Time to connect the air dots

Time to connect the air dots

SINGAPORE - Changi Airport's closest neighbours are growing, backed by two of Asia's most aggressive low-cost carriers. Down south, Indonesian airline Lion Air has rolled out ambitious plans for Batam's Hang Nadim Airport.

Up north, Malaysia's AirAsia is boosting flights to Senai Airport in Johor Baru.

Both airlines fly direct to Singapore and want to add services at Changi Airport, but are being held back either because they can't get their preferred flight times or air rights to mount more flights.

To get around this, AirAsia has added more flights to Senai and offered free bus rides across the Causeway for Singapore-bound travellers. The airline now flies to 10 domestic points within Malaysia and three international destinations from the Johor airport. It plans to boost capacity.

Lion Air has a similar strategy in Batam. It currently links the airport to 13 domestic points in Indonesia and aims to go international next year. The airline is also planning its own ferry service between the island and Singapore.

Should Changi feel threatened by Hang Nadim and Senai, when it handled 51 million passengers last year, dwarfing the upstarts' respective traffic of about six million and two million passengers?

It's unlikely the folks at Changi are losing sleep over this, though they are no doubt watching developments closely.

Both Lion Air and AirAsia have huge plane orders - more than 450 each. Where they choose to park those planes could affect Changi Airport in the long term. But this does not necessarily have to be in a bad way.

There is good potential for Changi to collaborate with its two closest neighbours.

Assistant Professor Terence Fan from the Lee Kong Chian School of Business at Singapore Management University said: "Changi-Singapore can benefit from the increase in volume and the likelihood of passengers originating from or travelling to Johor Baru or Batam, using Changi as their transit point."

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