Changi Airport News

Transit traffic helps push Changi Airport passenger numbers to 86,000 in July 2020

Changi Airport's passenger traffic hit 2,800 per day in July 2020, the first full month of transit approvals

Changi Jewel Sunset Small (CAG)

Singapore Changi Airport has announced its operating statistics for July 2020, with a 78% monthly increase in passengers to 86,000, on the back of significantly increased approvals for transit itineraries on SIA Group carriers and operators like Turkish Airlines restarting services during the month.

Overall with just 2,800 passengers per day this remains a low total, equivalent to a 98.5% reduction compared to July 2019, though it is a significant improvement on the airport’s worst ever month in May 2020, when only 24,500 passengers passed through the facility.

Air freight was down 30% on normal levels in July 2020, similar to the previous month and in line with the plateau we saw for SIA’s cargo-only services using passenger aircraft during July.

Total aircraft takeoffs and landings, including both passenger and freight flights, have continued to progressively increase since April 2020, with a 10% monthly hike seen in July 2020, however these remained 84% 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
2019
(x 1,000)
2020
(x 1,000)
Change
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%
June 5,820 48.2 decrease 99.2%
July 5,910 86.0 decrease 98.5%
Year to date 39,140 11,234 decrease 71.3%
Changi Pax Jan-Jul
(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 record lows seen for April and May 2020.

With small upticks in both June and July 2020, overall traffic remains down by 98.5% on normal levels. For the year to July 2020, over 70% fewer passengers have used Changi compared to the same period in 2019.

This data comes as Singapore Airlines reported earlier this week that it carried twice as many passengers in July 2020 compared to the previous month, though in a similar pattern to Changi Airport itself this still represented a 98.6% drop compared to July 2019.

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
2019
(x 1,000)
2020
(x 1,000)
Change
January 171 157 decrease 8.4%
February 137 147 increase 7.6%
March 185 149 decrease 19.1%
April 156 95.8 decrease 38.8%
May 172 103 decrease 40.0%
June 162 112 decrease 31.0%
July 170 119 decrease 30.1%
Year to date 1,153 883 decrease 23.4%

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 continued to fly three passenger aircraft with only cargo on board for every passenger flight it operated in July 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.

July 2020 saw an increase in cargo at Changi for the third consecutive month, up 6% compared to June with 119,000 tonnes passing through, however this was still a 30% fall compared to July 2019.

Takeoffs and landings

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

Changi Airport
Takeoffs and landings
2019
(x 1,000)
2020
(x 1,000)
Change
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%
June 31.4 4.78 decrease 84.8%
July 32.4 5.25 decrease 83.8%
Year to date 222.0 94.3 decrease 57.5%

In July 2019 there were 32,400 aircraft movements at Changi, an average of 1,045 takeoffs and landings each day, or 44 per hour.

That has fallen significantly with only 5,250 takeoffs and landings in July 2020, equivalent to 169 aircraft movements on average per day, just around 7 per hour.

SQ 777s Depart Changi (Singapore Airlines)
Takeoffs and landings are a fraction of usual levels, but did increase again in July 2020. (Photo: Singapore Airlines)

On the positive side it is a 10% increase compared to June 2020 and a 35% increase compared to April 2020, which holds the record for the lowest ever monthly aircraft movements total in the airport’s history.

Transit passengers

A significant impact on these gradually improving passenger numbers is the continual expansion of transit passenger approvals for SIA Group carriers through Changi Airport.

This was first introduced in mid-June 2020 from only seven cities, however many other points were added including all of the airline’s current Europe network in July 2020, which was the first full month including transit activity since the Singapore government stopped allowing connecting passengers to pass through Changi in March 2020.

Just this week the approval has been expanded to 37 valid origin points globally.

This latest list now includes the group’s cities in Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand, meaning only the Philippines and the USA are still not valid origin cities for transit itineraries (though they can continue to be the final destination).

Transit itineraries within South East Asia are also now possible, supplementing those using Changi as their hub on a long-haul journey.

The transit process itself is rather convoluted, with segregated holding areas ensuring connecting passengers do not mix with regular departing and arriving ones. You can read more details of the process in our article from June 2020.

More increases for September and October?

With more flights added during July, especially from Singapore Airlines, this increase in passenger numbers was not unexpected.

August 2020 should see another increase, with SIA adding around 12% more passenger flights as the airline continues to tap into the newly-expanded transit traffic market through frequency increases and some newly restarted routes like Istanbul.

Carriers like Jetstar Asia also increased their schedule in August, while overseas airlines including Lufthansa, Finnair and Cebu Pacific began to resume some flights to and from Singapore.

Summary

After May 2020’s record low point, it’s good to see yet another monthly increase in passenger traffic through Changi Airport, albeit a slow and steady one with most international borders remaining closed and leisure travel still off the cards.

Some light at the end of the tunnel may be appearing, with the Transport Minister hinting at tourist ‘green lane’ plans with low risk countries later this year, though there remains no timescale announced at this stage.

Unfortunately with a long COVID-19 recovery and strict global travel restrictions in force, including a ban on visitors in Singapore itself for the time being, passenger numbers remain at less than 2% of usual levels.

Transit Pax (Changi Airport)
Changi handled around 2,800 passengers per day in July 2020, many of whom were in transit. (Photo: Changi Airport)

On the cargo side, volumes have maintained their ~70% level compared to 2019, though this now seems to be reaching a peak, at least temporarily. However, the total number of takeoffs and landings at the airport continues to increase from a low point in April 2020.

With more flights and significantly expanded transit traffic approvals including for intra-SE Asia itineraries, there should hopefully be further increases in August and September 2020, though it will likely be next year before we see any return to more meaningful levels.

(Cover Photo: Changi Airport)

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