Thursday 24 November 2016

Singapore on 4 of world's 10 busiest air routes in 2015

But experts say Changi faces stiff competition from other airports in Asia-Pacific region, especially Hong Kong
By Karamjit Kaur, Aviation Correspondent, The Straits Times, 23 Nov 2016

Singapore sits at one end of four of the world's 10 busiest international air routes, it has been revealed. This boosts the country's aspiration to be Asia's key aviation hub despite the economic downturn.

But experts said Changi faces tough competition from other airports in the region, especially Hong Kong airport, which features in five of the top 10 routes.

The busiest route, based on last year's passenger numbers, is Hong Kong-Taipei. This is followed by Jakarta-Singapore. Kuala Lumpur-Singapore, Hong Kong-Singapore and Bangkok-Singapore are also in the top 10 list.

The data, compiled by the International Air Transport Association and presented at an industry conference last week, confirms Asia's dominance in air travel. All the top routes are flights in the Asia-Pacific.

Changi Airport Group spokesman Ivan Tan said the four cities - Jakarta, Kuala Lumpur, Hong Kong and Bangkok - have been on the airport's busiest routes for some time now. Together, they account for more than a quarter of Changi's total traffic. He and other experts expect numbers to go up.

This is unfolding as Asia develops and more people are able to afford air travel, especially with the proliferation of budget carriers and cheaper fares.

Ms Alicia Seah, director of public relations and communications at Dynasty Travel, said: "Due to proximity and affordability, Jakarta, Bangkok, Kuala Lumpur and Hong Kong are top destinations for Singaporeans as well as expatriates residing here looking for short breaks, or meeting and convention venues."

The current global economic uncertainties may, in fact, encourage even more people to take shorter trips as "corporate budgets may be slashed and consumers' confidence lowered", she added.

Mr Andrew Herdman, director general of the Association of Asia Pacific Airlines, said at the group's annual meeting in Manila last week that Asian airlines will continue to play an important role in shaping global aviation. Large populations with rising household incomes in China, India and many South-east Asian countries are the driving force behind strong growth in the demand for air travel in the region, he said.

With the Asia-Pacific established as the world's largest air transport market and growth anticipated over the long term, there is good cause for optimism, he added.

This is despite concerns over geopolitical instabilities, the rise of more cautionary attitudes towards globalisation and free trade, and potential oil price increases, he said.

In an update last week, US plane maker Boeing said almost four in 10 planes expected to be delivered to airlines over the next 20 years will end up in the Asia-Pacific.

Singapore is preparing for the growth with plans to open a fourth passenger terminal next year and a third runway by the early 2020s.

Changi's busiest routes set to grow further
But analyst expects biggest growth to come from beyond Jakarta, Bangkok, KL and HK
By Karamjit Kaur, Aviation Correspondent, The Straits Times, 12 Dec 2016

More than one in four travellers at Changi Airport are either going to or coming from Jakarta, Bangkok, Kuala Lumpur or Hong Kong.

The four cities have not only topped Changi's list for the last decade at least, but also featured among the 10 busiest international air routes worldwide last year.

All 10 are flights within the Asia-Pacific, according to the list compiled by the International Air Transport Association.

Work and leisure are the main reasons why regional visitors come to Singapore, among other purposes.

A Straits Times check with travellers and industry experts found that there are many Indonesians, for example, whose children study here.

Many wealthy Indonesians also come for medical and banking purposes. The Straits Times understands some banks provide services within the restricted areas at Changi Airport so their premium customers do not even need to step outside.

For travel between Kuala Lumpur and Singapore, about a third of passengers do so for business, while others come mainly for leisure.

Those who fly to and from Bangkok and Singapore are mainly holiday makers. Budget carrier AirAsia said Thai residents form about 40 per cent of passengers on the Bangkok-Singapore route and Singaporeans, about 20 per cent.

Chinese passengers make up just over 10 per cent of the total traffic, with the rest from other markets.

The proliferation of Asian budget airlines such as AirAsia, Jetstar and Tigerair has fuelled much of the growth in regional travel in the last few years, experts said.

The demand for flights is so strong that even those who fly full-service carriers such as Singapore Airlines sometimes end up on the waitlist.

Ms Allison Lim, 45, managing director for South-east Asia at a public relations firm, travels once or twice a month to Jakarta for work.

She said: "If I book a week or two in advance, there are no issues but if I... book a day or two before, I often end up on the waitlist."

Changi Airport Group spokesman Ivan Tan said the positive growth trend for the four markets is expected to continue in the medium to long term as Asia develops.

As South-east Asian countries continue to liberalise air links, more regional carriers are also looking for opportunities in Kuala Lumpur, Bangkok and Jakarta, he added. This could translate into more flight options for passengers, as well as opportunities for travellers to explore multi-destination itineraries within the region.

Changi also continues to work with the Singapore Tourism Board and other partners to grow different traffic segments, such as for the Mice (meetings, incentives, conferences and events) industry and the fly-cruise segment, he said.

While Bangkok, Jakarta, Kuala Lumpur and Hong Kong are the four largest markets for Changi and will likely remain so in the future, Centre for Aviation analyst Brendan Sobie expects the biggest growth to come from other routes.

He said: "These four markets are relatively mature and are now suffering from overcapacity. It wouldn't surprise me if we saw some capacity reductions and consolidation in these markets."

Secondary destinations in South-east Asia, and especially in China, are likely to drive most of the future growth at Changi, he said.

He added: "Changi should be increasing its focus on improving its connectivity within Asean and China rather than long-haul services as the regional connections are an important USP (unique selling proposition) that differentiate Changi from competing hubs in other regions."

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