By Will Lee
Changi Airport Welcomes StarLux Airlines, Looks To 2022 After Dismal Fiscal Year
Singapore’s Changi Airport this week welcomed the inaugural flight of StarLux Airlines operating from Taipei’s Taoyuan International Airport, located in the capital city of Taiwan. StarLux is not the only new airline to land Changi in September, with Japan Airlines’ low-cost subsidiary Zipair launching service to the nation early in the month.
Changi told The Straits Times that new airlines such as Zipair and StarLux starting service to the airport are “a part of various measures to protect Changi’s position as a major hub.” Officials said this was especially important given the turmoil in the industry during the past 18 months and the recovery that is expected over the next couple of years.
“Despite the dire air situation, Changi Airport Group [CAG] kept our airline partners updated on the latest border policies and encouraged them to reinstate flights to carry transfer traffic through Changi Airport or bring passengers to Singapore via the various SafeTravel lanes,” Ching Kiat Lim, managing director for air hub development, said in a statement.
According to Taiwanese media, StarLux Airline flew only 12 passengers to Singapore, but the maiden flight was full of cargo and other goods that the airline agreed to transport between the two countries. StarLux is currently operating two flights per week to Singapore in the early phases of its launch but will increase its services to three fights per week in October.
StarLux Airlines launched during the onset of the pandemic, but the drastic drop in air travel hasn’t prevented the young airline from expanding its route map — Singapore became the airline’s tenth destination when it launched this week. In recent months, StarLux has launched the services to Tokyo, Osaka, Macau, Kuala Lumpur and Penang, Malaysia. According to StarLux, the airline is planning to expand its route map to North America as soon as 2022.
Over the summer, the Singaporean government implemented “Safe Travel Lanes,” allowing foreigners to enter Singapore without quarantining.
Singapore is reeling from the effects brought on by the coronavirus throughout much of 2020 and 2021, despite the fact that the country has rolled out a successful program and vaccinated more than 80% of its permanent residents. New cases have been skyrocketing since September, with the tourism and commerce hub recording upwards of 1,000 daily cases in some recent weeks.
As a result of a lack of domestic air travel market in Singapore, Changi was hard hit by the pandemic. Earlier this month, the airport revealed its financial report for the fiscal year spanning 2020 and 2021, announcing that it recorded a 98% drop in passenger traffic from the previous fiscal year. The total number of aircraft movements at the airport dropped by 80% during the same period. CAG said the financial year had been the most difficult year in Changi’s history.
In the wake of the coronavirus, Terminal Two and Four have ceased operations since last May, and the airport has converted terminal four to a vaccination center, the biggest in the country. However, the airport has seen a silver lining in strong cargo demand. Cargo throughput in March nearly rebounded to the levels before the pandemic.
In addition, Changi believed the travel will resume “in a matter of time,” following global vaccination programs and the latest testing technology rollout.