Changi Airport has dropped to be the 58th busiest airport in the world, down from the seventh place during pre-pandemic times, Transport Minister Ong Ye Kung said in Parliament on Tuesday (6 Oct).
Mr Ong revealed in his ministerial statement that the airport is now serving just 1.5 per cent of its usual passenger volume and 17 per cent of the total number of flights.
It currently has direct flights to just 49 cities, compared to the previous 160 cities.
According to the Minister, both Changi Airport Group (CAG) and Singapore Airlines (SIA) are facing “deep crisis” due to the global travel restrictions amid the coronavirus pandemic.
He noted that SIA had recorded its largest quarterly loss on record in the quarter ended on 30 June, and it is “trying its best to reduce cash burn, preserve core capabilities, and explore all ways to generate revenue”.
Mr Ong also revealed that a recently concluded agreement between SIA and its pilots’ union for pilots to take deeper pay cuts, have enabled the group to reduce the number of retrenchments from 2,400 to 2,000.
“Without the recent major capitalisation exercise, there would not be an SIA today, but it is far from being out of the woods,” he remarked.
Noting that some MPs – including Hougang MP Dennis Tan and Sengkang GRC MP Jamus Lim – had asked if the Government would support the idea of ‘flights to nowhere’ to generate revenue, Mr Ong said this has become a moot point as SIA had earlier on scrapped this idea.
As for Prof Lim’s suggestion to impose an environment tax on the carrier should the flight have taken off, Mr Ong noted that it will “worsen the crisis for SIA”.
“What I will not contemplate is to impose on them an environment tax at this time, as Associate Professor Jamus Lim indicated in his question, because that will just worsen the crisis for SIA.”
Meanwhile, the lower passenger volumes and fewer flights have resulted in Changi Airport Group (CAG) losing its revenue streams.
The Minister pointed out that shops and restaurants at the airport are getting fewer customers and many stores have closed. This prompted CAG to dip into its reserves, preserve cash and retain core capabilities.
Additionally, Terminal 5 will be paused for two years in order to focus on the pace of air travel recovery, said Mr Ong in response to a question raised by Bukit Panjang MP Liang Eng Hwa on the issue.
“The Government will continue to support SIA, CAG and other companies in the aviation sector as much as we can.”
He also highlighted that the sector benefits from the highest tier of support from the Jobs Support Scheme, and cost relief through the Enhanced Aviation Support Package as well as temporary redeployment programmes for workers who are affected.