UPDATED: Singapore plans S$870 million in aid for aviation sector decimated by COVID-19 pandemic

Changi Airport
As passenger travel recovers, scenes like this near empty Changi Airort in Singapore are becoming fewer. (PHOTO: Matt Driskill)

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Singapore’s finance minister announced Tuesday (16 February) that the city-state would spend S$870 million (US$657.40 million) in its new budget to support the aviation sector that has been decimated by the COVID-19 pandemic. Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat said the S$870 million will go towards extending aid for the sector and will include a 10 percent landing charge rebate for all scheduled passenger flights landing in Singapore for airlines, and a 50 percent rebate on rental paid for ground handling companies’ lounges and offices within Changi Airport and Seletar Airport terminal buildings.

Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Heng Swee Keat.

Last year, a total of S$383 million was committed to the aviation sector. This includes the S$112 million Aviation Sector Assistance Package announced in February 2020, the S$187 million Enhanced Aviation Support Package announced in August, and a top-up sum of S$84 million announced last December. Global air travel recovery will still “take some time” as most international borders remain closed, Heng said. In Singapore, total passenger movements at Changi Airport were only about 2 percent of pre-COVID-19 levels as of end-January this year.

Heng said he expects the sector to use this lull period to improve its capabilities and prepare for the recovery, particularly by investing in travel safety. “Airports will be differentiated by their capabilities in securing public health and enabling safe travel. They will need digitalised systems and the ability to effectively re-route people and goods,” Heng said. “To secure our position as a key aviation hub and maintain Changi’s position as a safe, trusted, and well-connected airport for travellers and employees alike, we will restore Changi’s connectivity and invest in on-arrival testing and biosafety systems.”

Airlines like Singapore Air have had to ground thousands of planes. (PHOTO: Steve Strike/Outback Photographics)

In a statement issued after the finance minister’s speech, Singapore Airlines said: “We would like to thank the Singapore government for its continued support for the aviation industry, ranging from the measures that have been announced during the budget to prioritising the sector in the country’s vaccination exercise. The measures will help to bolster the SIA Group’s plans to navigate the disruptions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, while remaining nimble and flexible to seize all opportunities as international routes re-open and travel sentiments improve. The initiatives will also help our employees to retain their knowledge and competencies, and acquire new skills if necessary, ensuring that they are future-ready during this critical period.

“Since the start of COVID-19, the SIA Group has worked with our partners to continue providing essential passenger and cargo connectivity between Singapore and major economies around the world,” Singapore Airlines said. “We are grateful for the support of all customers, stakeholders and staff members. The foundations that we build during this crisis will put us in a strong position to overcome the current challenges and cement our leading position in a fast-changing aviation environment.”

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