Singapore Air Show

Changi Invests, Grows and Targets “Tourist Mindshare”

 - February 9, 2014, 10:30 PM
Handling on average more than a million travelers a week and almost 1,000 aircraft movements a day, Singapore's Changi Airport is seeing record numbers of flights and passengers.

About 40 years after Singapore decided to build a new national airport at the former RAF Changi–initially anticipating requirements to accommodate 30 million passengers/year–the city state has seen a related decision also to reclaim land from the sea vindicated after traveller numbers reached 30 million in 2004, 40 million six years later and 50 million in 2012.

Last month, Chinese carrier Lucky Air became the newest operator at Changi international airport with its first international service on January 25 from Kunming. The twice-weekly Airbus A320 flight provides the first non-stop service between Singapore and Guiyang.

The operation has begun as the airport registers new records for annual traveler numbers and aircraft movements: 53.73 million passengers and 343,800 landings and take-offs during 2013, respective increases over the previous year of 5.0 percent and 5.9 percent. Air-cargo traffic remained stable at 1.85 million tonnes as stronger imports outweighed slower exports and trans-shipment volumes.

In line with a now well-established practice, owner Changi Airport Group (CAG) continues to invest in expansion and service improvement with projects under way to build a fourth terminal (T4) and to make the airport a more attractive long-haul stopover point, while it looks further ahead with plans for a fifth terminal and a new Changi East development that will include a third runway.

CAG has retained its strategy of robust “forward” planning to ensure ample capacity ahead of demand as it embarks on construction of T4, which will replace a “budget” terminal dedicated to low-cost carriers (LCCs) that handled 18 million passengers and 150,000 flight movements during 2006-12. T4 will have 17 narrowbody stands and space for four for widebody aircraft with “aerobridges” serving both regional full-service operators and LCCs. It is to be built between this quarter and 2017 by Takenaka Corporation, which built and later upgraded T1 and upgraded T2.

The work includes:

– a new 195,000 sq m terminal building with automated baggage sorting, passenger self check-in, and capacity for 16 million passengers/year,

– an airside shuttle to move connecting travellers between T4 and T2,

– a 68-meter ramp control tower to manage apron and taxiway aircraft movements near the end of Runway 2, and

– associated road and parking development.

Among other projects, CAG plans an “iconic signature ‘lifestyle’ destination, which will capture tourism mindshare on the world stage.” Integrated with the existing T1, this aims to raise that terminal’s annual capacity to 24 million passengers. To increase airfield capacity, a 38-hectare land area south of Terminal 3 is being developed with 17 narrowbody and nine widebody remote stands that will increase Changi’s aircraft parking capacity by 24 percent when completed in 2016.

Investment is also being made to support infrastructure development related to construction of up to eight new hangar maintenance bays, five sized to handle widebody aircraft. To accommodate more runway movements, the airport has been reducing departure-separation times, reconfiguring flight routes, and improving runway inspection processes. Finally, an example of Changi’s forward thinking is a plan for a third runway and fifth terminal–“a major, long-term project of unprecedented complexity and scale”–to be operational by about 2025.

Last year’s passenger growth was driven by strong Asia/Pacific regional-travel demand. Traffic to southeast and northeast Asia, close to seven tenths of the total, rose by 8.2 percent and 7.0 percent respectively, while Indonesia remained the top country market, with more than 7.4 million passengers, an 8.8 percent increase stimulated by a new bilateral air-services agreement established 12 months ago [Feb. 13].

In addition to new opportunities for growth on the Singapore-Jakarta route, the second busiest international route in the world, carriers also added service to/from emerging secondary cities such as Bali, Medan and Surabaya. Jakarta was the busiest route, followed by Bangkok’s two airports combined, Kuala Lumpur, Hong Kong and Manila.

The addition of seven new Chinese city links (Guilin, Jinan, Lijiang, Nanchang, Nanning, Ningbo and Wuxi) in 2013 brought the total to 31, confirming Changi’s position as the southeast Asian hub airport with the most Chinese connections. There were also new services to Mandalay (Myanmar), Kalibo (Philippines) and Addis Ababa (Ethiopia), while new (or returned) customer carriers were Bangladesh’s United Airways and Regent Airways, Ethiopian Airlines, Golden Myanmar Airlines, and Swiss International Air Lines.

Overall, Changi Airport handles more than 6,900 weekly scheduled flights by more than 100 airlines to 280 points in about 60 countries. In December 2013, it welcomed 5.12 million passengers, a 4.1-percent increase and the first time it handled more than 5 million passengers in a month; the airport’s daily record was broken on the weekend before Christmas 2013, with 191,800 travelers and 1,100 flights.