Singapore

Changi remains 6th busiest airport

Low jet fuel prices, affordable air travel key to rising air transport demand

Changi Airport, which handled a record number of travellers last year, retained its position as the world's sixth busiest for international passenger traffic.

The top three airports were Dubai International Airport, London's Heathrow Airport and Hong Kong International Airport.

Changi grew faster than both Heathrow and Hong Kong, with traffic increasing by 6.1 per cent year-on-year to 58.2 million passengers, based on data compiled by Airports Council International (ACI) - a trade body that represents airports.

In an update on Monday, the ACI said globally, airports handled almost 7.7 billion travellers last year, registering increases in all regions except Africa.

Asia again led the charge, accounting for more than a third of the total traffic.

The air cargo sector held its own last year, with markets experiencing a "revival" in the second half.

This was despite a backdrop of economic uncertainty regarding trade policies in the United States and United Kingdom, two of the world's largest aviation markets, the ACI said.

"When we look at the traffic data over the last two decades, we get a sense that aviation has entered a new era of unprecedented growth," said ACI director-general Angela Gittens.

Historically low jet fuel prices and affordable air travel on account of low-cost carriers on many short and medium-haul routes have acted as catalysts in stimulating air transport demand, she said.

Rapid urbanisation has also played a key role in the growth.

Still, the industry must be aware that there are impediments that could curtail the rise in demand, Ms Gittens said.

"Specifically, these are related to geopolitical unrest, terrorism and threats to security in certain parts of the world.

"Physical capacity considerations and potential bottlenecks in air transport infrastructure also pose challenges in accommodating future air transport demand," she warned.

Airports like Changi are already preparing for the future with capacity investments, experts said.

Terminal 4 will open on Oct 31. Meanwhile, a third runway is being prepared for commercial flights and new measures, such as reduced separation between flights, are being rolled out to increase air traffic capacity.

Changi is moving in the right direction, said Mr Ramanathan Mohandas, head of the diploma programme in aviation management at Republic Polytechnic.

Apart from expanding capacity and investing in service initiatives, the airport has also been reaching out to airlines to launch new routes and products, he pointed out.

This month, European carrier Norwegian will launch flights between London's Gatwick Airport and Singapore - the longest budget flight ever operated.

The 10,841km trip will take just under 13 hours for those travelling to Singapore, and about an hour longer from here to Gatwick.

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