More passengers can transit through Changi Airport
Gradual opening to transit passengers is a small step to help boost Changi Airport and SIA
A small but significant step will bring more passengers to Changi Airport, which has seen their numbers dry up in the wake of the global pandemic.
The additional traffic will come in the form of transit passengers from Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand, who will now be able to transit at Changi Airport via Singapore Airlines (SIA) Group flights.
This comes just a week after the Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore (CAAS) approved SIA's application to fly in transit passengers from Vietnam and Cambodia.
The five countries are the first from the region whose departing passengers are allowed to transit here after border restrictions to curb the spread of the Covid-19 virus were slightly eased in June.
In the last two months, SIA has also obtained approval to fly in transit passengers from countries such as Australia, China and Italy.
The gradual opening to transit passengers is another in a series of steps taken to help Changi and SIA after the Covid-19 pandemic wiped out demand for air travel.
"These are still baby steps though, but will hopefully reignite aircraft and passenger movements at the airport," said Mr Shukor Yusof of Endau Analytics.
The Changi air hub is seen as a crucial part of the Singapore economy. It had been contributing more than 5 per cent of Singapore's gross domestic product.
Now, it is among the worst-hit segments of the economy, with the transportation and storage sector shrinking at an annualised rate of 80 per cent, in the second quarter of the year, compared with the first.
The latest approval means the SIA Group will fly transit passengers through Singapore from Bangkok, the Indonesian cities of Jakarta, Medan and Surabaya, and the Malaysian cities of Ipoh, Kuching, Kuala Lumpur and Penang.
An SIA Group spokesman said: "While this is a positive development, the situation nonetheless remains extremely fluid and challenging for the group."
Independent aviation analyst Brendan Sobie from Sobie Aviation said transit traffic from the five South-east Asian countries will be limited due to all the lingering restrictions on international travel.
Transport Minister Ong Ye Kung had said last week that even at its peak, transfer and transit passengers accounted for at most a third of Changi's passenger traffic.
At the moment, there are only about 400 transit and transfer passengers passing through Changi Airport daily, which equates to about 150,000 such passengers a year as compared to the pre-Covid-19 levels of almost 20 million a year.
It is not known what this number will rise to with the addition of the new transit passengers.
To revive the ailing local airlines and airport, Mr Ong suggested that Singapore could consider introducing reciprocal green lanes at Changi Airport for tourists from countries where the Covid-19 situation is similar to or better than that in Singapore.
If implemented, it would replace the current quarantine requirements with a stringent testing regime.