Singapore’s award-winning Changi airport will continue to see its Terminal 2 shut down and its previously under-construction Terminal 5 on hold as the city-state and airport continue to deal with the fall-out of the COVID-19 pandemic and its effects on international aviation.
Terminal 2 had been scheduled to be shuttered for about 18 months for renovation work, but those plans were accelerated when the pandemic hit. Terminal 5 was under construction at the same time and the government decided to put that work on hold when it became clear air travel would be decimated by the viral outbreak. Changi officials told local media earlier this week that Terminal 2 operations would resume in phases in tandem with traffic recovery. The same reports said aviation analysts don’t expect the terminal to reopen this year. The airport has also closed its Terminal 4 due to the pandemic.
Terminal 5 was scheduled to be completed around 2030. It is expected to cover a land area equivalent to about 667 football fields and was earmarked to provide future capacity for the airport to ride on the projected growth in air travel. It was to handle up to 50 million passengers a year in its initial phase, according to local media. Singapore’s Ministry of Transport (MOT) told local media on Monday that the two-year pause it had announced in May 2020 will enable the authorities to have more clarity on the pace of air travel recovery before deciding how the project should proceed. “We are reviewing these plans as we continue to rebuild our air hub, and will provide an update on T5 when ready,” said an MOT spokesman.
It’s understandable that Singapore officials are unsure of when operations can resume at the terminals. The International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) reported global passenger traffic recovered modestly in 2021, with the latest ICAO economic impact analysis of COVID-19 on civil aviation revealing that the number of passengers worldwide was 2.3 billion or 49 percent below pre-pandemic (2019) levels, up from the 60 percent drop seen in 2020. Global seat capacity offered by airlines improved by 20 percent during the same period, exceeding the growth in passenger demand. The overall passenger load factor in 2021 stood at 68 percent, compared to 82 percent in 2019, and airlines worldwide incurred losses of $324 billion following $372 billion in 2020.
Things were looking up for Singapore at the end of 2021, but when the Omicron variant of the COVID virus began to spread around the world, the city-state’s “vaccinated travel lanes” were restricted. Singapore had hoped to use the lanes as a way to reopen the country to travellers who would not have to serve 14-day quarantines on arrival.