Revive air hub: Singapore may expand reciprocal green lanes for general travel

SIngapore Transport Minister Ong Ye Kung said Covid-19 set Changi Airport back by at least 40 years. ― Reuters pic
SIngapore Transport Minister Ong Ye Kung said Covid-19 set Changi Airport back by at least 40 years. ― Reuters pic

SINGAPORE, Aug 14 — In a bid to revive its status as an air hub amid Covid-19 pandemic, Singapore may consider unilaterally opening up to passengers from certain countries or regions which have kept the virus under control, says newly minted Transport Minister Ong Ye Kung.

“We can proliferate Reciprocal Green Lanes for business travel and also expand them for general travel,” he said in his National Day Speech at the ministry here today.

“Serving 14-days isolation is a major deterrent to travellers and we may have to consider replacing this with a rigorous testing regime,” he added.

Ong noted that health and economic considerations are not at odds, “we will find ways to revive our air hub and keep Singapore safe.”

Thus far, Singapore has Reciprocal Green Lane arrangements with China and Malaysia.

Ong said Covid-19 set Changi Airport back by at least 40 years, to 1981 when Terminal One first opened.

“In the early 1980s, many airlines had not decided to come to Changi. We went all out to secure airlines, including unilaterally opening up our skies to invite the carriers to come to Changi.

“Today, the airlines are here, and Changi has grown into a world-class airport,” he said.

But the challenge now is to restore passenger volume, while keeping virus transmission under control, said the minister.

“A good place to start are the countries and territories where the virus transmission risk profiles are similar to or better than ours. Including transfer-transit traffic, they account for about 40 per cent of our pre-Covid-19 passenger volumes,” he said.

Ong revealed that Changi Airport used to record over 1,000 aircraft movements a day, now it is about 150.

It was the 7th busiest airport in the world in terms of international passenger traffic, but have dropped to 50th, said the minister.

“Worse, we have no domestic air travel to fall back on,” he said, adding that Changi Airport has tried to bring back demand in various ways.

“Cargo planes are still using Changi, but they are only about 5.0 per cent of total flights pre Covid-19. We have started to serve transfer and transit passengers, but even at its peak, they accounted for at most a third of total Changi passenger traffic.

“Today we are serving only a trickle of that, at 400 passenger movements a day, or 150,000 a year, compared to our pre-Covid-19 volume of close to 20 million a year,” he said. — Bernama

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