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​ROUTES: Changi sees strong long-haul interest

Singapore’s Changi Airport continues to look for ways to expand existing markets and open new ones.

Progress with the next phase in Changi’s growth, Terminal 4, is going well, says Lim Ching Kiat, managing director of air hub development at the airport.

So far, the airport has officially named several users of the new terminal: Cathay Pacific Airways, AirAsia, Thai AirAsia, Indonesia AirAsia, Korean Air, and Vietnam Airlines. The airport is in discussions with several other carriers about T4, but Lim declined to specify them.

Lim adds that the outlook is quite bright given Asian traffic growth, and he notes that there are airlines showing significant interest in new long-haul routes.

He notes that United Airlines began a daily direct service on the Singapore-San Francisco route in June with Boeing 787-9, and that Singapore Airlines will launch this route next month with the Airbus A350. In addition, long-haul, low-cost carrier Scoot will launch a direct service to Athens in June 2017 using 787-8s.

Lim says the airport has benefited from improved aircraft performance, and he believes that low fuel costs are helping airlines be more ambitious with routes.

“Before, narrowbody aircraft would mainly serve Southern India, but now they can punch up to Northern India, to cities such as Jaipur and Amritsar,” he says.

Apart from new routes, he says the airport also actively encourages carriers to thicken existing routes, for example increasing frequencies to daily for flights that are only operated a few times a week, and then continuing to grow existing routes.

“We also hope to add more flights to Europe, Africa, and the Middle East,” he says.

He says that a key element of the airport’s strategy is working with Singapore Tourism Board to create packages for transit passengers.

“We want to be more than just a bus stop,” he quips.

Changi had a strong year in 2015, handling a record 55.4 million passengers and 346,330 aircraft movements, representing increases of 2.5% and 1.4%, respectively. On the cargo front, airfreight throughput was stable at 1.85 million tonnes for the year.

Among its top 10 country links, Thailand saw the greatest increase in traffic with a 12.5% growth, followed by Vietnam at 7.2% and China with 7%.

To accommodate future growth, it is developing a fifth terminal and will add a third runway, which will come online in the 2020s.

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