Singapore's Changi airport prepares for battle to stay on top

The Singapore government has devised a plan to save award-winning ChangiAirport from gloomy trend forecast. Foremost among the dark clouds ahead will be the appearance of long-range aircraft, which will allow airlines to bypass Changi as they fly from Europe toAustralia or the Far East, such as Japan. Alternatively, the airlines could choose from a wide range of airports as their stopover choice, thus increasing the competition. With the next generation of commercial airliners, Changi would have to compete for traffic with airports as far away as Dubai.

In the meantime, regional airports have been sprucing themselves up and are offering themselves as viable options to Changi. Bangkok in particular is seen as a serious threat to Changi as it is better positioned to serve both the Europe-Australia and Europe-Far East routes. Moreover, it has a strong home carrier in Thai Airways.

Changi’s charges are also a matter of concern, particularly ground handling costs, which make up 11 percent of an airline’s operating expenses.

The Singapore government plans to meet these challenges head on – and well in advance. A battle plan has already been drawn up.

The target is to “offer a service better than our competitors at the right price,” says the Director-General of the Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore (CAAS), Wong Woon Liong.

“To airlines, we need to roll out the red carpet.”

“To passengers, Changi shall remain both hassle-free and, for those passengers that need to connect, we shall give them more choices for them to enjoy their time here,” he elaborates.

To achieve that goal, the CAAS is taking tough action. It is allowing a third ground handler to compete for business even as it allows low-cost carriers to operate from Changi.

It is also investing heavily to upgrade the infrastructure and facilities at the airport. The two existing terminals are getting a S$420 million facelift while a third one is being built at a cost of S$1.75 billion.

Singapore is also prepared to build a low-cost terminal that can turn around aircraft in 30 minutes instead of the usual one hour, as part of its aim to cater to the different needs of airlines.

Aware that facilities are not everything, CAAS also intends to excel in customer service. Airport staff is expected to go the extra mile to delight passengers.

And if all this is not enough for Changi to continue to thrive, there is no doubt that the Singapore government will go to further lengths.

The founder of Singapore, Senior Minister Lee Kuan Yew has revealed that in its calculations, the government is prepared to lose its stakes in the national carrier, Singapore Airlines, but not Changi’s air hub status, in the belief that the country depends on connectivity to proper.

By Suzanne Ooi
eTN Singapore

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