ROUTES: Changi to capitalise on intra-Asian growth

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Singapore’s Changi International Airport plans to continue to grow by capitalising on its position as a hub for intra-Asia-Pacific traffic, and points out that the competition with Gulf hubs need not be a “zero-sum game”.

“Airports in the Gulf region have stepped up their pace of development, which has been helped by their close proximity to Europe. The larger aircraft fleet of major Gulf carriers has also enabled airlines to open up new routes and increase capacity on existing services,” says Lim Ching Kiat, Changi Airport Group’s senior vice-president for market development.

“While airports and airlines in the Gulf region have grown very quickly, we do not see the competition as a zero-sum game as the catchment areas served by the respective airports are different. For example, Gulf airports and carriers will not have direct access to the growing intra-Asia traffic.

“With connections to 25 destinations in China and 46 cities in Southeast Asia including 15 in Indonesia, Changi is entrenched in Asia and we see numerous opportunities to partner Gulf carriers to tap demand in the region.”

Passenger traffic at Singapore Changi Airport has increased by 11% for the year to date, with low-cost traffic going from virtually zero seven years ago to about a quarter of the total last year.

“The demand for travel within Asia will create growth for low-cost services in the region. As Singapore continues to stay relevant as a destination for business and leisure travellers, low-cost services will continue to thrive,” says Lim.

“There are many secondary markets in key Asian economies such as China, India and Indonesia where international services are still untapped and this provides potential new markets for both low-cost as well as full service carriers to explore.”

Secondary Asian markets that Changi is actively promoting include Visakhapatnam in India, Vientiane in Laos, Padang in Indonesia, Qingdao in China and Paro in Bhutan.

Changi’s connectivity also makes it “relevant” for traffic between Africa and Asia. There is “strong demand” on the Russian market, and Europe remains a focus, with Swiss International Air Lines starting Zurich-Singapore services from May 2013.

Changi continues to invest in its infrastructure and completed a Singapore dollar 500 million ($410 million) makeover of Terminal 1, its oldest, earlier this year. Its Budget Terminal is making way for a much larger Terminal 4 that will cater to low-cost carriers. A government committee is also looking into its future requirements, including a third runway and new terminal buildings.