Changi's busiest links with four cities

South-east Asia and China set to drive most of the growth of airport

More than one in four travellers at Changi Airport is 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, 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 in Singapore.

Many wealthy Indonesians also come here for medical and banking purposes.

The Straits Times understands some banks provide services within the restricted areas at Changi Airport so that 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 visit mainly for leisure.

Those who fly to and from Bangkok and Singapore are mainly holidaymakers.

AirAsia said Thai residents form about 40 per cent of passengers on the Bangkok-Singapore routes and Singaporeans, about 20 per cent.

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

Asian budget airlines like AirAsia, Jetstar and Tigerair have 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 like Singapore Airlines sometimes end up on the waitlist.

Ms Allison Lim, 45, managing director (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 don't plan early and 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 by a wide margin and will likely remain so in the future, Centre for Aviation's analyst Brendan Sobie expects the biggest growth to come from other routes.

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

This article was first published on Dec 12, 2016.
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