Commentary: China re-opening boost for Changi Airport but full recovery still a way to go

1 week ago 32

SINGAPORE: Walking through Clarke Quay over the weekend, I spotted for the first time in more than three years a Chinese tour group, following the once ubiquitous guide waving a flag. This, more than anything else, symbolises the recovery of Singapore’s aviation market.

China was Changi Airport’s largest source of inbound travellers prior to the pandemic, accounting for 17 per cent of total visitors by air in 2019. In February 2022, Chinese visitor numbers to Singapore were only 10 per cent of February 2019 levels, but this critical market is now recovering steadily.

Changi passenger traffic is at about 80 per cent of 2019 levels in March and should reasonably reach 90 per cent by August. In an update earlier this month, Singapore Transport Minister S Iswaran said that Changi Airport is on track to recover to pre-pandemic levels by 2024 or earlier.

China has driven most of the uptick in passenger traffic since January, when Chinese tourists were allowed to resume international travel, and will account for most of the growth over the next five months.

PROMISING CHINA TRAFFIC SINCE REOPENING

Scheduled seat capacity in the Singapore-China market has been steadily increasing, according to OAG data. It climbed from 12 per cent of 2019 levels in January to 37 per cent in March.

Currently, the Singapore Airlines (SIA) Group has restored 34 per cent of its China capacity, while Chinese carriers have restored 44 per cent of capacity Changi Airport has passenger flights to 19 destinations in China in March 2023, compared to 30 in pre-pandemic March 2019.

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