In an exclusive interview with ShowNews on the eve of the show, Singapore Minister of Transport Lui Tuck Yew spells out why aerospace and transportation are key to the future prosperity of the island nation.
ShowNews: How does Singapore’s position as a leading international hub help the overall economy in Singapore?
Lui Tuck Yew: The aviation sector contributes 6% to Singapore’s economy and generates employment for more than 160,000 workers. Our airport’s efficient connectivity to some 230 cities through about 7,000 weekly flights contributes extensively to Singapore’s leading position as a business and financial hub for the region.
SN: What are some of the initiatives under way to reinforce Singapore’s position as a leading international air hub in Asia Pacific?
LTY: We will be making major infrastructure investments. The airport must have enough capacity to accommodate long-term growth. With this in mind, we are developing a holistic, long-term plan for the expansion of. We are working on four ambitious projects: a new mega Terminal 5, a three-runway system, Terminal 4 and Jewel, which is an iconic project that will expand the capacity of Terminal 1 and provide a breathtaking transit and travel experience. When completed, Changi Airport will more than double in capacity.
We will also continue to promote a liberal air services policy, to encourage airlines to fly to and through Singapore from cities all around the world. This will help enhance Changi Airport’s connectivity and, in turn, our value proposition as an air hub.
At the same time, we are seeking to improve the passenger experience for those who use Changi Airport. We want to make air travel more convenient and more comfortable. For example, Changi has recently started a trial of self-boarding gates at one of the terminals, and it will be test-bedding self-service and automated check-in and immigration clearance facilities in the upcoming Terminal 4.
SN: Singapore faces a lot of new competition from other air hubs, particularly those in the Middle East. What can be done so that Singapore can maintain its leading position as an international air hub?
LTY: There is indeed strong competition from air hubs in the Middle East. These hubs are well positioned to serve emerging markets in Africa and West Asia as well as Europe. However, Singapore is better positioned to serve the Asia-Pacific region – which will be the fastest growing region in the world over the next two decades in terms of passenger movement.
SN: Do you see low-cost carrier (LCC) traffic becoming more than 35% of Changi Airport’s traffic, or do you see it remaining less than that?
LTY: In 2013, 31% of passengers at Changi Airport traveled on low-cost carriers, compared to 28% in 2012. This percentage has been increasing over the recent years, and is likely to continue to increase. I note that in Europe, LCCs have about half of the market. We have no reason to believe that LCCs in Asia do not have similar potential.
The LCC model in Asia is evolving. Asia has become the base for many medium- and long-haul LCCs. We are also seeing more passengers connecting between LCCs and full-service carriers (FSCs). Changi Airport is in the process of redeveloping the former Budget Terminal into a new Terminal 4, which will serve both LCCs and FSCs. T4 is designed to facilitate efficient passenger processing and quick aircraft turnarounds, which are especially important to the operations of LCCs.
SN: Are there any international trade agreements or air services agreements coming up that will help Singapore’s aviation/airline industry? What’s the latest on ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) Open Skies? What can we expect to see happen at the end of 2015?
LTY: We are keen to work with willing country-partners on air transport services liberalization. This is a win-win, because it facilitates growth in bilateral trade, investment and tourism, and provides a broader range of choices to consumers in both countries.
ASEAN Open Skies will substantially liberalize air services in the ASEAN region. I expect that by 2015, ASEAN member states will grant unlimited market access to one another’s carriers.
SN: Is anything being done to improve air links between Singapore and Indonesia?
LTY: We are working closely with the Indonesian authorities and carriers to continually improve air links. Over the last year, flights between Singapore and Indonesia grew by about a third.
SN: Do you see any opportunity to maybe turn Seletar Airport into a secondary commercial airport for Singapore?
LTY: Seletar Airport has the potential for many different uses, including business aviation and training flights. We are studying the options and will announce our decision when the studies are completed.