Changi Airport News

790 passengers a day at Changi Airport in May as travel demand hits all-time low

Changi Airport suffers its worst ever month, with only 790 passengers per day in May 2020, the same number that would normally pass through every 7 minutes

Jewel and Tower (CAG)

May 2020 is a month Changi Airport will no doubt be happy to forget, with statistics released today showing that just 790 passengers used the facility each day, for a record low of 24,500 during the 31-day period, a 99.5% drop compared to May 2019.

Two of the airport’s four passenger terminals were shuttered during the month, to assist in cutting operating costs including cleaning and utilities.

Air freight was down 40% on normal levels, but did record a 7% increase on April 2020’s low point. Total aircraft takeoffs and landings, including both passenger and freight flights, also increased by 16% since April, but remained 86% lower than usual.


Passenger totals

Here’s how the number of passengers passing through Changi Airport looked so far in 2020 compared to the same months in 2019.

Changi Airport
Passenger totals
(x 1,000)
(x 1,000)
January 5,660 5,950 increase 5.2%
February 5,130 3,450 decrease 32.8%
March 5,630 1,650 decrease 70.7%
April 5,580 25.2 decrease 99.5%
May 5,410 24.5 decrease 99.5%
Year to date 27,410 11,100 decrease 59.5%
Changi Pax Jan-May
(click to enlarge)

The year got off to a good start with the airport seeing a 5% passenger increase in January 2020 compared to the same month the previous year. That was commensurate with a 4% increase in passenger traffic seen at the airport during 2019.

Flight cancellations as a result of the COVID-19 outbreak then resulted in a one-third drop in passengers for February 2020, falling further in March 2020 and finally bottoming out at the current record lows in April and May 2020.

Overall a 99.5% drop in passengers using Changi has now been recorded for the second consecutive month.

Fun fact: 790 passengers used Changi Airport per day in May 2020, the same number that would normally pass through the airport, on average, every 7 minutes.

In total the first five months have seen a 59.5% drop in passenger numbers at the airport.


Cargo totals

Here’s how the air freight tonnage at Changi Airport looked so far in 2020 compared to the same months in 2019.

Changi Airport
Cargo totals
(x 1,000)
(x 1,000)
January 170 157 decrease 8.4%
February 140 147 increase 7.6%
March 180 149 decrease 19.1%
April 160 95.8 decrease 38.8%
May 170 103 decrease 40.0%
Year to date 820 652 decrease 20.6%

The falloff in cargo volumes at the airport came through a little later than for passenger traffic, as dedicated freighter services remained and airlines began operating cargo-only services with their passenger aircraft.

Indeed Singapore Airlines is still flying three passenger aircraft with only cargo on board for every passenger flight it operates in June 2020.

This helps the airline to earn some revenue and helps to address the significant shortage in cargo capacity that has been brought about by the almost complete lack of passenger flights, which typically carry 75% of SIA’s annual cargo in the underfloor holds.

May 2020 did see a slight increase in cargo at Changi, up 7.5% compared to April to 103,000 tonnes, however this was a 40% fall compared to May 2019.


Takeoffs and landings

Here’s how the number of aircraft takeoff and landings Changi Airport had so far in 2020 compared to the same months in 2019.

Changi Airport
Takeoffs and landings
(x 1,000)
(x 1,000)
January 32.7 33.4 increase 2.2%
February 29.9 26.2 decrease 12.3%
March 32.4 16.2 decrease 49.9%
April 31.5 3.87 decrease 87.7%
May 31.7 4.47 decrease 85.9%
Year to date 158.2 84.2 decrease 46.7%

In May 2019 there were an average of 1,023 takeoffs and landings on Changi’s two runways each day, or 43 per hour.

That has fallen significantly with only 144 aircraft movements on average per day in May 2020, just around 6 per hour.

Changi SQ Taxiing (CAG)
Takeoffs and landings are a fraction of usual levels, but did increase slightly in May 2020. (Photo: Changi Airport)

On the positive side it is a 16% increase compared to April 2020, which saw the lowest ever monthly aircraft movements total in the airport’s history.

Terminal closures

May 2020 saw Changi Airport close two of its four passenger terminals. Terminal 2 closed on 1st May 2020 for an 18-month period, though this will also help the airport complete renovation and upgrading work at the facility up to a year sooner than originally planned.

Terminal 4, which had seen almost no passenger departures since Cathay Pacific moved across to Terminal 1 in April 2020, was then shuttered on 16th May 2020. It will remain closed until further notice.

Changi T2 Driveway (CAG)
Terminal 2 closed on 1st May 2020, followed by Terminal 4 on 16th May. (Photo: Changi Airport)

For the foreseeable future therefore, all flights from Changi will operate from Terminals 1 and 3.

This will help the Changi Airport group reduce its operating costs. Based on 2019 financial statements, it costs around S$5.8 million to run Changi Airport every single day (S$2.12 billion per year), around S$33 for every arriving and departing passenger.

It’s a rather simplistic comparison given that costs will have been significantly cut recently, but that same level would be equivalent to over S$7,000 per passenger in operating costs at May 2020 traffic levels.


June should be better

In more positive news, May 2020 should go down in history as Changi Airport’s worst ever month in terms of passenger numbers.

That’s because progressively airlines are starting to increase services from the low points of April and May 2020, maintaining some key connectivity despite the low demand levels and strict global travel restrictions remaining in force.

The Singapore Airlines Group, Changi’s largest operator, will lead the way with 75% more passenger flights in June and July 2020 compared to the preceding two months.

Scoot has also ramped up its flying with six destinations in June and eight in July, from its low point serving just two cities in both April and May.

Other airlines have also restarted flights at Changi this month, including Emirates and Etihad, following the lifting of transit passenger restrictions in the United Arab Emirates.

Transit passengers

Speaking of transit passengers, Changi should also get a small boost in the coming months from a new approval for the SIA Group to carry transit passengers through the facility since mid-June 2020.

It’s a rather convoluted process and procedure, with segregated holding areas ensuring transit passengers do not mix with regular departing and arriving ones.

Currently the approval is only for those transiting from Australia and New Zealand on Singapore Airlines and Scoot flights, though it will hopefully be extended to other routes and more carriers in the future.



Over 20,000 passengers a day passed through Changi Airport’s single terminal when it first opened in July 1981, so it’s safe to say that 790 daily users in May 2020 represents a record low.

The 99.5% drop on usual passenger numbers came during a month in which the airport closed two of its four passenger terminals as travel demand all but evaporated due to the COVID-19 pandemic and associated global travel restrictions.

Changi T2 (SS)
(Photo: Shutterstock)

There is some positive news though, cargo volumes have only dropped by 40% from their 2019 levels and the total number of takeoffs and landings has started to increase from a low point in April 2020.

More flights have also been added from June 2020 from local and overseas carriers, so traffic through the airport should now see a gradual increase from this depressing low point.

(Cover Photo: Changi Airport Group)


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