Long-haul sector poses challenge for Changi

Long-haul sector poses challenge for Changi

Changi Airport offers travellers extensive connections within Asia and to Australia as well as convenient transfers to Europe and North America.

But its footprint in the Middle East and especially Africa, a fast-growing air travel market, is limited.

With the arrival of Ethiopian Airlines last week, there are now 17 weekly services from Singapore to Africa, compared with about 30 each from Bangkok and Hong Kong.

There are several reasons for the gap. First, Asia has been the fastest-growing region. In recent years, low-cost carriers like Tigerair, Jetstar and AirAsia have grown a significant market share out of Singapore with new flights and destinations.

Singapore Airlines (SIA), its regional arm SilkAir and budget offshoot Scoot are also expanding their network in the region. The result has been a boom in intra-Asian links from Changi.

By the year end, for example, the airport will be connected to 28 cities in China - more than for any other country from the airport.

Singapore will also have more air links to China than any other South-east Asian nation.

Developing long-haul markets, a space dominated mainly by full-service carriers like SIA, presents a bigger challenge for Changi.

To boost traffic, an airport can do two things - lure foreign carriers or encourage home airlines to spread their wings farther and faster.

Airlines have seen oil prices go up in recent years while at the same time, competition has intensified. As a result, they have cut fares and seen yields go down. This was a key reason why SIA recently axed its non-stop flights to Los Angeles and New York.

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