The head of the Civil Aviation Authority Singapore (CAAS) believes 2022 will be a year of rebuilding Singapore’s position as a leading international hub.

CAAS director-general Han Kok Juan notes that air travel is essential for Singapore, which thrives on connectivity with other countries. He notes that the coronavirus pandemic has “severely impacted” this connectivity.

CAAS DG - Mr HAN Kok Juan

CAAS director general Han Kok Juan

“The survival and continued success of our air hub is existential to Singapore, an island state which relies on our connectivity to the world for people-to-people exchanges, the flow of goods, capital and talent, and our position as an international financial and business centre,” he says.

“Therefore, government assistance in the last two years has been critical in helping to retain Singapore’s connectivity with the world and in helping companies and workers retain core capabilities built up over many years.”

Han notes that air travel sectors in both Europe and North America have staged strong recoveries, and that this demonstrates the resilience of air travel demand, and how quickly things bounce back when restrictions are removed. Asia, however, will likely trail behind the rest of the world, with the risk of new coronavirus variants

There are some positive signs, however. Singapore’s Vaccinated Travel Lane programme – whereby vaccinated travellers can forgo quarantine – helped boost passenger volumes to 15% of pre-pandemic levels in December 2021, up from 3% in December 2020.

“I am hopeful that 2022 will be a year of recovery and reclaiming and rebuilding Singapore’s position as an international air hub with global connectivity,” he says.

But in line with IATA’s view, he expects a full air travel recovery only in 2026.

“For the longer-term, I expect air travel demand to remain robust, underpinned by strong economic fundamentals, the rise of Asia and a growing middle class. However, the rate of growth may be lower than pre-Covid compound annual growth rate projections due to the effects of Covid-19 on business and leisure travel needs and preferences, as well as the move towards more sustainable travel.”

Han adds that the CAAS is developing a ’Sustainable Air Hub Blueprint’ that will find practical ways to decarbonise aviation. This will encompass a broad range of areas including the airport, airlines, and air traffic management, as well as policy, industrial development, infrastructure, and jobs.