SINGAPORE — Changi Airport will be suspending operations at Terminal 2 (T2) for 18 months from May, said Transport Minister Khaw Boon Wan in Parliament on Monday (6 April).
“Right now, one terminal is enough to handle the current volume of demand. We can close down one or two terminals,” he said.
“But we must think about post-pandemic recovery. While full recovery this year is unlikely, partial recovery next year is probable. We must be ready to lead, and to ride the recovery when it happens.”
The move comes amid plunging air traffic amid the global COVID-19 pandemic, which has severely impacted Changi Airport and businesses located there.
“Changi Airport is deserted. Airlines, ground handlers, airport shops and restaurants have experienced a sharp fall in business. The workers have seen huge pay cuts, said Khaw.
He spoke following Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat’s announcement of a $5.1 billion Solidarity Budget to help the Singapore economy tide through its one-month circuit breaker period.
Khaw noted that T2 operations will be redistributed across the remaining terminals during the suspension period, with Singapore Airlines (SIA) consolidating its operations at Terminal 3.
“It will save on running costs for the airport operator, retail tenants (and) airlines. Importantly, it also allows us to speed up the current upgrading works at T2 and shorten the project time by up to one year,” he said.
“We will ensure sufficient capacity for all airlines to grow when passenger traffic recovers,” he added.
Khaw also said that the pandemic’s impact on air travel and airport operations would also affect the development of Terminal 5 (T5). “Fortunately T5 was designed to be modular so the construction can be scaled up and down as necessary,” he said.
Noting the importance of SIA as an “anchor” for Singapore’s economy and the number of people whose livelihoods depend on Changi Airport, Khaw explained that this was why swift action was taken to “prevent the loss of strategic capabilities and maintain our position as a reliable air hub”.
“From action by Temasek to back SIA’s fundraising efforts and the government’s Resilience Budget, (these) have been viewed positively by many industry analysts and the conclusion is that SIA looks... ‘well positioned to emerge from the coronavirus crisis as an industry leader’,” said Khaw.
Airline staff not sitting idle
Khaw noted that crew members from SIA, Scoot and SilkAir have not been sitting idle amid the crisis, and have been “actively engaged in our national battle against COVID-19”.
“First, they continue to move around 40 return passenger flights a week to ASEAN capitals and economic hubs in Asia, Australia, Europe and the US,” he said.
While crew aboard short-haul flights do not leave the plane during the turnaround, those serving on long-haul flights stay at airport hotels during their layovers and do not leave their rooms. On all the flights, cabin crew members wear masks and minimise their contact with passengers.
“And that was how we were able to evacuate two batches of Singaporeans from Wuhan in February. That was also how we brought our students back from the UK and the US last month,” said Khaw.
SIA has also been deploying some of is passenger aircraft to carry only cargo. These services fly in essential goods such as medical supplies and food, amid global supply disruptions, said Khaw.
Around 800 crew and ground staff from various aviation companies, including SIA, have also come forward to help at hospitals as care ambassadors, to work as social service officers and to become NTUC customer service associates.
Drop in public transport usage
With the circuit breaker measures due to kick in on Tuesday for workplaces and on Wednesday for schools, Khaw said that a drop in demand for buses and trains is to be expected. He noted that this would be a sign that Singaporeans are either staying home or keeping their actions confined to their immediate neighbourhood.
“This is not the time to use our public transport to get to the other side of Singapore, for your favourite hawker dish. When the transport minister had to suspend ERP, COE and discourage the use of public transport, you know the situation is serious,” said Khaw.
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