Changi Airport is recovering & T5 will take it to the next level

Last weekend’s record-breaking F1 attendance was a clear signal to our friends across the world: Singapore’s opened up, yo. #nicethings here. Come on down.  

Changi Airport, naturally, will serve them well. 

Terminal 5 (T5), Changi’s frankly massiveairport as a city”, is on track to its mid-2030s completion too. 

To prepare for this open future ahead, the Government’s applying two important lessons its learnt about air travel resilience over the last few years: you’ve got to modularise airport operations these days, and sustainability is an important direction for the sector.

Recovery and resilience take off

Changi Airport has recovered steadily since Singapore started slowly opening its borders in April this year, shared Minister for Transport S Iswaran in Parliament Monday (Oct 3).

Briefly: Changi’s average weekly passenger traffic was above 60 per cent of pre-pandemic levels at the start of September. The number of flights, similarly, are about two-thirds of what they were before the pandemic; it’ll be more than 80 per cent by year’s-end.     

Its workforce is now about 80 per cent of pre-Covid-19 capacity, and will be about 90 per cent at the end of the year.

Come next week (Oct 11), Changi will be able to take on the same amount of passengers it could pre-Covid: up to 70 million.

Plus, the Government plans and builds for the long term all round.

“The last two years, as you know, we’ve had a pause in the development of T5,” said the Minister. “Because the trajectory of air travel recovery was uncertain in light of Covid-19.” 

But, Minister Iswaran added, as Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong announced at this year’s National Day Rally, T5’s development is on again.  

“The key lessons we have learned include how we can modularise airport operations in order to enhance the resilience of airports, in this case, our civilian airport, to pandemic-type challenges,” said Minister Iswaran.

“Airports are designed for convergence of streams of passengers. And yet when you’re in a pandemic-type situation, the objective is really to separate the streams as much as we can according to their risk categorisation.”

“That inverts the logic of airport operations,” he explained. 

“And so it’s something that has to be factored into design early, not just in terms of processes, but in terms of actual physical design.”

“So modularity, and how it can help combine with processes to enhance the resilience of our airport in the face of possible pandemics in the future, is one aspect,” said Minister Iswaran about T5.

A sustainable blueprint

What of the sheer size of T5 — the majority of 1,080 hectares and three runways? How might it best front Singapore to the world during the next decade and beyond of the climate crisis?

“Another aspect has been sustainability,” said the Minister.  “And how we can focus on ensuring that T5 — but more generally, all of Changi — can really lead the way as a sustainable air hub.”

“And this is why the CAAS [Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore] is now working on developing a blueprint for a sustainable air hub in Singapore.” 

This blueprint, as the Director-General of the CAAS Han Kwok Juan has noted, is “bold, in setting not just longer-term 2050 targets but also more immediate 2030 ones …backed by achievable pathways which government and private sector companies can commit to.”

“While the immediate focus of the Singapore air hub is to revive air travel, we cannot lose sight of the longer-term challenge of climate change,” said Minister Iswaran previously, on the blueprint articulating how Singapore can contribute to the decarbonisation of international aviation as well as sustainability efforts.

“Sustainability is a national priority for Singapore,” mentioned the Minister. 

There are efforts to see how baggage handling at Changi can be further automated too — this is always a very manpower-intensive part of airport operations. 

So: good news about Changi today mixed with greater and greater plans for its future. These plans and lessons, now being applied, will help keep Singapore going (and help keep people coming). 

In fact, by the time T5’s opened, they’ll help our nation’s economy and international credibility take flight.