels by 9% for 2021.

With new freighter operators and airlines launching passenger aircraft for cargo conveyance only (PACC) flights, this has helped support the flow of essential goods such as Personal Protective Equipment, pharmaceuticals and food supplies, minimising supply chain disruptions.

Air Premia currently operates PACC flights, and is looking to operate passenger flights once the Vaccinated Travel Lane programme is extended to them

On 25 December 2021, South Korea’s Air Premia launched a weekly PACC flight from Incheon to Singapore, providing additional capacity to support the strong air cargo demand on the Singapore-Korea trade lane. Inbound cargo consists of test kits, agricultural products, the much-loved Korean strawberries, e-commerce goods and fabric, while outbound cargo includes perfumes and cosmetics, food products, as well as electronic parts. In February 2022, Air Premia plans to double this frequency to a twice weekly flight.

Mr Sean C. Kang, Sr. Executive Vice President, Air Cargo Business, Air Premia, said, “Singapore is a key air hub in Asia at the centre of passenger and cargo traffic, thus Changi was chosen as a priority destination for Asia. In our current initial phase of operations, Air Premia will focus on import and export cargo, and we expect to handle transhipments when our fleet and network expands.

“At present, the Vaccinated Travel Lane program is applied to selected flights on the Singapore-Korea route. Once the Vaccinated Travel Lane programme is extended to Air Premia, we look forward to operating passenger flights to Singapore.”

For its efforts to grow the Changi air cargo hub, it was named the ‘Best Airport – Asia (Over 1m tonnes)’ at the 2021 Asian Freight, Logistics and Supply Chain (AFLAS) Awards by Asia Cargo News and ‘Asia Pacific Airport of the Year’ at Payload Asia Awards 2021.

Changi welcomed United Airlines back with its four weekly services operating between San Francisco and Singapore on 7 Jan 2022

Mr Lim Ching Kiat, Managing Director of Air Hub Development at Changi Airport Group, 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% of our pre-Covid 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. We will actively engage our airline partners to resume flights and as well as collaborate with overseas and local travel agents to support travel.

“On the air cargo front, we continue to enhance Changi’s handling standards, capabilities and capacity. This has allowed Changi to be well-placed to handle vaccine shipments and important cargo when they first arrived, not just for Singapore but also to the region.”

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